Renewable energy offers great prospects

There is an exciting prospect and a lot of potential for renewable energy in Bangladesh.

Experts believe that proper planning would make it possible to generate around 80 to 100 percent of the country’s total electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

The government has taken various initiatives to enhance generation of renewable energy as part of its efforts to ensure energy security keeping carbon dioxide emissions at a low level. It has set a target to increase renewable energy generation to 2,000MW, 10 percent of the total generation, by 2021.  

On July 26, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended a study on and preparation of an action plan on how to generate 100 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2050. 

After the meeting, the chairman of the committee of Saber Hossain Chowdhury told reporters that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been elected president of the ‘Climate Vulnerable Forum’ for the next two years. The forum members want to ensure 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 in their own countries. Bangladesh is now generating only 4 percent electricity from renewable energy. The technical and economic aspects need to be studied to reach the target. The committee has asked to do it, following which a roadmap will be made.

Mohammad Alauddin, Chairman of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority, told Bangladesh Post, “It is difficult to say at this time whether it is possible to generate 100% electricity from renewable energy by 2050. But it is true that the whole world is now leaning towards renewable energy. The Bangladesh government is also more sincere in this regard. Several initiatives such as implementation of solar net metering policy, installation of solar mini grid, home system and irrigation pumps etc have been taken. Several solar power plants are being planned. We are also trying to install a floating solar power system. Besides, a survey has been done on wind power. We are also planning of how to expand it in a profitable way.”

Dipal Chandra Barua, President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA) told Bangladesh Post, “Energy Security Day was observed in the country on August 9. The main condition for ensuring energy security is to increase the use of renewable energy. As we are now importing most of the fuel used in power generation, which is increasing day by day, dependency on other countries is increasing day by day. At the same time, there is a risk of depletion of global fossil fuel reserves. Bangabandhu also emphasized on energy security.”

“When we started working on the first solar home system in 1996, many said it would not be possible to install more than 1,000 systems. The government rewards us after we set up 10,000 systems. At that time I said we would install 1 million systems. To many it seemed unrealistic. Even the World Bank said in a survey that there is no opportunity to install more than one lakh solar home systems in Bangladesh. But all fears have been proven false. Around six million Solar Home Systems (SHS) have been set up in remote areas across the country with direct patronization of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which is currently directly and indirectly benefiting about 3 (three) crore disadvantaged rural people. This is the largest and most globally renowned Solar Program,” he added. 

"So if we work according to the plan with a positive attitude, we can easily generate 80 to 100 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2050. This will reduce the cost of electricity generation by at least 50 percent. It will also benefit the environment,” he continued.  

Dipal further said “We can generate at least 2,000 MW of electricity by 2021 from solar irrigation pumps and rooftop solar panels alone. By doing so, the goal of generating electricity from renewable energy within the next year will be achieved effortlessly.” 

“Besides, RE Projects that can be implemented, like floating solar power plants, solar- diesel hybrid mini cold storage, electrification of primary/secondary schools through renewable energy, electrification of rural areas with street lights, power plants and so on,” he continued. 

A report on the World Bank's energy program released earlier this year, said: Bangladesh can generate an average of 4.5 units of solar power per square meter per hour. In addition, 3.8 to 4.9 units of solar power per square meter per hour can be generated in 72 percent of the areas.

According to the report of the Ministry of Land published in 2016, there are about 18 lakh acres of non-agricultural ‘khas’ land in the country. Of this, 10 lakh acres are usable non-agricultural khas land. If an average of three acres of lands is required for every megawatt of electricity generation, it is possible to generate 3.5 lakh megawatts of solar power in khas land alone. Besides, there are 2.11 crore acres of cultivable agricultural land. It is possible to generate one megawatt of solar power in every 10 acres of agricultural land by introducing integrated agro-electricity.

According to research reports from the University of California, Berkeley in the United States and the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, it is possible to generate 53,000 to 156,000 megawatts of electricity from solar power in Bangladesh alone. Besides, 1.5 lakh MW can be generated from windmills, 3,500 MW from biogas.

“There are some countries like Albania, Congo, Costa Rica, Iceland, Paraguay, Norway, Ethiopia, Namibia, Paraguay and Uruguay, have already generated 100 percent renewable electricity, said U.S. Energy Information Administration.   

Germany has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80-85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. In order to achieve such a goal, Germany plans to transform its electricity supply system to a wholly renewables based electricity. 

 “Bangladesh has attained outstanding success in the field of green energy as it secured the second position in producing renewable energy (RE), especially off-grid solar solutions,” according to REN21's Renewables 2020 Global Status Report (GSR).

On June 2, a report by the UN watchdog International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said the electricity generation cost from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is declining by 13 percent each year. In the last 10 years, the generation cost of solar power has decreased by 82 percent and wind power by 39 percent.

“If renewable energy-based power plants were built instead of the world's 500,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, it would save $23 billion a year and reduce carbon emissions by 180 billion tons. In that case, the world's total carbon emissions will be reduced by five percent.”

According to the IRENA report, currently the generation cost per unit of solar power plants is on an average 6.8 cent (Tk 5.78). The generation cost of wind power is 5.3 cents (Tk 4.50) on land and 11.5 cents (Tk 9.77) at sea. However, the generation cost of newly solar power plants will be 3.9 cents (Tk 3.31), which is 43 percent less than the cost in 2019.

‘The generation cost per unit from fuels like oil and coal is 6.6 cents (taka 5.61),’ the report says.However, the cost is higher in Bangladesh due to the import of coal and oil. The average power generation cost per unit is Tk 8.5 to Tk 9.

According to the report, not only generation, but also the construction cost of renewable energy-based power plants has come down. In 2010, per unit generation cost of a solar power plant was $4,695, which was only $995 in 2019. The land-based wind power plant construction cost in 2010 was $1,849, which is now at $1473.