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Energy, power sectors in Bangladesh

Shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy imperative

Published : 30 Dec 2023 01:31 AM | Updated : 30 Dec 2023 12:49 PM

As Bangladesh's energy and power sector steps into its third phase, termed the "energy transition phase," a pivotal shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy infrastructure becomes imperative. 

Despite commendable growth in power generation, the nation grapples with challenges such as depleting natural gas reserves, heightened reliance on imported fossil fuels, and global energy market volatility.

Acknowledging the necessity for a low-carbon energy sector, Bangladesh aligns its goals with the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan 2021, targeting 40% electricity generation from renewable sources by 2041. 

However, concerns arise from the industry insiders due to increased involvement in coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure, leading to excessive power reserves and mounting financial pressures.

The country witnesses the construction and planning of new coal and LNG-based power plants, contributing to excess power reserves and capacity charges. The focus on imported LNG, marked by extreme price volatility, raises sustainability concerns, burdening the sector with public debt, financial losses, and escalated retail electricity prices.

The need for innovative financing cooperation mechanisms to aid developing countries transitioning to renewable energy, aiming to reduce support for fossil fuel-based power generation and encourage financing for renewable energy projects.

National policies and incentives must align with just energy transition principles, providing clear signals to investors. Fiscal policies should incentivize the transition by addressing obstacles like high duties and taxes on renewable energy components.

Stakeholders, including government officials, private sector organizations, and civil society, require capacity building for a smooth transition. Past challenges in the solar home systems program highlight the importance of grassroots capacity and servicing.

A robust compliance and quality assurance infrastructure is critical to ensure that products and technology used in the energy transition adhere to proper standards, preventing substandard technology that might erode confidence among users and investors.

In April 2023, the "Bangladesh Energy Prosperity 2050" conference addressed climate, energy, and power issues. Organized by civil society groups and entities including ActionAid Bangladesh, the three-day event drew 283 representatives, including experts, economists, investors, diplomats, and stakeholders.

A 21-point Energy Prosperity Declaration acknowledged government achievements, praised the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, and urged policy alignment with the plan for sustainable energy practices. Concerns were raised about the draft Integrated Energy and Power Master Plan, emphasizing the need for inclusivity and national ownership.

The conference concluded with a Citizens' Manifesto on Energy Prosperity, presenting demands for a just and green transition in the energy sector, achieving renewable energy targets, and formulating a National Energy and Power Master Plan based on domestic and renewable sources.

As Bangladesh targets middle-income status, the national development plan envisions a sustainable, inclusive energy sector, promoting a lower-carbon, environmentally friendly energy mix, and ensuring fair access for marginalized groups to energy and socio-economic opportunities. The presented Citizens' Manifesto on Energy Prosperity aims to guide political parties in the upcoming parliamentary election, setting the stage for a sustainable and prosperous energy future in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's commitment to environmental goals is discussed by Professor Dr. M. Tamim of the Department of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet). In an opinion editorial published on the Daily Star online recently, the discussion centers on SDG 7, which aims to ensure that everyone has access to modern, affordable, and sustainable energy by 2030, as well as the 2015 Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Professor Tamim shares, Bangladesh has committed to unconditionally reducing its emissions by 6.73% by 2030, despite the country's low CO2 emissions. With 77% of the population lacking access to clean fuel for cooking and a per capita electricity use that is much lower than the global average, the nation suffers from severe energy poverty.

His Op-Ed emphasizes Bangladesh's goal of installing 60 GW of capacity by 2041, of which 40 GW must come from clean energy. Presently, fossil fuels provide 99% of the nation's energy. The lack of infrastructure, including an independent system operator, and the requirement for four times more capacity to provide continuous electricity are two of the author's concerns regarding the viability of renewable energy.

The editorial critiques the frequent disruptions, load shedding, voltage fluctuations, and reliability issues even as it acknowledges the achievement of 99% electricity connectivity. Rising production costs raise concerns about affordability, and the energy sector's heavy reliance on imports has put a strain on the foreign exchequer.

The article advocates for a ten-year moving plan with input from local experts and calls for a reevaluation of energy planning. In addition to highlighting the necessity of precise planning, regional connectivity, and policy decisions to shift peak loads for effective renewable integration, it suggests investigating locally available energy sources, including gas, coal, and renewables. 

The author concludes by suggesting that Bangladesh should give SDG 7 top priority and concentrate on offering its people dependable, reasonably priced, and sustainable energy.

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