The world is passing through a critical juncture, which is crippled by conflicts, epidemics, economic recession and energy crisis. Bangladesh has faced the worst electricity crisis in recent years. Although the crisis has been addressed, experts still suggest ensuring alternative sources of power to stay safe. Bangladesh can learn from the success of sourcing alternative energy in other countries, as the call is growing louder for emphasis on current government’s target of generating 10% of total power from renewable energy sources by 2030, SM TANJIL-UL-HAQUE writes in detail
The cost of power generation is rapidly increasing across the world. The troubling scenario is also at risk of getting doubled. The government is looking for alternative sources in the power and energy sector to reduce costs. Work has already begun to increase the importance of using renewable energy. Emphasis is being given on generating power using renewable energy sources like sunlight and heat, wind, water flow, bioenergy, urban waste, etc. While doing so, it also has the issue of environmental protection in mind. Currently, the number of power plants across the country is 152 with a production capacity being 25,700 megawatts (MW).
YOU CAN ALSO READ: THE EBB AND FLOW OF HUMAN MIGRATION
The impact of Covid pandemic, followed by the Ukraine-Russia conflict, triggered an energy crisis across the entire world. Its resultant effect was all the nations got a warning to understand the importance of the power sector. As is the case, the role of power sector in any country’s socioeconomic development, industrialisation, and poverty alleviation is immense. Due to the impact of the global crisis, there is also a power crisis emerged in this country recently, as a result of which experts have stressed the need to find alternative energy sources of electricity. With this, the immediate question that appears in our curious mind is: what can be the source(s) of power generation for Bangladesh that’s proven, easily available, manageable, and inexpensive?
WHAT ARE MAIN SUBSTITUTES FOR OIL AND GAS ENERGY?
Notable among the alternatives to oil and gas are renewable energy consisting of solar, hydroelectric and wind, and nuclear energy. However, fossil fuels, comprised primarily of energy sources from coal, oil, propane, and natural gas, still dwarf these alternatives in the global energy market, but there is considerable public momentum to increase their use as industries are gradually shifting towards greener and sustainable business practices.
Not long ago, there was power outage in the country due to increase in the price of fuel oil and gas in the international market affected by Ukraine-Russia conflict. There was fear in public minds that the country was heading towards a major catastrophe, and questions were being asked about this country’s power sources. Experts advised to move away from importdependent energy and to find out alternative sources of electricity. The government, too, was on the move while focusing on providing alternative sources. The experts, however, think Bangladesh at this crucial point can learn from the success stories of alternative energy sourcing around the globe.
POTENTIALS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
Be it light, computer or any communication device, the modern world runs on electricity. Renewable energy is already helping meet this demand without harmful pollutants or water use, and it provides energy solutions with great benefits for people and the environment. Similarly, local dependence on electricity and its demand is skyrocketing quickly following Bangladesh’s move towards digital and smart eras. Renewable energy, therefore, can open new doors of possibilities for Bangladesh.
Globally, the expenditure of such energy is growing rapidly with many success stories of alternative and renewable energy in different countries. The world saw great momentum for climate action in 2015, culminating in a historic agreement in December to reduce carbon emissions and curb global warming. It was also a year of continuous change for the energy sector. For the first time in history, a global Sustainable Development Goal was adopted for energy solely, with the goal of; access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. To turn this objective into reality while mitigating the effects of climate change, more countries are upping their game and going further with solar, wind, geothermal and other sources of renewable energy. So far, many countries have realised enviable success in utilising renewable energy, which gives an excellent message in the fight against climate change. Now, let’s have a look at how other countries are faring in this regard.
Our neighbouring country India can be an example in this regard. Renewable energy now forms a quarter of India’s total installed power capacity. Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, India set an ambitious target to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources and install 450 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2030. A total of 65.6 GW of solar and wind capacity has been added to the grid since. Furthermore, India’s ultra-mega solar park model has been tremendously successful in de-risking solar projects and upscaling solar capacity deployments. India’s solar parks are some of the largest in the world and offer tariffs below Rs 2.5 per kilowatt hours (KWh), which is nearly 50% lower than coal-fired power tariffs.
According to the website of India’s Ministry of Renewable Energy, solar and wind power generation costs in the country are at record lows. Electricity is being generated there with renewable energy at a price below three taka per unit. Dam-based hydropower aside, India’s renewable energy-based power generation capacity is around 15% of the total generating capacity. In contrast, it is around 1% in Bangladesh, and this sector is still almost entirely dependent on imports. Hence, need for research, innovation and new sources for development of this sector for future protection is enormous in Bangladesh.
China is turning 800 primary and secondary schools in Beijing into ‘sunshine schools’. Once the project is completed, the roofs of these schools will be covered with 100 MW of solar panels to power the classrooms, creating healthy air for local residents and more environmental awareness in the hearts and minds of the youth. Moreover, this will help boost China’s efforts to increase renewable energy and reach its ambitious climate goals.
Turkey has achieved significant growth in renewable energy in recent years. The country has commissioned 16,000 MW of private sector in hydro, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources. Today, more and more private investment continues to modernise Turkey’s power sector.
On the edge of the Sahara desert, Morocco being the Arab world’s top energy-importing country is building one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world. When fully operational, the power complex will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccans and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2.5 million tons of oil.
In the United States of America (US), renewable energy generates more than 20% of all electricity, and that percentage continues to grow. By the end of 2022, solar and wind are expected to add more than 60% of the utility-scale generating capacity to the US power grid comprising 46% from solar and 17% from wind.
EUROPEANS ALREADY GOING GREEN
In Europe, there are countries and cities that are making considerable strides towards embracing renewable energy sources. In 2019, Denmark generated 50% of its electricity from renewables, consisting of 47% wind and 3% solar. The United Kingdom (UK) also set a record in the same year, achieving over 50% renewable energy for the first time. The majority of the UK’s electricity came from wind, solar, and nuclear power.
On the other hand, in Germany, the town of Wolfhagen is already generating 100% of its energy from renewables. Wind power is the biggest producer in Scotland, generating almost 10 million megawatt-hours (MWh), which alone would be enough to power all of the homes in Scotland and the North of England. The country’s largest wind farm is able to generate enough power for 450 million homes, and an even bigger farm is on the way.
NUCLEAR POWER ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
The much-talked-about nuclear power is the most reliable energy source when compared to other energy sources. Due to this, many countries have enormous concentrations on nuclear energy. France, for example, is one of the world’s foremost nuclear powers and generates almost 70% of its electricity through it. More importantly, with proper policy, nuclear power can run much more cheaply than other clean energy forms, like solar, wind, or hydropower. As Bangladesh has a rapidly rising power demand and is aiming to reduce its dependence on natural gas, it started construction of its first nuclear power reactor Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with a capacity of 2,400 MW in two units.
The power connection from this power plant to the national grid is expected to be available by 2023. Furthermore, the government in 2014 invited the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to explore the possibility of building a second 2000 MW nuclear power plant in the country’s south. As a result, there will be no shortage of electricity in Bangladesh once 2400 MW from Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant and projected 2000 MW from the second nuclear power plant are added to the national grid. In addition, the country will have takings as it is cheap following which the reserves will swell.
IS IT CONCEIVABLE TO TAP POTENTIALS OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES?
Bangladesh being a developing country requires a huge bulk of electricity to sustain its ongoing development progress and meet the rising electricity demand of its people. But due to power generation constraints and increasing population pressures, it is often not possible to maintain production and supply inconsistency. The rise in the price of fuel oil in the world market has indeed threatened the country’s energy security. Therefore, experts think energy security problems will become evident later.
if the generation of electricity from renewable sources is not increased. They have, therefore, also urged the government to ensure foreign investment in energy sector. Apart from this, they suggested considering the exploration, extraction and use of own gas and coal, and construction of more nuclear power plants.
Bangladesh is mainly dependent on gas and oil-based power projects, which is worrying for energy security, as gas and oil are non-renewable natural resources with their cost being relatively high. Diesel is the most expensive fuel for power generation, costing over Tk 20 per unit. The government, therefore, decided to shut down 11 diesel-based power plants, which will save about Tk 23 crore per day. Besides, Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) data reveal that the current average cost per unit of hydropower generation is only 15 paisa. In addition, electricity generation thru’ Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) costs Tk 4, cost of importing electricity per unit is Tk 6, electricity from solar is Tk 12, and furnace oil is Tk 12. Hence, the government is emphasising on the use of renewable energy to reduce costs.
According to Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), PV solar tops the list of the renewable energy sources with the highest generating capacity of 466.68 MW, followed by hydropower with 230 MW, wind with 2.9 MW, bio-gas with 0.63 MW and 0.4 MW from biogas. However, despite the generation capacity of 700 MW, only 229 MW of electricity is being added to the national grid, which is just one percent of the country’s total generated power. Nevertheless, the government is moving forward with the target of raising it to 10% by 2030. Various projects are underway for the development of this sector so that by 2023, 200 MW of electricity can be added to the national grid from renewable energy.
BANGLADESH’S RECENT STRIDES
Of late, Bangladesh has started using solar energy and reaping the benefits. The fact that it can play an important role in protecting the environment has come to the fore and the work going on in this regard will result in great possibilities in the future. Currently, 9 solar power generation plants are under construction, with a combined generating capacity of 450 MW. Furthermore, to enhance the development of power sector, the government is working with neighbouring countries as well as SAARC, BIMSTEC, SASEC and D-8 for regional cooperation. Also, Bangladesh has taken initiative in cross border trade of electricity through bilateral cooperation with Nepal, Bhutan and India. Apart from this, the government has also given special attention to another renewable source – wind power generation, part of which is the windmill project, from which 60 MW of electricity will be generated.
In fine, it will be possible to bring electricity to the doorsteps of all people if the projects as stated above are successfully implemented. The country’s energy security will be ensured and foreign exchange reserves will get enriched. By ensuring this, the standard of living will increase, economy will get strengthened, and Bangladesh will move forward.