Renewable energy in Bangladesh is experiencing a significant upswing, driven by the increasing affordability of solar power. This shift is expected to generate 3,000 to 4,000 new green jobs in the coming years. In 2023, a record 42 megawatts of new capacity from rooftop solar projects were added, complemented by large-scale ground-mounted solar projects totaling over 3,000 MW. Experts foresee a boost in the renewable energy sector as solar power becomes more cost-effective compared to fossil fuels. The rise in solar installations is attributed to new local and foreign investors entering the market.
By 2025, solar power is expected to become the cheapest energy source for the country. The expansion of solar power could lead to a “job boom,” with thousands of new green jobs projected for engineers, technicians, project managers, and manual workers. A study anticipates that renewable energy could add up to 37,000 new jobs by 2030 with a highly demanded energy transition. Skilled individuals are in high expected as large companies invest in green energy, creating a shift where job opportunities come to them.
Solar Surge: Bangladesh’s Energy Transformation
In 2023, a remarkable 42 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity were introduced through various rooftop solar ventures, encompassing both industrial and commercial setups. Concurrently, over 10 expansive ground-mounted solar projects are currently operational, boasting a combined capacity of over 3,000 MW, with approvals pending for numerous projects in their final stages.
Anticipating a burgeoning renewable energy sector in Bangladesh due to the increasing cost-effectiveness of solar power in comparison to traditional fossil fuels, experts predict a substantial shift. Faced with financial challenges related to oil and gas imports and escalating fuel prices, the government, in 2023, tripled coal-based generation to address the energy crisis, yet experts advocate for renewables as a superior long-term solution.
Shahriar Ahmed Chowdhury, Director of the Centre for Energy Research at United International University (UIU), highlights the surge in solar installations propelled by new investors, both domestic and foreign, entering the market. Moreover, he notes that ground-mounted projects, with their higher capacity, will significantly contribute to increasing the solar share in the electricity mix. Simultaneously, rooftop projects, benefiting from lower installation costs, are poised for rapid expansion, especially on the new factories within the country’s 100 economic zones.
As per a 2023 report from BloombergNEF, the cost of solar power generation from utility-scale projects in Bangladesh now ranges between $97-135 per megawatt-hour (MWh), making it a formidable competitor to coal or gas-based power, which costs $110-150/MWh and $88-116/MWh, respectively. The report predicts that by 2025, solar power will emerge as the most economical energy source for the country.
Recently approved independent solar photovoltaic (PV) projects boast tariffs of less than 10 U.S. cents per unit of power, while a unit of liquid fuel-based electricity in Bangladesh surpasses 16 U.S. cents. This economic advantage is becoming increasingly apparent to businesses and the government, aligning with a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which posits potential annual savings ranging from 52.3 billion taka ($477 million) to 110.32 billion taka ($1 billion) if establishments installed 2,000 MW of rooftop solar, beyond the existing 161 MW.
These substantial savings stem from the elimination of the need to import costly fuels like furnace oil and diesel for power generation. Shafiqul Alam, the lead energy analyst for the IEEFA, emphasizes that by adopting rooftop solar systems, industrial businesses could save around taka 5 per kilowatt hour of electricity during the day, with even greater savings for commercial buildings subject to higher tariffs for grid power.
The Largest Solar Power Plant in Bangladesh
The largest solar photovoltaic power plant in Bangladesh at the moment is the 275-MW Rays Power Infra solar plant in Sundarganj, Gaibandha. It is linked to the national grid and was finished in January 2023. The factory occupies 600 acres of land and is made up of more than 500,000 individual solar modules. Over its lifetime, the facility is expected to offset more than 375 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
With ambitions to extend the capacity to 2.0 GW in the next two years, Rays Power Infra now has 1.3 GW of solar energy capacity developed in the nation.
Boom in Jobs
Thousands of new green jobs for engineers, technicians, project managers, and manual labourers might result from a large increase in solar power. 26.6 jobs in the residential sector, 10.1 jobs in the commercial sector, and 2.1 jobs in the utility-scale solar power industry can be generated by a 1 MW solar installation.
According to research conducted last year by the Dhaka-based Centre for Policy Dialogue, renewable energy could contribute to roughly 13,800 employment by 2030. If Bangladesh followed a more aggressive energy transformation, that number could rise to almost 37,000 new jobs. With big businesses investing in green energy, skilled workers—such as engineers and technicians with a few years of experience—are in high demand right now.
Skilled Solar Workforce Strategies
Invest in Education:
Establish vocational training programs and partnerships with educational institutions to provide specialized courses in solar energy technology.
Offer subsidies and financial incentives to individuals pursuing solar energy education, making it more accessible and attractive.
Foster collaboration between government agencies, universities, and solar energy companies to create internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training opportunities.
Research and Development:
Encourage and fund research projects focused on improving solar energy technology, creating opportunities for skilled workers to engage in cutting-edge developments.
Implement certification programs to validate skills and ensure a standardized level of expertise within the solar energy workforce.
Support aspiring entrepreneurs in the solar energy sector by providing resources, mentoring, and financial assistance for start-ups.
Collaborate with international organizations and countries with advanced solar industries to share knowledge, expertise, and training resources.
Launch public awareness campaigns to highlight the benefits of a skilled solar energy workforce, inspiring more individuals to pursue careers in the field.
Invest in infrastructure for solar energy projects, creating a demand for skilled labor and ensuring a sustainable industry.
Continuous Training Programs:
Establish ongoing training programs to keep the workforce updated on the latest advancements in solar technology, ensuring a continuously skilled labor force.
Bangladesh’s renewable energy landscape is on the cusp of a transformative era, driven by the escalating affordability of solar power. The surge in solar installations, propelled by diverse projects, is poised to make solar power the country’s most economical energy source by 2025. This trajectory not only promises significant cost savings for businesses and the government but also forecasts the creation of 3,000 to 4,000 new green jobs by 2030. The evolving solar sector, marked by the monumental Rays Power Infra solar plant and other initiatives, underscores the nation’s commitment to sustainable energy. As Bangladesh embraces this green transition, strategic investments in education, government incentives, industry collaboration, and infrastructure development are imperative to cultivate and sustain a skilled solar workforce, ensuring the sector’s long-term success. The rise of green jobs not only responds to economic needs but also contributes to global environmental goals, making Bangladesh a noteworthy player in the renewable energy arena.