Is solar power the solution to Bangladesh's growing energy needs?
Publish- October 20, 2020, 11:58 AM
Sadrul Hasan - UNB Staff Writer
Solar power could well be a solution to Bangladesh's energy woes.
This inference can be drawn from a new study suggesting that 40,000 MW of electricity in Bangladesh could be easily generated from solar energy by 2041, if an action plan is prioritised. In such a scenario, solar energy would constitute 50 percent of the country’s installed capacity.
However, the study says that at least 8,000 MW of solar power could be generated by 2041
in case of "as usual business case scenario”, and 25,000 MW in a “medium case scenario”.
The study, titled 'National Solar Energy Action Plan 2021-2041', was conducted by the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The existing Power System Master Plan stipulates for 35 percent power generation from imported LNG (liquefied natural gas), some 35 percent from imported coal, 15 percent from renewable energy, 10 percent from nuclear energy and five percent from petroleum oil by 2041, when the country’s generation will reach 60,000 MW.
About the National Solar Energy Action Plan 2021-2041, Sreda Chairman and additional secretary of Power Division Mohammad Alauddin said that "this is just a draft final report of the study and its implementation will depend on the government’s strategic policy measures".
He, however, said since the plan is a long-term issue, it has to be linked and incorporated with the country’s 100-year “Delta Plan 2100.”
Available statistics with Sreda shows that the country currently generates a total of 649.61 MW of electricity from different renewable sources while the country’s total generation capacity is 22,000 MW.
Of this, 415.68 MW is being generated from solar power while wind energy produces 0.9 MW, hydro 230 MW, biogas 0.63 MW and biomass 0.4 MW.
The Energy Action Plan 2021-2041 finds “the scarcity of suitable land as one of the most critical barriers for large-scale solar power plants in Bangladesh”. But it identified a number of prospective locations across the country and recommended a feasible capacity limit for the same.
Reclaiming land parcels from different areas, including the biggest rivers Jamuna and Padma, could be a very potential solution to the land scarcity problem, a top-ranking official of Sreda told UNB.
Different organisations and energy experts have been urging policy makers to concentrate more on the development of solar power as a clean energy source to meet the country’s growing energy needs.
Centre for Policy Dialogue, a think-tank, suggested the government shift its future coal-based and imported LNG-based power plant projects to solar and other renewable energy-based projects as the cost of renewable energy continued to fall with advancement of new technologies.
Welcoming the Sreda initiative, Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA) Munawar M Moin said the plan must identify budget, possible areas of source of fund, replacing coal and heavy fuel oil (HFO) with solar. “In some cases, solar power storage could be a good way to start."
He also called for identifying different options of solar power like grid-connected one using ground-mounted or rooftop floating plants and distributed solar energy linked to productive use like irrigation pumps, cold storage and SME machinery.
Moin also demanded the participation of the private sector in any national solar energy plan.
Recently, eminent energy expert Prof Ijaz Hossain had said at a seminar that the country should give more priority to renewable power like neighbouring India.
“Solar power advancement is just like the advancement of mobile telephony. Some 10 years back, nobody had imagined that everyone would have smartphones in their hands. So, in the near future, solar power might claim the position of cheapest energy," he had said.