A move by the government to review a 14-year-old renewable energy policy has been lauded by experts and industry stakeholders as Bangladesh is desperate to find out alternative sources of power generation amid a volatile global fuel market and gas shortages at home.
In the energy-hungry country, which is struggling to ensure energy security for its burgeoning manufacturing sector amid forecast that the economy could face further stress, experts say renewable energy sources could be a major option to ensure adequate supply to its industries.
Industry insiders say the decision to revise the policy came as the government has a target to generate 40 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2041 in line with its commitment to the COP26, a UN-backed climate conference held in Glasgow in November last year. The current crisis in the country’s power sector, stemmed from the rising prices of fuel as a result of Ukraine war, has also prompted the government to look for other options for energy.
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According to official statistics, the country now generates about 911 MW (solar 677 MW, hydro 230 MW and others 2 MW) from renewable energy sources while the total power generation is more than 25,000 MW, which means the renewable energy's share is less than 4 percent.
In June, the government suspended operations of all the diesel-run power plants in the country, cutting up to 1500 megawatts of daily production, to ease pressure on the country’s dwindling foreign currency reserves. Business bodies raised their concern about power disruptions. Earlier this month, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said that the situation is so grave that factories are remaining without power now for around 4 to 10 hours a day.
Talking to UNB, experts and officials say the move to revise the "Renewable Energy Policy of Bangladesh 2008" to make it more effective in the changed scenario in the country’s energy and power sector is very positive.
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But they say taking up “a target-oriented action with an effective roadmap” to achieve a power generation goal should find its way.
They also strongly suggest that setting up of a separate division under the power and energy ministry to effectively implement the renewable energy schemes should be undertaken under the revised policy.
“Unless a specific numeric megawatt-based target is set, any goal might not be achievable despite bringing any changes to the existing policy”, Dr M Tamim, eminent energy expert in the country, told UNB.
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Officials say the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda), the focal point under Power Division of the government, has already appointed a consultant.
The consultant - Development Technical Consultants Pvt. Ltd (DTCL) – held a consultation meeting on September 20 as part of its process to accommodate opinions of the stakeholders and experts on the issue.
The firm has also been holding a series of meetings with experts and other groups to finalise a draft proposal on the policy.
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Dr Tamim, who was also involved in the previous process of the policy formation, said there should be a specific numeric target instead of current percentage-based goal in renewable energy to implement a plan.
“A specific target and an action-based roadmap are more essential than a policy to achieve a goal when it comes to the renewable energy issue”, he said adding that the government’s direct involvement with the process is crucial.
To add dynamism, Tamim also suggested creating a new division, headed by a full-fledged secretary, under the power, energy and mineral resources ministry, to implement the government’s plan on renewable energy.
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Identifying the scarcity of land a major impediment for a renewable energy project, Dr Tamim also suggested for arranging land for solar power projects by the government as it is difficult for a private sector investor to find an undisputed large piece of land in one location.
“Only government can arrange a large undisputed land through acquisition”, he added.
Echoing Dr Tamim, Dipal Barua, president of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA), said the government has to play a major role in facilitating private investors to invest in renewable energy.
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The neighboring India has a separate ministry --Ministry of New and Renewable Energy--to deal with the renewable and non-conventional energy issue, he said.
“That’s why India has been in the leading position in South Asia with its current renewable energy capacity of 150,000 MW,” he said.
According to official data, of India’s total 150,000 MW of renewable energy, solar is 48,550 MW, wind 40,030 MW, small hydro power 4,830 MW, biomass 10,620 MW, large hydro 46,510 MW, and nuclear 6,780 MW. India has a goal to generate 500 GW renewable energy by 2030.
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Munawar Moin, Vice President of BSREA and President of Solar Module Manufacturers Association of Bangladesh (SMAB), said the government should introduce a policy under which the local solar industry could utilise their full potential.
Cost of solar energy decreased substantially and has created a huge scope for investment in mega projects, he said.
Sohel Ahmed, managing director of Grameen Shakti, a leading firm in renewable energy, founded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, said that the current Net Metering Policy could play a vital role in promoting rooftop solar power by “Opex Model” if the government effectively applies one of its provisions through which action could be taken against a defaulter customer by disconnecting his conventional electricity line.
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He also said if an insurance policy is introduced in Net Metering Rooftop Solar projects, it will give more confidence to investors to invest in rooftop solar plants.
In solar power system, net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to sell the electricity they are not using back into the national grid.