Furthering use of renewable energy in Bangladesh
Muhammad Zamir writes for DOT :
Greater availability of energy promotes economic development and facilitates meeting diverse needs associated with the manufacturing industry and agriculture. It also provides a better lifestyle for citizens.
These factors lead countries to seek additional energy from hydrocarbons- coal, oil and natural gas. However, such a dynamics has led to the assumption that greater use of hydrocarbons and fossil fuels is contributing to global warming and to climate variability. This has led the world to seek alternatives through the creation and use of renewable energy – in the form of solar energy, bio-gas, bio-fuel and wind energy.
This functional approach regarding global warming has also led to the recognition that Bangladesh will be one of the most severely affected countries and there is need for our relevant authorities to undertake necessary measures directed towards adaptation and mitigation. The civil society has also been monitoring how Bangladesh can play a more inter-active role within the evolving paradigm envisioned through the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The urgency in this regard has also grown because of the upcoming 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) that will be held in Katowice, Poland in the first two weeks of December this year. COP24, according to environmentalists is being considered as particularly important, because the concerned countries will expect to finalize the Rule Book for implementing the different Articles of the Paris Agreement. This aspect has led scientists to describe this meeting as a pivotal meeting at a pivotal time. In this context, analysis will also be undertaken to ascertain whether conservation of biodiversity as well as net forest loss is being properly ensured.
It needs to be stated that the use of renewable energy in different forms has increased throughout the country, particularly in the case of our rural regions. Solar power through the use of solar panels has now become part of the functional matrix in these areas.
Recent estimates have mentioned that solar panels are now being used in more than three million homes. This is facilitating students to continue their studies after evening, helping families to watch television, helping to recharge nearly 100 million mobile phone users within our rural parameter generate required power for water pumps necessary for lifting underground water for the purpose of irrigation and recharge conveyances that run on batteries. In addition there is growing awareness and use of bio-gas as bio fuel in rural kitchens.
These factors are contributing towards the socio-economic growth in our economy. It is this awareness that has persuaded our government to try and boost the use of solar power not only in the rural but also in the urban areas. Measures are being taken to boost solar power so that its contribution within the energy platform exceeds 10% of the total power generation capacity by 2021. The government has recently also approved 19 on-grid solar power parks being created by different companies in the private sector. Our Power Division has been helpful for completion of the necessary steps. However, they have also pointed out that they and the private sector are facing one big challenge- acquiring land being used for cultivation and agricultural purposes. They have drawn attention to the fact that a solar project with power generation capacity of 100 MW needs about 300 acres of land.
Nevertheless, it is being felt that the efficiency in generating solar power will increase in the future through new technological advances.
No discussion on use of renewable energy will however be complete without reference to the potential use of wind power to generate energy. This is particularly true in the case of Bangladesh.
A recent study carried out by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has indicated that the coastal belt of Bangladesh holds wind power prospects. A comprehensive wind mapping exercise has demonstrated that the average wind flow in nine places is between 5.0 to 6.0 metres per second. This was good news for Bangladesh as, for commercial production; one needs wind speed of between 2.3 to 2.5 metres per second.
Electricity from onshore wind energy, according to German energy specialists is nowadays one of the most affordable forms of renewable energy generation. The yields attainable in this respect, according to experts, however depend on- good energy sites, the impact of tower height and the size of rotors.
The US study carried out on behalf of the Power Division has found that the coastal areas of Khulna, Barishal and Chattogram Divisions have more than 6 meters per second available wind speed at the 120 meter height- sufficient for generating electricity from wind turbines. It has also come out from the mapping survey that, for wind speeds of 5.75 to 7.75 m/s, there are more than 20,000 square kilometers of land with a gross wind potential of more than 30,000 MW. This means that if we can exploit this proven potential then Bangladesh can reach the 10 per cent renewable energy target by 2021.
At present only three wind turbines with 3 MW capacities have been in operation for the last few years in coastal Kutubdia. However, because the centrepoint of the blades are only 18 meters above the ground, they are yet to run upto full capacity. The wind turbine in Feni, with the blades centrepoint 50 meters above the ground has so far generated 588,334 kilowatt hours of electricity since resuming operations after repairs in April 2014.
The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) has already formed a working Committee in this regard. Steps are also being undertaken to set up three towers to collect site specific data in different coastal areas including Kuakata and Patuakhali.
These aspects indicate that we have several challenges ahead of us. However, all those who participated in the study agree that we have wind energy potential. That is the most important dimension. Now, we should be able to move forward to further our strategic interests and overcome our energy challenges. It will need bipartisan participation between the public and the private sectors.
Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org