Renewable Energy in Bangladesh
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Published: Thu, 19 Oct 2017
Being aware of the finite stock of fossil fuels and their negative impact on the environment, most countries over the world want to make use of renewable energy sources like solar energy, wind energy, bio-energy, hydropower, geothermal and ocean energy because they want to ensure energy security. The use of renewable energy has risen considerably in recent times, both in developed and in developing countries as well Bangladesh too.
Bangladesh is a developing country with 154 million inhabitants. This equates to 1048 people per km². It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with a population growth rate of 1,2% per year (Islam et al., 2014). In 2012, the growth rate of GDP was 6,2% (Ahmed et al., 2014). The economy of this country is dependent on agriculture and forestry. More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas (Islam et al., 2014).
The rapid population growth, urbanization and industrialization creates an increasing energy consumption (Islam et al., 2014). In 2000, the energy consumption amounted to 12,7 Mtoe (million tonnes oil equivalent) and in 2011 24,2 Mtoe (figure 1). It is expected that the energy in 2020 will rise to 185%. The electricity consumption per capita is 212 kWh. Consumption is lower than in other developing countries such as India (480,5 kWh) and Pakistan (456,2 kWh). There is a link between the energy consumption per capita and the growth of GDP (Islam et al., 2014). Around 76% of the population has no access to electricity, especially in remote areas in Bangladesh (Ahmed et al., 2014).
Figure 1: Final energy consumption in Bangladesh (by fuel type) (Islam et al, 2014)
According to Mondal et al. (2014) the biggest contributor of electricity is natural gas (82,81%) . The contribution of other fuels, such as oil, coal, diesel and hydro energy amounts respectively 5,6%, 2,4%, 6,9% and 2,8%. But there is a great shortage of energy. Energy demand is 8350 MW, while the supply is only 6000 MW. In the future, the difference will continue to increase (Ahmed et al., 2014). In 2021, the demand for energy is going to be about 18 838 MW and 33 708 MW by 2030 (Islam et al., 2014). 98,5% of all energy comes from fossil fuels, while only 0,3% of renewable energy. However, the fossil fuel is limited. This is going to be run out in the future.
There are 23 fields of natural gas and the reserve contains approximately 566336,9 million km³. Within the next 15 years this reserve will decrease. Recently it was discovered there 2,9 billion coal, but the extraction of coal is very expensive and the production of electricity from coal in a densely populated country caused a lot of pollution. Coal gives high CO2 emissions and thus harms the environment. Exploration and exploitation of renewable energy sources can reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and mitigate negative impacts on the environment (Ahmed et al., 2014).
Renewable energy technologies (RET)
Renewable energy is the ideal solution for people that live in remote areas, but also for urban residents due to the acute energy crisis (Ahmed et al., 2014). There are infinite sources of renewable energy such as biomass, wind, solar energy, hydropower. Different types of renewable energy are discussed in this paragraph.
Solar energy is widely believed to be one of most viable and efficient renewable energy resources mainly for its abundant availability. Bangladesh is an ideal place for solar energy utilization. Annual solar radiation available is more than 1900 kWh/m². It is found that 94% of the land area in Bangladesh has such radiation which is sufficient for appropriate utilization based on available technology. Maximum radiation begins from March to April, and minimum radiation begins from December to January (Islam et al., 2014).
Nearby 32,5% of the entire population has intermittent electricity access. However, a huge number of population is completely out of electricity supply, especially in the rural areas. From a sustainable view point, this scenario retards economic growth and social development of Bangladesh which is, otherwise, a densely populated developing country. Appropriate application of solar energy, as one of the renewable sources, could provide a stimulus to overcome such social and economic problems (Ahmed et al., 2014).
Solar home system (SHS) achieved remarkable popularity as off-grid power generation essentially in rural areas where on-grid electricity remains unavailable and the necessary infrastructure is still in its nascent stage. SHS can be viable as a way to energy solution as well as small rural businesses development in rural areas and is contributing to social and economic benefits. Solar home system (SHS) is a decentralized photovoltaic array module connected with a rechargeable battery that can produce 20-100 Wp. Generally, SHS is applicable to low power consuming devices like television, radio, light bulbs, and others. The efficiency of SHS depends on its dimension of array and the sunlight availability. For isolated remote areas in Bangladesh, solar photovoltaic array is the most effective and efficient way for rural electrification. However, installation of such a system is not cost effective for rural mass population where majority of the population in the remote and rural areas do not have adequate access to financial support. Grameen Shakti (GS), a sister concern of Grammen Bank is now providing soft loan to the rural people. GS’s effort to solar home system also contributed to socioeconomic development. It is considered as an important stimulus for sustainable development (Ahmed et al., 2014). In 2012 there are already 1,320,965 SHS. By 2015 the government wants to install 4 million SHS (Islam et al., 2014).
Wind energy potential is not encouraging, except in some coastal areas of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a coastal belt of around 724 km. The total capacity of wind energy in Bangladesh is 235 MW. Geographically, strong south-southeast monsoon wind comes from Indian Ocean and enters the coastal areas of Bangladesh. The wind blows continuously with an average speed from 3 m/s to 6 m/s over Bangladesh from March to September. This continuous wind can be captured and converted to kinetic energy with an integrated system comprising of both mechanical and electrical components. This energy can be connected to central grid or can be used to support local electricity supply (Ahmed et al., 2014). However, taking into account wind as a potential renewable energy resource in Bangladesh, disruption occurs due to lack of suitable wind map and the relevant data required to estimate the potential of electricity generation. Global wind data and research shows that wind speed not more than 7 m/s is not viable for large scale grid connected electricity production. But in some places, measured values of wind speed aren’t present in Bangladesh (Islam et al., 2014).
In Bangladesh, traditional biomass such agricultural residues, wood wastes and animal dung, represents respectively 46%, 34% and 20% of the energy supply. From environmental and economic sustainability viewpoint, biomass energy is an effective energy source for rural population of the country. Bangladesh is endowed with rich biomass energy with a potential electricity generation capacity of 160,93 TWh from agricultural crop residues, followed by 121,768 TWh from recoverable waste, and 29,91 TWh from fuel wood, saw dust and tree residues. There are two kind of types of biomass energy namely biogas and biofuel. Biogas is a residue from animal and municipal wastes. Technology dissemination is very poor. IDCOL (Infrastrcuture Development Company Limited) installed 22549 biogas plants. 32% of the total biogas plants are not working due to lack of appropriate maintenance and technical knowledge. By the another type of the biomass is biofuel. Bangladesh is in early stage developing biofuel. Biofuel is produced from transesterification of oil, which is derived from energy crops. It’s no energy crop being produced for biofuels at commercial scale. The biofuel will be used as gasohol in the vehicle and the price will be reduced by 20-30% compared to other transport fuel. Bangladesh imports large amount of petroleum products with high price from international market and could save millions of foreign exchange as it is used a biofuel. Environmental pollution from transportation sector would also be reduced utilizing biofuel (Islam et al., 2014).
Due to geographical flatness, Bangladesh has limited hydropower potential. It’s 2 hydropower plants (Kaptai and Barak River) and it generates 220 MW and 1500 MW respectively (Ahmed et al., 2014). But small-scale hydropower is popular because of the low cost, reliability and environmental benefits. It has the potential to generate 5MW electricity. Most of the small-scale hydropower potential sites were discovered in rural, remote and hill track areas which can contribute to overall socio-economic development of Bangladesh ensuring power supply for the rural population (Islam et al., 2014).
Today only 44% of the population in Bangladesh is foreseen with electricity, and on top of that Bangladesh has very limited non-renewable energy resources of its own. An energy crisis and desertification problem in rural areas are not excluded. The government aims since 2005 to provide electricity for everybody before 2020 by the plan to generate more power from coal and furnace-oil-based peaking power plants (Mondal et al., 2014; PSMP, 2005). Increasing the fossil fuels to meet the growing electricity-demand counteracts the world’s attempts to stop (or reduce) climate change. In addition to the influence on a world-scale, the increased use of fossil-fuels has an influence on local scale as well. It’s proved that the power sector in Bangladesh counts for 40% of the total CO2 emissions and as a consequence there’s an increasing need to develop and promote alternative energy sources to reduce the negative impacts on global and local scale (Mondal et al., 2014). Moreover, too much dependency on natural gas is obviously fraught with risks for power production and for other commercial activities (Sarkar M.A.R. et al., 2003). These issues could be eliminated if renewable energy is used as a primary source of energy in rural areas.Further is rational policy dissemination important because efficient utilization of renewable energy resources is yet to assume commercial dimensions. In this section, a picture will be drawn of the already taken steps in governance on the one hand and opportunities and bottlenecks for the implementation of renewable energy technologies (RET’s) on the other hand.
Bangladesh’ government released in 2002 a draft renewable policy which provided modalities, procedures, tariff regulations, fiscal and other incentives,… for the implementation of so-called RET’s (REP, 2002; Mondal et al., 2010). They did foresee also guidelines for the development of an independent authority for renewable energy, namely the Renewable Energy Development Authority (REDA). With this policy, the ambition is to have around 10% renewable energy of the total demand by 2020 (Mondal et al., 2010). This year has to be taken relatively because other sources mention that this share of renewable energy would contribute to national demand in 2030 (Ahmed S. et al., 2014). In 2008, the policy was reformulated and as part of that policy it has engaged with the development partners and private sector to boost generation (Ahmed S. et al., 2014). According to REP (2008), the objectives of the Renewable Energy Policy of Bangladesh include:
- to harness the potential of renewable energy resources and dissemination of renewable energy technologies in rural, peri-urban and urban areas
- to enable, encourage and facilitate both public and private sector investment in renewable energy projects
- to develop sustainable energy supplies to substitute indigenous non-renewable energy supplies.
Although REDA was the sole authority administering all kinds of activities that could be related to energy – both rural and renewable – government decided to establish a new unit for fostering the use of renewable energy for power generation (Mondal et al., 2014). This authority consists of representatives of a large variety of stakeholders, including business community, academics and/or representatives from Bangladesh solar energy society, NGOs, financial institutions as well as implementing agencies (Mondal et al., 2014) and had to take following initiatives to implement the objectives in the policies.
- It had to take its responsibility concerning coordination, planning, promoting awareness, supporting the establishment of small and medium renewable energy enterprises and service providers, providing financial support in research and soliciting of grid connected renewable energy projects.
- The authority had to determine the priorities for the renewable technology development. SEDA will support capacity building, human resource and market development.
- Investments has to be expanded. Microcredit support is established to promote the purchase of renewable energy equipment and private sector participation and joint venture programs will be encouraged. In a way for example, for solar house systems – the most important source of renewable energy for the moment – three different financial systems are available today. On the one hand one can opt for the fee-for-service option. The installation is still owned by Rural Electrification Board (REB) and the users pay a monthly fee for the services. The second option consists the credit program of Grameen Shakti – a not-for-profit company founded to promote and supply renewable energy technology at an affordable rate to rural households of Bangladesh (Right Livelihood Award Foundation Archive, 2007). – where customers pay 50% down payment and the other 50% has to be paid over a long period (varying from 6 months to several years).
- Regulatory policies to distribute renewable energy has to be implemented
Further, Bangladesh became a member of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – the only inter-governmental agency working exclusively on renewable energy – to reinforce international cooperation. As mentioned before, Bangladesh is working to provide more energy to its people, in order to accelerate economic growth, poverty reduction, and social development. German companies are supporting these efforts through KfW Entwicklungsbank and the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Embassy Dhaka, 2015). Renewable energy and energy efficiency is a priority area of Bangladeshi-German development cooperation.
Finally, it’s important to recognize the importance of awareness and dissemination programs. When people lack information and awareness, government can do as much work as now, they can establish thousands of institutions to stimulate the use of renewable energy, but people won’t (or cannot) make use of it. There is one example where government wanted to implement bio gas plant into rural houses, but they didn’t involve the households in the project and as a consequence, more than 50% of the installations were not working because people were not able to maintain and/or repair the bio gas plants. Considering this fact, a lot of organizations such as Grameen Shakti, REB,… implement this in there guidelines as well (Mondal et al., 2014).
Energy demand will continue to increase exponentially because of population growth. Since history, economic growth can be coupled closely with energy consumption and production. According to Hassan A. et al. (2012) energy can be seen as a sensible approximation to assume that energy use/capita will increase with GDP/capita. The relationship between energy access and social, economic, environmental,… issues is relevant. Being aware of the finite stock of fossil fuels and their negative impact on the environment on both a global and a local scale and health of the citizens, most countries, as well Bangladesh want to stimulate the use of renewable energy sources. Therefore, the importance of government as well as private organizations in the process has to be recognized. Subsidizing and supporting private-public Research & Development partnerships can make renewable energy projects a successful story. Those endeavors manifest Bangladesh’s commitment towards development of renewable energy although Bangladesh cannot make use of all renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy, bio-energy, hydropower, geothermal and ocean energy equally, because of morphological and other natural characteristics. New solutions to solve the renewable energy crisis in Bangladesh so by governance help it’s possible to promote renewable energy which is more advisable than diverting internal capital to import refined oil from foreign countries (Ahmed S. et al., 2014). Nevertheless, the promotion of renewable energy in Bangladesh is still in an early stage and new projects have to take not only policies into account, but also the people in Bangladesh itself. They need to make use of it, they need to have the knowledge to make use of new installations and they have to repair it. The local demand and income generation opportunities should be the starting point of the implementation of RETs and then, after all, renewable energy in Bangladesh can be a successful story of which a lot of other countries can learn a lot.
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