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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Solar share in power generation growing fast

Government had set a target of generating 10% of total electricity from renewable sources by 2021, but it is only 3.5% as of now

Update : 07 Aug 2022, 08:20 AM

Bangladesh has experienced a boost in solar energy since 1996, starting with the introduction of small units of the solar home system (SHS) across the country – thanks to robust initiatives by the government and the private sector. 

The number of SHS units has now reached a whopping 6,037,601-mark.

Meanwhile, the off-grid generation of electricity from SHS, irrigation and rooftop units, street lights and solar-powered telecom BTS amounts to 351MW, according to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).

There are some 2,592 solar irrigation units producing 48.14MW; some 296,861 street lights with a capacity of 17.07MW; 115 rooftop units (except for net metering) of 14.20MW and 1,933 solar-powered telecom BTS generating 8.06MW.

In the last couple of years, many local and foreign investors have expressed interest in setting up large-scale solar plants. During this time, eight solar parks have been established and these are now adding around 180-230MW to the national grid every day.

It takes renewable energy’s share in power generation to around 3.5% of the country’s average production of 11,000-14,000MW; for solar, the share is only 1%.

Despite repeated calls by green groups at home and abroad to shift to clean energy, Bangladesh’s initiatives to shift to renewable energy are sluggish.

Earlier, the government had set a target of generating 10% of total electricity from renewable sources by 2021, but it is only 3.5% as of now. The aim has been reset to 40% by 2040. 

Last year, Bangladesh failed to meet its commitment to using renewable energy for 10% of its total generating capacity.

According to Sreda, the government had undertaken around 50 grid-connected large solar power projects in the past 10 years. But the success rate is only around 15%.

During FY2017-22, generation by solar plants increased marginally – from 38MW in 2020 to 230MW in 2022.

On the other hand, the contribution of the Kaptai hydropower plant to the national grid is around 130MW – due to low water level against a derated capacity is to the tune of 230MW, while only 2.9MW is produced from three wind-run plants. 

The progress of biogas- and biomass-to-electricity initiatives has still remained insignificant – slightly over 1MW.

On the ground, the government agencies concerned, including Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), Sreda, and Infrastructure Development Company (Idcol) are taking different measures to draw investment in green energy.

Major plants in operation

The country’s largest solar power plant is run by Energon Renewables, a concern of Orion Group, which started supplying 100MW electricity to the national grid in December last year. The BPDB is purchasing electricity from the plant at a cost of Tk12.27 per unit.

The giant plant, built on 350 acres of land at a cost of a whopping Tk1,850 crore, is located near the Sundarbans, where the company had previously planned to build a 660MW coal-fired power station. 

The other key players operating solar parks are the consortiums of HETAT-DITROLIC and IFDC Solar (50MW in Mymensingh), Spectra Engineers Limited and Shunfeng Investment Limited (35MW in Manikganj); Joules Power Limited (20MW in Cox’s Bazar), and Parasol Energy Ltd (8MW in Panchagarh).

The 3.28MW plant at Sarishabari in Jamalpur is the country’s first grid-tied solar power facility that came into commercial operation in 2017.

Meanwhile, the government approved a proposal for setting up a 50MW solar power plant at Terokhada in Khulna on September 22 last year. 

The joint venture of Hero Future Energies Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore, and Business Research International Corporation Inc (BRIC), Panama, will implement the project that will cost around Tk1,328.90 crore. The tariff will be $0.1025 or around Tk8.20.

Some local business groups have joined the race by setting up multiple small solar units with the aim of protecting the environment by moving towards sustainable energy. 

Kazi Farms Limited is one of the prominent conglomerates that has established solar plants on unused land and factory terraces of seven of its subsidiaries, producing around 3MW of electricity. The surplus electricity is distributed to the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board through net meters.

Billion-dollar projects in pipeline

The future of renewable energy in Bangladesh is, however, not grim.

In the last few years, the government accelerated its drives to produce more electricity from renewable energy sources, and has been in negotiations to strike deals worth billions of dollars.

The Power Division is now reviewing dozens of unsolicited proposals on large-scale plants that will use the free solar and wind powers, and wastes to generate electricity, and transmit to the national grid.

Work on some of the mega projects is underway.

Since Bangladesh has to import fossil fuels to produce nearly two-thirds of the electricity and their prices are on the rise in the global market for the last couple of years, increasing numbers of private firms are coming forward with mega projects in the renewable energy sector – thanks to the government’s lucrative offers.

According to experts, green energy projects are cheaper and cleaner than the power plants run by fossil fuels. They do not need fuel to generate electricity and do not emit any harmful gas. 

There are yet some drawbacks of renewable energy too: wind turbines create noise and cannot produce electricity with the fall of velocity. On the other hand, large solar plants need vast areas like char lands to install the panels.

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