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Can Bangladesh meet its 10% renewable energy target by 2020?

  • Published at 12:21 am January 12th, 2019
Renewable energy

The country faltered in attaining its previous target but has since gained momentum

When it comes to generating green energy, Bangladesh’s past performance has seen a mix of success and failure. 

The government did not attain its goal of generating five percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015; but that did not deter it from continuing to aim high.

The government is now eyeing a target of generating 10% of its power from renewable resources by 2020.

Bangladesh is currently generating around 560 MW of electricity from renewables, which is just 2.95% of total power generation. Experts reckon generating 2000 MW of power—10% of the total— within two years, will be challenging. 

However, many efforts have already been made to attain the goal. 

Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) Member Siddiq Zubair told the Dhaka Tribune that in the past week, Sreda initiated a number of solar power projects with a combined generation-capacity of 557 MW of electricity.

“We expect these projects will go into operation in two years,” he said.

According to Sreda’s website, at least eight solar parks—with a 100MW-capacity each—and a 200MW- capacity solar power project, are in the planning process; while two 200MW-capacity solar parks are now under construction.

The country’s current power-generation capacity stands at 20,430MW, while average production hovers between 6,500MW to 11,500MW, a Power Cell estimate shows.

According to the Renewable Energy Policy 2008, the government was supposed to achieve 5% power generation from renewable sources by 2015, and the figure was supposed to double by 2020.

Given the current average rate of power generation, renewable sources have to contribute at least 2,000MW of electricity in the next two years, even if overall production remains unchanged. 

The government also plans to generate 2,896MW electricity from the same sources by 2021, but slow growth in this sector is nowhere near the projected target.

With the government launching the country’s largest solar power plant, with a 20MW capacity—in Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar on October 31 last year—the share of renewable energy in power generation has yet to reach 3%.

Presently, a total of 559.80MW of power is generated from renewable energy, of which a whopping 325.82MW, or 52.8%, comes from solar power.

With a 41.1% stake, hydropower is the second-highest contributor to the renewable energy sector; followed by wind power at 0.5%, and biomass and biogas adding 1% each.

‘A tall order’

According to Sreda, renewable energy makes up merely 2.95% of the entire energy sector in Bangladesh; which includes the off-grid share (286.72MW) of renewable energy. 

Claiming the target of generating 10% of power from renewable sources is a tall order, Sreda Member Siddiq Zubair said that Sreda remains optimistic that this target can be reached.

“Considering the large  solar power projects under construction and the expansion of net-metering, we hope to get closer to the goal by 2020, if not pass the production limit,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sreda Assistant Director (solar) Md Rashedul Alam said: “The results of our activities are already evident, and we are advancing towards achieving the government target by 2020.Ever since our journey in 2014, we have been working hard to reach our goal and the outcome is on an upward trend.”

Giving credit largely to solar power plants for contributing most to the renewable energy sector, Rashedul, however, pointed out that the availability of suitable land is an issue for undertaking solar power projects; since the government stands against the acquisition of arable land.

The government is also presently focusing on net-metering to boost solar power generation and popularize it among the masses, he said, hoping the renewable energy’s stake will leap to 1,000MW in the next two years.

Responding to a query, Md Abul Kalam Azad, principal co-ordinator of Sustainable Development Goals Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), told the Dhaka Tribune that they were optimistic about fulfilling the target by the 2020 deadline.

Energy expert BD Rahmatullah said the government, ever since announcing its Power System Master Plan 2016, has reiterated that it will generate 10% of power from renewable sources; but growth in this regard does not reflect that percentage.

“Other than solar power projects, the government must focus on generating electricity from wind power and biomass,” he said.

Rahmatullah, also the former director general of Power Cell—which works under the Power Division—referring to a recent study, said Bangladesh currently has the potential to produce at least 21,000MW of electricity from wind.

Present state of power production

Bangladesh has been ranked the lowest hydropower-producing country in Asia, a position  unchanged since 2017, according to the 2018 Hydropower Status Report prepared by the International Hydropower Association. 

The country currently produces 230MW of its electricity from hydroelectric power plants.

The country’s combined capacity for power generation crossed the 20,000MW mark in September last year and it has a target of generating 24,000MW of electricity by 2021, 40,000MW by 2030, and 60,000MW by 2041.