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Dhaka Tribune

Solar energy: Fund assurance for 1,000MW plant ushers hope

Bangladesh is moving forward with plans to speed up cleaner and cheaper renewable energy options

Update : 30 Nov 2022, 12:00 AM

Many countries across the world are facing trouble generating electricity due to shortages and high prices of fuel oil and LNG, and are looking for alternative options to tackle the situation.

In Germany, the government has resumed operations at coal-fired power plants, which were supposed to be shut down already, since the cost of electricity from coal-run plants is lower than that of fossil fuel-run plants.

Although Bangladesh's economy has remained strong despite the Covid-19 fallout and the Ukraine crisis, the government has taken different measures as precautions to avert a worse situation.

The government has adopted austerity measures with regard to import of fossil fuels and purchase of raw materials for mega projects that are not top priority at the moment. The authorities have also been imposing loadshedding on a regular basis to ease the pressure on the foreign exchange reserves, although the country needs to keep export industries and production units operational to maintain its economic strength. 

In these circumstances, Bangladesh is moving forward with plans to speed up cleaner and cheaper renewable energy options, so that the energy crisis cannot mar growth.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to set up a 1,000MW solar power plant in Bangladesh.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid welcomed the initiative, saying the investment and technology of ACWA would help Bangladesh achieve its clean energy goal of 2041.

BPDB Board Secretary Mohammad Selim Reza and ACWA Power's business development department's Executive Director Ayad Al Amri signed the MoU on behalf of their respective sides.

As per the MoU, ACWA Power will provide technological and financial support while the BPDB will extend administrative support for the 1,000MW project, UNB reported.

“The government has been working in a coordinated manner to promote renewable energy. State-owned Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) is providing necessary technical support and consultations,” he said at the contract signing ceremony held at Biduyt Bhaban in Dhaka.

Nasrul Hamid said the application of modern technology was essential to overcome obstructions related to land-scarcity to install large solar plants.

“We hope that the ACWA will bring that solution which will help achieve our goal for 2041,” he added.

With BPDB chairman Md Mahbubur Rahman in the chair, the function was also addressed by Power Secretary Habuibur Rahman and Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Bangladesh Issa bin Youssef Al-Duhailan.

Mega projects under consideration

The contribution of solar energy to the national grid is negligible – around 1% of total daily generation of around 12,000-14,000MW. From FY2017-22, power generation from solar plants increased marginally from 38MW in 2020 to 230MW in 2022.

According to several highly-placed officials, the government recently received at least three proposals seeking unsolicited bids to implement 1,000MW plants, each of which may need an investment of over Tk15,000 crore, or over $1.5 billion, and vast land.

The proposed locations are Zajira in Shariatpur, Saral of Banshkhali in Chittagong and Swarna Dwip (formerly Jahazzair Char) in Noakhali. 

Work on the plant under the Noakhali project is already underway. Bangladesh Army's 33rd Infantry Division has been in charge of the 370sq-km island since 2013 and is implementing different development projects alongside setting up a base for exercises.

Of the 11 other proposals currently being reviewed by the government, Sreemangal in Moulvibazar has been proposed for a 300MW plant, Mongla in Bagerhat for a 200MW one, and Gaibandha and Thakurgaon for two 200MW plants. The other plants have an estimated capacity of 10-70MW.

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.

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