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Renewable energy and its future

  • Published at 06:08 pm December 18th, 2015
Renewable energy and its future

Climate change poses significant environmental risks for Bangladesh. Due to global warming extreme weather events, and sea level rise are already felt in Bangladesh and will continue to intensify in the near future. In the recent international leader’s conference COP21 in Paris this month, the key focus was on renewable energy and to reduce carbon emissions and rate of global warming.

Considering the climate change issue and its effect, Bangladesh Government is also implementing climate friendly initiatives and working with the national policy to protect the environment from any natural disasters that may occur in future. Bangladesh has  very positive elements to combat the climate change with its natural resources. Renewable energy is one of the key elements towards the mitigation since the country enjoys sunshine year round. Also, renewable energy can contribute to country’s social and economic development, energy access, secure energy supply, and reduce negative environmental and health impacts.

Once it was thought that solar home system (SHS) cannot be affordable to the rural people of Bangladesh for the price of the accessories used for creating the solar home system packages. A monthly installment based innovative financial model at the price of kerosene was introduced back in 1996 which has made the solar home system popular and affordable to the rural people in Bangladesh. By following the financial model, currently over 4 million, SHS has already been installed at the rate of over 50,000 SHS per month in the rural areas of Bangladesh, where grid electricity is not available. Rural off-grid people can now get the benefit of clean lighting, charge their mobile phones, extend their working hours which has provided a better livelihood to the rural Bangladesh.

Since the introduction of solar energy through the use of  solar home systems back in 1996, it has become now the biggest renewable energy program in Bangladesh and a model for many energy starved countries. Encouraged by the success of SHS, the government has initiated a number of programs such as solar irrigation pumps, solar mini/micro-grids, solar park, and solar roof-tops.

At present, the population of the country is estimated to be over 160 million and over 40% of the rural population are not connected to the national grid. To improve livelihoods and to promote industrialization, the electricity sector is prioritized with plans to generate 24,000 MW electricity by 2021, with 10 percent coming from solar energy.

Current policies on renewable energy

Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken the renewable energy very seriously and is intent on making Bangladesh a middle income country by 2021. To develop the energy sector, priority is given to electricity generation from alternative renewable energy sources specially solar.

In 2009, Honorable prime minister, in order to increase the use of renewable energy, took initiative to reduce the VAT and import tax for all renewable energy accessories. As encouraged from the honorable PM, Bangladesh government has set up the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) and Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) to fund activities to mitigate and adapt with a changing climate in the country.

The government has established the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency and started a 500 MW Solar Power Development Program to promote sustainable energy.

To encourage more eco-friendly projects, Bangladesh Bank has provided a Tk 200 crore green banking refinance policy. Also Bangladesh Bank Governor, Dr. Atiur Rahman is continuously contributing and encouraging the renewable energy sector by proposing various financing packages for businesses at single digit interest rates.

Recommendations towards green and clean technology in Bangladesh

Renewable energy technology can bring a true green energy revolution to the rural people of Bangladesh. SHS has been a successful story in Bangladesh and because of this program, Bangladesh become a role model for the rest of the developing world. Our rural people have accepted SHS on a mass scale by utilizing solar energy for agricultural production through solar irrigation pumps. Solar has given them food security, providing  modern  health, education, communication facilities, creating new businesses, and jobs for all and in general provided a better livelihood. By replacing recycling waste we can also generate energy. Green technology is easy to use, requires less maintenance, is cost effective and affordable for all people, especially those living at the bottom of the pyramid.

To promote clean technologies at the root level, it is essential to introduce awareness programs which will describe renewable energy and its effects on environment and encourage rural people to use clean tech products for their daily use to reduce carbon emissions. To encourage green and clean technologies in Bangladesh we can continue the solar home systems and need to introduce following innovations:

Low cost solar solutions: Successfully installing SHS in the rural off-grid areas to light up homes and businesses and support income generation. Already using bright and efficient LED bulbs and tubes to promote energy efficiency. More efficient use in rural shops, schools, mosques, temples, and household in off-grid areas need to be promoted and encouraged.

Solar energy for irrigation: By replacing traditional irrigation pumps with efficient solar irrigation pumps, millions in foreign currencies will be saved. There are over 65,000, pumps consuming over 750 MW electricity nationwide. Farmers can also save over 30% to 40% of their spending on irrigation water. IDCOL has a target to finance 1,500 solar irrigation pumps by 2018 and 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025. IDCOL already approved to finance 445 pumps for installation. 168 pumps are installed with financing from IDCOL till date and 277 pumps are under installation process.

Rain water harvesting: Bangladesh is a tropical country and receives heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Rainwater harvesting, low-cost systems that collect and store rainwater for year-round use, offers a cost-effective and practical solution to ease water crisis in rural Bangladesh.

Solar lanterns: We can promote rickshaws to use solar lanterns as well as in rural and urban households to save kerosene and to protect environment.

Education, health care and telecommunication: Solar PV technology can provide the power to computers and provide solution for clean drinking water to rural schools.

Clean transportation: Auto rickshaws are very popular in Bangladesh. Both cities and villages use auto rickshaw as their main transportation. We can introduce green powered auto rickshaw for better efficiency and it would be also a pollution-free transportation method.

Each urban building a powerhouse: By installing grid tied roof top solar systems urban households can escape from load-shedding and reduce the over load on our grid system.

Against the threat of climate change:  We can set up cyclone shelters equipped with clean and green technologies, we can have solar powered seed storage banks, biogas, or solar powered water desalination systems. We can also promote organic fertilizers, tree plantations especially on embankments for protection.

Local manufacturing units and green jobs: Renewable energy is creating green jobs and businesses through renewable energy technologies -- providing employment to bright engineers and giving them training both at home and abroad. Our companies have learned to manufacture solar batteries, invertors, charge controllers, CFL, and LEDs etc. Most importantly, we have successfully taken this technology to the grassroots level.

Solar park and mini grid: The nation’s first solar mini-grid is now fully operational in the remote island of Sandwip, Bangladesh, to serve 400 consumers that include the small shops, school, health center and residences.

Solar street lights: Solar street light is already in motion in Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna city corporations. The solar street lights can also be introduced in 64 district towns as well as in all upazillas of the country, saving much electricity and load shedding.

Solar energy in government schools and colleges: Bangladesh has over 80,000 primary school nationwide, mostly in rural areas. The initiative to bring the government schools, colleges, and other government’s institutes into solar energy network can brighten thousands of life in rural Bangladesh. Along with lightings, solar pumps can be also used for drinking water and sanitation purposes. 

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