Recently a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlighted Bangladesh’s successes in creating substantial employment in the renewable energy sector. In the last ten years, Bangladesh, which currently boasts the sixth largest energy related workforce, saw the number of solar powered homes increase from 25,000 to 2.8 million. 114,000 jobs were created as a result of the industry which has grown up in the manufacturing, installation and repair of solar panels and related accessories. The number of solar powered jobs nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013. The report further stated that the numbers are set to increase further due to high installation rates.
The current government has plans to enhance national power generation capacity to 16000 MW by 2015 to meet expected energy demands of that time. The government envisages that at least 500 MW of such power should come from solar sources. To that end, they have embarked on a comprehensive program , which sets out how they plan to make the best possible use of solar energy between the years 2012 and 2016. Works are currently underway on Bangladesh’s largest solar power plant at Sulla Upazila of Sunamganj district. This 400 KW capacity plant will supply power to 400 homes and will be built by funding from the Climate Trust Fund and government of Bangladesh.
Consumers benefiting too
It is not only that Bangladesh is taking significant strides in making effective use of renewable energy sources, but the end consumers too, are also being immensely benefited by the move towards green energy. In a survey conducted by the government’s Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED), it was found that about 98.8% of the solar home systems (SHSs) under a project have been able to reduce their expenses significantly than kerosene, candle or torchlight while 89% found SHSs to be more environment and human health friendly.
The current major solar energy projects which the government of Bangladesh is implementing include:
i. 8 MW Grid Connected Solar PV Power Plant at Kaptai Hydro Power Station,at Rangamati on turnkey basis;
ii. 3 MW Grid Connected Solar PV Power Plant at Sharishabari, Jamalpur on IPP basis;
iii. 30 MW Solar Park Project adjacent to new Dhorola Bridge, Kurigram on IPP basis;
iv. Solar Street Lighting Projects in seven (7) City Corporations of the country
With a 700 km coastline Bangladesh has immense potential for harnessing the power of wind
Public private cooperation – Key to success
Building an effective partnership between the public and private sectors has been one of the principal reasons behind Bangladesh’s remarkable success in this emerging field. For instance the Infrastructure Development Company Limited or IDCOL , which was established by the government of Bangladesh as a non-bank financial institution in 1997, has played a major role in distributing the benefits of solar energy under their Solar Energy Program . IDCOL’s target is to finance 6 millions solar home systems (SHSs) by 2016.
Wind not far behind
However, it is not only solar energy where Bangladesh is making its mark. Other forms of renewable energy (such as wind power, biomass based electricity, biogas based electricity, hydropower etc) are also being tested and applied to practical power generation needs of Bangladesh.
Very recently, Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) signed a deal with US DK Energy (BD) Ltd for construction of a 60 MW wind power plant at Cox’s Bazar district. BPDB has also initiated steps to commission a wind map for the regions of Cox’s Bazar, Kutubdia, Khepupara, Feni and Chittagong to better enable us to find the right geographical location to tap into further wind energy.
It is estimated that the country’s 740 square kilometer coastal belt can produce as much as 20,000 MW of electricity if the potential of wind can be harnessed by adopting requisite measures. It is believed that the aforementioned wind mapping, once done, will open up the potential that wind holds for power generation in Bangladesh.
The government is also looking at hybrid technology whereby the powers of wind and sun combine to help people obtain electricity. One such ongoing project is a 7.5 MW off Grid wind-solar hybrid system at Hatiya Island, Noakhali.
Biogas- A cost effective green solution
Biogas is a fuel gas, a mixture consisting of 65% methane (CH4) and of 35% CO2. It is a renewable energy resulting from biomass. In Bangladesh, people in rural areas are making use of this cost effective solution to energy needs in their kitchens and fields. Currently, Bangladesh receives 2 MW power from biogas and biomass technologies. For instance, for the last couple of years, people in several rural areas of Gaibandha district have been using biogas for cooking purposes, and the slurry, the main effluent of the biogas plant, as organic fertilizer for boosting agriculture production. it should be noted that the production and use of bio-fuel instead of fossil fuel reduces the emission of greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
A domestic bio gas plant in Bangladesh powering homes and farms
|Solar Home System||45 MW|
|Other Solar PV Applications including Solar Irrigation||1 MW|
|Wind Energy||2 MW|
|Biomass based electricity||<1 MW|
|Biogas based electricity||1 MW|
Here is a brief look at some, but not all, of the principal steps/actions taken by the current government so far to encourage and/or promote the use of power acquired from renewable sources:
i. Formulation and amendment of Renewable Energy Policy
The government formulated the Renewable Energy Policy in 2009. According to the policy , Bangladesh has set itself the target of achieving 5% of its total energy production from renewable energy sources by 2015 and 10% by 2020.
More recently, the government has taken the initiative to revise the Energy Policy to provide subsidies to the renewable energy sectors. The subsidies will be provided in two separate schemes for the urban and rural areas.
ii. Incentives for investors
The draft revised policy will also allow waiving of income taxes of foreign and local investors in these sectors for 15 years. Foreign investors will enjoy waiver of taxes on the earnings from technical know-how, technical assistance, royalty, and the tax on the interest on foreign loans.
They would also be able to transfer investment, income and profit to other countries. Furthermore, entrepreneurs would be waived from taking licenses from the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission for installation and operation of a renewable power plant with less than 5MW capacity.
iii. Institutional development
Recently, the government established the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Authority under the SREDA Act 2013. This organization will work as the principal regulatory authority and coordinator for all kinds of activities regarding renewable and sustainable energy sources. It will act as a coordination body for the development of renewable energy in the country.
Government agencies and departments like Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), Rural Electrification Board (REB), Local Government Engineering Directorate (LGED) and others are involved in renewable energy development in Bangladesh. Noted Public Universities and their affiliated Institutes are involved in research and development of Renewable Energy Applications.
A new wing on Sustainable Energy has been set up under Power Cell, the technical unit of Power Division. The wing comprises of one Director and one Deputy Director is extending technical support to the Renewable Energy Wing of Power Division in formulation of relevant program and policy.
Establishment of separate directorates among the public utilities can carry forward research and development of Renewable Energy Technologies. With this purview, independent renewable energy directorates have been set up under BPDB and REB. The directorates are functioning at full extent.
iv. Central bank’s assistance
The central bank, Bangladesh Bank, has issued various instruments to encourage investment and financing of green energy. They have formulated and issued “Environmental Risk Management Guidelines” and “Policy Guidelines for Green Banking” for all banks and financial institutions which provide instructions to finance solar energy, bio-gas plant, ETP and Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK) in brick making sector under refinance programs. Another dozen plus green energy products are expected to be introduced shortly for encouraging investment in green energy sectors.
Given the policy and institutional supports this emerging sector is getting, the campaign for promoting renewable energy in Bangladesh surely looks as being on track to achieve the expected targets within a very short time. To know more about Bangladesh government’s current activities and future plans on renewable energy please visit the websites of Bangladesh Power Division and Bangladesh Power Development Board.
1. Renewable Energy and Jobs- Annual Review 2014, International Renewable Energy Agency, May 2014
2. Green Page”, Energy and Power, Vol 11, Issue 22, May 1-15, 2014
3. Bangladesh Power Development Board (www.bpdb.gov,bd)
4. Bangladesh Power Division (www.powerdivision.gov.bd)
5. Green Page, Energy and Power, Vol 11, Issue 23, May 16-31, 2014