Bangladesh Slashes 30/30 Renewable Energy Goal

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2021-08-04
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Bangladesh Slashes 30/30 Renewable Energy Goal A man stands near solar panels installed on the roof of a government office building in Dhaka, June 7, 2021.
BenarNews

Environmentalists and government officials have slashed Bangladesh’s goal of ensuring that 30 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2030, saying the country lacks land and resources needed to meet the target.

During a meeting on Tuesday to review the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, which the government unveiled at the Vulnerable 20 group meeting chaired by Bangladesh in July, a local climate-change expert cast doubt on those renewable energy goals.

“The government’s new renewable energy plan seems to me to be unrealistic. The plan targets producing four gigawatts (4,000 megawatts) from wind in the Bay of Bengal. It further proposes increasing the share of renewable energy to 30 percent by 2030 and 40 percent by 2041,” Mizan R. Khan, a deputy director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development, who addressed Tuesday’s meeting, told BenarNews.

“We have no wind potential so this is almost impossible to achieve,” he said. “Not only had I, but other speakers expressed their surprise at the wind-power target.”

On Wednesday, an energy ministry official said the government had revised the goals.

“We are working with a new plan to produce 15 percent power from renewable sources by 2030 and 40 percent by 2050. We are hopeful,” said Mohammad Hossain, director general of the research wing at the power cell of the energy ministry.

“In 2009, the government decided to meet 5 percent of the energy needs from renewable sources by 2015 and 10 percent by 2020. But the targets have yet to be achieved,” he said. “Currently, renewable sources provide less than 4 percent of our total energy.”

Bangladesh, which has been identified as among countries threatened most by the potential effects of climate change – particularly along its low-lying coastal areas – faces natural road blocks in meeting its goals for renewable energy.

Solar power – the country’s main renewable energy source – requires major land and economic investment, making it impractical to set up plants.

“We have been a land-hungry country. We cannot set up solar panels on vast swaths of land. We have been trying to generate wind power, but we are not sure about its success,” Hossain told BenarNews.

Officials noted that three acres are needed to produce one megawatt of solar power. A government policy allowing rooftop solar panels was scrapped because of alleged corruption.

Since land is in short supply, officials set up a floating solar panels in Mongla, a city on the southwestern coast.

“But I think floating solar plants would not work as hundreds of thousands of fishermen depend on these water bodies for livelihood. Besides, fish and other aquatic creatures need sunlight for survival,” Khan said.

Tamim, a professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), also questioned the government’s energy figures.

“As regards to renewable energy, we are naturally disadvantaged. The government says the renewable contribution is 4 percent. Actually, this is less than 1 percent as most of the solar projects meet local demands and do not supply power to the national grid,” Tamim told BenarNews.

He said wind-generated power had proven unreliable.

“There is no potential for wind power as we have no consistent flow of natural wind along the coast. The power development board set up a wind power plant in Feni on a trial basis, but it failed,” Tamim said.

Feni is a coastal city in southeastern Bangladesh.

Despite that failure, the government in December 2020 awarded a contract to a Chinese company to produce 55 megawatts of wind power daily in Mongla. Announcing the project, officials said consumers would pay U.S. 13 cents per kilowatt hour generated by the plant, compared to 7 cents paid now.

Old energy grid

In a bid to promote renewable sources of energy, the government in 2014 set up a new agency, the Sustainable Renewable Energy Development Authority. In its 2019-2020 report, the authority said the nation produced more than 650 megawatts of electricity per day from renewable sources – about 3 percent of the total power generation of 21,354 megawatts.

Tamim noted that Bangladesh must rely on traditional sources of energy to meet the country’s needs.

“Our electricity distribution grid is more than 40 years old and cannot intake more than 10 percent electricity from renewable sources. So, if the government plans to increase supply from renewable sources, it must replace the whole distribution network, which warrants a huge investment,” he said.

Meanwhile in June, the government canceled plans to construct 10 coal-fired power plants over price concerns and because it could not find funders.

“We have abandoned the 10 coal projects on environmental grounds, but we cannot totally discard fossil fuels. We have to adjust with fossil fuels and renewable sources,” Hossain said, adding, “The government has been trying to find ways to increase the share of renewable energy.”

In addition to committing to increase renewable energy, Bangladesh officials pledged to cut carbon emissions, which have been linked to climate change, by 5 percent.

“Bangladesh is not a polluter. We are rather a victim of emissions by developed countries,” M. Ziaul Haque, a director at the government’s Department of Environment, told BenarNews. “The Paris agreement does not force us to cut emissions. But we are doing it willfully.

“We have been working hard to set a new target for further emission reductions. And our commitment and goodwill in this regard are highly respected around the world.”

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