Joining solar energy superhighway

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 25 Aug 2017, 23:12:05

Joining solar energy superhighway

Working in close cooperation with the International Solar Alliance, the country having enough sunshine, will surely make a breakthrough in solar component for  power generation, writes Rahman Jahangir
The proverb 'A stitch in time saves nine' still holds true particularly in making decisions of a government. The country had wasted many years to take advantage of a free under-sea submarine cable as the then government had thought such linking would harm the country's interests. But today, thanks to prompt initiative, Bangladesh is connected with the second undersea cable up to the landing station in Kuakata.  The country currently receives 200 Gbps of bandwidth from its first connection, SEA-ME-WE 4, which was linked in 2016.

Bangladesh this time lost no time in approving a proposal for ratification of the Framework Agreement on the Establishment of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).  The cabinet meeting last week gave the approval. The International Solar Alliance holds great promise in building a solar energy superhighway. Comprising more than 121 countries, mostly sunshine countries, the Alliance is to work together for efficient exploitation of solar energy, technological innovation, finance and capacity building to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. 

The initiative was launched ahead of the UN Climate Conference (COP 21) in Paris in 2015. The Framework Agreement of International Solar Alliance was opened for signatures in COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016. The Alliance will have an assembly to take decisions and a secretariat for execution of the decisions. Members of the Alliance don't need to give any subscription. However, they can give fund in terms of donation. India will be the depository of the Alliance. 

In fact, signing of the International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement has reiterated the firm commitment of Bangladesh towards further promoting renewable energy, more particularly solar energy. This also reflects a strong determination of Bangladesh in tackling adversities of climate change and its resultant impacts. Joining the Alliance will widen the opportunities for Bangladesh to collaborate with other members in areas of solar technology, finance, research, innovation and development as well as capacity building.

Globally, renewable energy and energy efficiency promotion activities are in progress. In many countries, it has become cost-effective. Bangladesh had interaction with the Green Grid Alliance comprising members of parliament. They are thinking of installing plants in deserts like Sahara, India's Rajasthan and in China for harnessing solar power with connectivity through a superhighway. Changes in technology, which used to occur in ten years, are now taking place everyday. Bangladesh might also be connected through the Green Grid Alliance under their plan. This will be cost-effective and that is carbon-negative. This will abandon need for investment of billions of dollar in power production, building coal terminals and plants and lots of risks are there. For example, Bangladesh is going to set up a $2 billion 1,300 megawatt project, for which the country does not have the efficient manpower and management capacity. But now, one can get power through the global connectivity like that of Internet.

Bangladesh is giving billions of taka as subsidy for renewable energy through different financial institutions including Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL). But, how long will it be offering the subsidy? It can team up with Nepal and Bhutan to take 5,000 MW of hydro-power; and this will give a base-load of 5,000MW, which is a clean energy. Bangladesh is trying to optimise the productive use of sunshine.

In the 2010-21 Perspective Plan, power production from renewable energy was set at 3.0 per cent in 2020 but it has now been targeted at 10 per cent of the total production. Bangladesh will save 15 per cent of energy by 2021 and 20 per cent by 2030. The targets can be achieved because the government has put stress on production of renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation. At the moment, production of 1,200MW of electricity is under process from solar power. In the next two-year time, all government offices will have roof-top solar panels. The government is providing funds for green financing and taking fiscal measures for ensuring renewable energy and energy efficiency. About 500MW of power is now being produced from renewable energy. There is a target for production of 500MW from solar power and Bangladesh is making progress.

Working in close cooperation with the International Solar Alliance, the country having enough sunshine, will surely make a breakthrough in solar component for power generation. Even Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, having huge oil reserves, are now taking up plans in their deserts to tap hitherto unexploited vast solar power. This is because one day, oil reserve might be depleted.

Due to shortage of gas, Bangladesh had to diversify primary energy mix for power generation. As a result, contribution of natural gas for power generation came down to 63 per cent against 93 per cent in 2009. It is now moving towards a low-cost conventional energy under medium and long-term measures. Renewable energy might not be a mainstream energy in Bangladesh at least for next few years. But it can contribute significantly to ease the crisis of conventional energy.      

Bangladesh's GDP growth was at 7.11 per cent in 2015-16. It is now moving towards the goals of Vision 2021. Industries and services sectors are contributing more to achieve this  compared to previous fiscal year. Capital machinery import has grown at more than 40 per cent. This means, the country is gradually moving towards energy-intense economy. It will be difficult to maintain this growth rate if Bangladesh fails to ensure primary energy supply.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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