Rapid urbanisation, fuelled by stable economic growth, has created a huge energy demand in Bangladesh. It is well known that energy plays a vital role in poverty eradication, economic growth, sustainable infrastructure development, and ensuring security of a country.
In Bangladesh, electricity is the most widely used form of energy. Future economic growth significantly depends on the availability of electricity. At present, about 72 per cent of the total population has access to electricity, and electricity supply is not adequately reliable.
Bangladesh is starving for energy for last few decades since its power generation is mainly depended on imported fossil fuel and natural gas. The present government has successfully increased electricity generation, yet grid electricity is not reachable in the remote areas of the country due to lack of infrastructure and longstanding distribution facilities.
In recent years, the world is moving towards green electricity generation to reduce carbon-dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional electricity production is the primary source (29 per cent) of greenhouse gas emission.
At present, greenhouse gas emission affects the climate directly by raising the global temperature. Bangladesh is one of the top climate vulnerable country among 48 nations. It is facing the impact of climate change such as rising sea levels, increase of salinity, heavy rainfall, floods, and landslides.
As a vulnerable country, both private and public sectors of Bangladesh have taken multiple initiatives to move towards renewable electricity production to protect the environment and for better living conditions. The government has established SREDA to provide policy support and guidelines for sustainable growth of renewable energy.
The government of Bangladesh has set an ambitious goal of providing electricity connection to every rural household. Solar and other renewable energy can be the key component of this ambitious goal.
In some rural areas of Bangladesh, people live distant from the main grid connection to have reliable, affordable, and efficient electricity connections for their development.
To ensure energy access, energy security and pollution free clean electricity for all there is not much alternative available for Bangladesh except Renewable Energy especially solar energy.
Solar energy has very small share in the present energy mix in Bangladesh. We host the fastest growing Solar Home System program in the world with over 50,000 SHS unit installations per month in the recent past.
As of 2017, Bangladesh has the world’s largest SHS program with about 5 million SHS. Over 30 million people are benefitting directly from solar energy and over 100,000 new employments have already been created.
Bangladesh is blessed with year round sunshine (over 300 days per year) and has an enormous potential for solar energy. We have been utilising solar power wisely and using its experience towards diversifying renewable energy (RE) for maximum use.
The country has made significant progress in the rural renewable energy development by installing SHS in the off-grid areas. Back in 1996, SHS became popular among the rural people of Bangladesh for its affordable monthly installment-based financial model at the price of kerosene.
Green Technology Centers (GTC) were established in rural areas to train rural women, for capacity-building, and after-sales services at clients’ door steps. A strong network of supply chain and branches also help SHS become popular and acceptable.
At present, people can easily charge their mobile phones, watch television, use fans, children can study better, and people can do their important household chores at night with the Solar Home System (SHS).
Bangladesh government has taken a systematic approach towards renewable energy development. The initiative includes development of awareness, legal and regulatory framework, institutional development, and financing mechanism to drive the RE sector.
Some Systems (SHS) in Bangladesh has ignited the future prospects for solar energy, and will expedite to make the country the first solar nation in the world. Along with the SHS, 617 Solar Irrigation Pumps (SIP) have already been installed, along with solar street lights in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, and remote rural areas of the country, 7 solar mini-grids in remote islands, urban rooftop solar program, and solar-powered arsenic water treatment plants are complementing the effort to generate clean power.
Community-based solar approach such as solar irrigation pumps, solar mini-grid, arsenic water treatment plants, and solar street lights have the potential of benefitting the community people by ensuring food security, arsenic free pure water, improved socio-economic conditions in off-grid areas of Bangladesh etc.
It’s possible to produce additional electricity of 30,000MW from the utilisation of solar PV at schools, colleges, universities, mosques, temples madrasahs, government buildings, factories, bus stations, train stations, unused lands, community-based PV plants, and grid tie mega projects.
At present, more than 1.6 million irrigation pumps are there and among them 1.3 million pumps are run by diesel. To replace traditional diesel-run irrigation pumps, 617 solar irrigation pumps have already been installed. By replacing all these diesel-run pumps, about 10,000MW electricity can be produced by solar energy.
As we know, Bangladesh is committed to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, which includes combating climate change and increasing energy access from renewable energy sources.
As a climate vulnerable country, and for sustainable energy development and energy security, a Bangladesh solar mission needs to be designed to achieve SDGs by 2030 and to build the foundation to reach 100 per cent RE in the future.
Bangladesh has huge potential, but it must overcome many challenges, especially the challenges of global warming and energy crisis along with poverty reduction to realise its full potential. We can dream of a future where RE technology is the major contributor to our energy mix.
We can dream of providing all the modern facilities to thousands of rural villages through the next decade. Moving towards renewable energy can bring a true green revolution for the rural people by developing agricultural output, offering food security, providing modern facilities, creating new businesses and jobs for both men & women.
From the experiences of the last two decades, we can say that solar energy has become very familiar and accepted by the people of Bangladesh.
Proper planning and implementation of a sustainable technological, financial, and socially accepted business model articulated through Bangladesh’s solar mission, strong government policy, proper investment policy for investors, ensuring affordable technologies and quality products, and strong research and development will gradually transform the nation towards 100% RE, and we can dream of Bangladesh to become the first solar nation by 2041.