The government's effort to save electricity through rationing has come up against its plans to accelerate industrialisation and thereby lift the economy onto a higher growth path. And the power rationing is also negatively impacting agriculture, not to speak of the difficulties being faced by general consumers of power. And everyone knows why it is so. It is the sharp rise in the fossil fuel price in the global market that is the villain.
Bangladesh is especially concerned as its power plants run by pricey imported fuels are putting pressure on the country's foreign exchange reserve, a crisis that has prompted the government to go for power rationing. But how long will the economy in its present shape be able to sustain with low power?
In fact, the situation in the international fossil fuel market is not going to improve anytime soon. Now that the world powers seem to be hell bent on dragging the war in Ukraine indefinitely, the Russian oil and gas that power mainly the economy of Europe and other parts of the world, will remain inaccessible to the world market, thanks to the self-punishing Western sanctions on them.
The fallout from this madness is that inflationary pressure is growing on the Western economies. It is a vicious circle. What options are then open before a developing economy like Bangladesh to survive the energy crunch engulfing the globe?
However, the situation should not have been this bad. And the rising price of highly polluting fossil fuel could indeed rather be a piece of good news for the world if only the efforts towards transition to renewable energy had been in place during the past years.
But now that an unforeseen emergency situation has arisen, it can still be looked upon as an opportunity in disguise. As no economy can run like this for long without a reliable energy base, the search for the alternative energy source should now be on the topmost agenda. The advanced economies should accelerate their efforts to develop more efficient and robust technology for producing renewable energy that can replace the existing fossil-fuel-based technology sooner rather than later.
Since the fear of depletion of the world's fossil energy reserves has been haunting the world for more than half a century, researches on finding renewable alternatives and the technologies to tap those efficiently are also ongoing expectedly in all seriousness.
But why is then this chronic symptom of preparedness deficit across the globe on the issue of transition to clean energy option? It is nothing but the mentality of clinging to the tradition, which is now proving too risky to afford. But for fragile economies in the developing world there is no room for foot-dragging in this regard. The decision on shifting to clean energy has to be fast aimed at avoiding devastating consequences.
On this score, it is heartening to learn that the Bangladesh government has revised its plans so that by 2040, forty per cent of the country's total power will be available from the renewable sources.
But that is evidently a very ambitious target seeing that at the moment renewable energy's share in the average production of power in the country is a mere 3.5 per cent. And this is against the government's actual target of producing 10 per cent of total power generated in the country from renewable sources by 2021. In that case, it would require going all out to reach the target by the specified time. However, so far the progress in this field is nothing to write home about considering that introducing solar power in the country started more than a quarter century back in 1996.
Then the idea was to introduce the so-called Solar Home System (SHS) in the residential buildings and offices across the country. The SHS is basically a small photovoltaic power generation unit. In daytime the power generation system charges the battery from the sun, while in the evening the system discharges the electrical energy stored in the battery to meet the household need for power.
Going by the number of such SHS units installed at offices and residential buildings during all these years one would like to be impressed. For it is more than 6.0 million units installed. But in terms of production of power, the amount comes to only 35 megawatts, says the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).
Similarly, there are close to 26,000 solar irrigation units, nearly 300,000 street lights, more than 100 rooftop units and more than 1900 solar powered BTS (Base Transceiver Station), a fixed radio transceiver in a mobile network, in the country.
Together they have a capacity of 87.43 MW. There are also some eight solar parks adding some 230 MW daily to the national power grid. But in real terms they do not add up to much when compared to the average of 11,000 to 14,000 MW of power that flow into the national power grid every day. And the percentage of power produced from all those solar battery units is only 1.0 per cent of the average quantity of power on the supply lines!
The amount of additional solar power added to the off-grid over the last five years is also little to make any difference. The total amount of solar power generated in this year is 230 MW.
As things stand, the efforts need to be redoubled both from the public and private sectors to produce renewable power on a massive scale, if the government is to achieve its goal of adding 40 per cent electricity from renewable sources to the national grid by 2040.