In spite of the falling price of crude oil in the last 3-4 years, there has been a steady rise in the production of renewable energy globally. Many countries have totally switched to renewable energy and some others are on track of shedding off fossil fuelled energy production plants.
In Bangladesh, the renewable energy scenario has been a bit stagnant as the proportionate growth on renewable energy could not be seen in the last couple of years. According to the Sustainable & Renewable Energy Development Agency of Bangladesh (SREDA), renewable energy contributes approximately 3.10 per cent to the country's national energy power mix.
For a country that graduated recently from the LDC category, the figure is too low. The main sources of Bangladesh's renewable energy till date are solar and hydro-electricity. Although Bangladesh is a pioneer in installing Solar Home Systems (SHSs), most of these installations were made by some non-government organisations (NGOs).
The World Bank gave $55 million to expand the use of clean renewable energy in rural areas of Bangladesh recently where grid electricity cannot reach easily. This additional financing to the Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED II) Project is expected to install 1,000 solar irrigation pumps, 30 solar mini-grids, and about 4.0 million improved cooking stoves in rural areas.
The government of Bangladesh has set a target to generate 2000 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy sources in three years, which will be 10 per cent of the country's total power production. Currently, nearly 600 megawatt (MW) of electricity is coming from renewable sources, according to the ministry for power, energy and mineral resources. The authorities have taken some measures for increasing renewable energy production in line with the Seventh Five-Year Plan and the initiatives for achieving the 3rd target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Meantime, Bangladesh has topped a global list of renewable energy using countries, by installing the highest number of SHSs. Over 5.0 million solar systems have so far been installed under a programme of the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCL).
The company is promoting and financing renewable energy initiatives and energy efficient projects through public-private-partnership. Nearly 15 million beneficiaries are getting solar power from such SHSs. The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREA) is promoting and developing renewable energy and energy efficiency activities in public and private sectors.
The government has signed a good number of agreements with private entrepreneurs for setting up green energy plants in the country. It has recently taken an initiative to generate 500MW of electricity from solar plants, which will require $2.76 billion funding.
Out of the required fund, $2.23 billion is expected to come from development partners while the remaining will be arranged by the government and private partners. Under a long-term plan, the government also approved four solar power plants having a combined capacity of 258 MW to be installed at different places across the country in the next 20 years at a cost Tk 91.58 billion.
There is no denying that sustainable and renewable energy is the future of energy sector. The government is expected to introduce a new policy to increase the use of renewable energy as part of its greater goal to ensure energy security of the country. Currently, the country's power generation is mostly dependent on imported oil and natural gas which is running out fast.
The country has to depend on other sources of renewable energy -- wind, biomass and biogas -- amid growing concerns over a steady decline of non-renewable resources. Many countries are trying to seek alternative sources of energy to meet future needs.
The country is dependent on non-renewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas to meet energy needs. Contribution of renewable sources to power generation still remains negligible. Efficient utilisation of renewable energy resources is yet to assume commercial dimensions and hence rational policy measures on renewable energy usage are essential.
Steps have been taken to encourage generation of energy through biomass, and biogas due to the availability of rice-husk, crop residue, woods, jute stick and animal waste. The main renewable energy resources in Bangladesh are biomass, solar, wind and hydropower.
The hydropower potential of Bangladesh is low due to the relative flatness of the country. Wind power generation in Bangladesh has certain limitations due to the lack of reliable wind speed data and the remarkable seasonal variation of wind speed.
The country has good prospects of utilising solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for electricity generation, but high capital investment cost is a big barrier for adopting such systems. Biomass is the major energy source in Bangladesh and biomass utilisation systems represent a proven environment-friendly option for small- to medium-scale decentralised electricity generation.
Natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electricity, kerosene and biomass fuels are used for cooking. In areas without natural gas and electricity, biomass is used to meet household cooking needs.
Agricultural crops generate large quantities of residues. Such residues represent an important source of energy both for domestic as well as industrial purposes. Other sources of biomass in the country are farm-animal wastes and poultry droppings.
As such, there is a huge possibility to produce electricity using biogas in Bangladesh, if proper research is carried out by research agencies, professionals and the government. The country has adequate number of poultry farms and cattle farms. By establishing biogas plants in these farms, electricity could be generated.
The number of solar system installations in the country is on the rise. Biogas plants are now popular in rural areas. More steps can be taken to popularise the proven solar water heating system, solar cooker or solar dryer. It requires proper planning from the government and the non-government organisations (NGOs) at the grassroots level.
All said and done, the country must exploit renewable energy resources to generate electricity as mush as possible. With fast depleting natural gas reserve, these options must be diligently weighed to meet the increasing energy demand.