The case for renewable energy

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: November 09, 2018 21:32:44 | Updated: November 10, 2018 21:15:20

That renewable energy isn't attracting Public Private Partnership is a sign that though the economy has been on course to the middle-income status, the mind set hasn't. Without fossil fuel we are destined to be dependent on import-based energy resources for some time to come. What has been lost sight of is that the rest of the world is targeting focus differently. Nuclear power is being phased out, the great recycling revolution is asking questions whether more of the original petroleum based product is needed and the stated commitment to working towards electric cars is causing economists to pick up their pencils afresh.

Geo-political strategy has been defined by fuel and energy requirements till recently. Now, more and more countries are setting targets for introduction of electric car  fuelled not by petroleum but by power generated electrically from renewable resources. The quick solution to Bangladesh's power problem has essentially been based on captive power rental and a spurt of businesses are investing in these quick power plants. As with most short-termism, there has been a cost to pay in terms of higher electricity bills and diesel import invoices. But the natural resources of wind and solar energy have not been given the focus required so as to make the transition easier.

We are told the investment-return equation doesn't make sense. Having no planet makes smaller sense. The short-term measures of powering traffic lights using solar power is in vogue but the signals themselves aren't being used so that's a waste. With the kind of wind and sunshine available the case for subsidised use of renewable energy is no longer an 'if'. Nearly ten years ago with the power crisis in an absolute mess the government banned the electric battery operated auto-rickshaws that were threatening the domains of cycle rickshaws and CNGs. The idea was to prevent draining on energy resource already short in supply. In true Bangladesh style, the autos retreated to jurisdictions outside the metropolis and are now an inseparable link in public transportation.

As dates as early as 2030 being bandied for banning non-electric cars, the countdown has begun. CNG stations are regularly closed to address peak time gas supply and of late we're hearing that gas reserves are almost non-existent. Innovators have not been challenged with the task of taking the cost out of renewable energy and coming up with cheaper alternatives. Smaller countries have no option but to innovate and funds must be made available to encourage innovation. Innovation will beget small enterprises that can be self-sustainable given the will. The finer elements of management can wait. The future is now but that won't wait for ever. Importing electricity works when it's from surplus countries but shift the energy-hungry transport sector balance and nothing's certain any more. And the sooner the joke of mandatory solar panels for newly approved residential buildings is sorted out the better.


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