6 years ago

No alternatives to halt betting on dirty coal!

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It is anticipated that gas supply in the country will reach its peak in 2018 and gradually decrease thereafter. So, it is not unusual for us to resort to other natural resources for power generation, such as oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. But we are yet to find the acceptable trail for power generation such as nuclear and hydropower generation. It awaits negotiation with partner countries and seems not going to materialise in the near future.

According to Power System Master Plan 2016, the LNG will first be introduced in 2019, to meet 17 per cent of gas demand. This percentage is forecast to increase to 40 per cent in 2023, 50 per cent in 2028, and 70 per cent in 2041.

Earlier in 2015, to promote demand-side energy efficiency, the SREDA (Sustainable & Renewable Energy Development Authority) developed the "Energy Efficiency and Conservation Master Plan up to 2030". It emphasised to reduce import of expensive fuels and improve the balance of payment situation. It also aimed to improve the national primary energy consumption per gross domestic product in 2030 by 20 per cent compared to the 2013 level.

The Master Plan 2015 suggested that the government should move ahead with the promotion of "Energy Efficiency and Conservation". Domestic natural gas accounts for 55 per cent of the primary energy supply, followed by 27 per cent from biomass and waste in the rural areas and 15 per cent from imported oil. The energy supply from the coal power plants accounts for 1.6 per cent of the energy mix.

Bangladesh plans to set up 25 coal-fired power plants, eyeing on 2.0 per cent to over 50 per cent coal use to meet the country's electricity supply by 2022. The year 2016 has stood out for the high number of power plant deals signed-at least seven in number.

With strong financial backing from China, the entrepreneurs have been able to double their investments in coal-based power plants in 2016. However, China pulled over a hundred coal power projects within its own borders, and diverted its own resources to solar and wind power last year. Still, the country has continued to invest in hundreds of coal-powered projects globally. This is how, more coal-fired power plants are on the net in Bangladesh, a country that accounts for only 0.3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Intensified plans to meet the country's demand for electricity include the 1,320MW Moheshkhali project, 1,200MW Matarbari Project, 1,320MW Payra Seaport Project and the controversial 1,320MW Rampal project based on coal. In the face of fierce opposition to the coal plant in Rampal, near the Sundarbans, the government has indicated that it is unlikely to abandon its plans to build more coal-fired power plants.

Other coal-powered projects include Banshkhali Power Plant with a  capacity of 1,224 megawatts, nearly as much as that of the Rampal Power plant. A deal was struck with Meghna Group for two coal-fired power plants at Daudkandi in Comilla at a cost of USD 1.75 billion. Another 1320-megawatt coal-power plant will be set up in Patuakhali which is worth USD 2 billion.

In 2016, China Energy Engineering Group signed to finance two power plants, one of them is a 200-megawatt solar power plant in Gaibandha. Along with the solar power deal, it is also building BEXIMCO's 660-megawatt coal-fired power plant.

The Power Division aims to generate 19,000 megawatts of coal-powered energy by 2030. Also, the infrastructure for imported coal and domestic coal development is being prioritised.

It is clear that Bangladesh is betting on coal as it is the cheapest primary energy. Opting for more coal-fired power plants is threatening the programme of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, expansion of coal is based on the assessment of costs without factoring in health and environmental impacts. It looks like Bangladesh, a signatory of the Paris climate agreement, is sending a wrong signal to the rest of the world.

The power generation capacity of the country is now 13,621 MW. The incumbent government has been successful to significantly increase power generation. Still, it is too far from creating a balanced energy mix that could take care of the growing demand. The situation is rendered more complicated due to the excessive reliance on coal. 

The writer, a communication graduate from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), is a freelance journalist at Climate Tracker.

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