Renewable energy

Govt goes for expensive solar power, Ignores wind, bio-wastes

by Manjurul Ahsan and Ahmed Shawki

4The government has made little progress in exploring low-cost renewable energy sources like wind and bio-wastes.
Instead, it has been focusing on the high cost solar energy for alternative source of electricity generation using import-based solar cells, experts said.
They also said the entire renewable energy sector was mainly based on government incentives as the cost of electricity generation from the renewable sources was too high.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission chairman AR Khan last month said the renewable energy development in the country was not feasible without subsidies and guaranteed long-term package incentives.
Experts said the government would have to introduce feed-in tariff for generation of power from renewable energy sources. Feed-in tariff is a tariff structure that guarantees the renewable energy producer a long-term contract with the government or its concerned agencies that they would purchase the electricity at a higher rate than the existing retail market rate.
The rural people, having no access to grid power, spend about Tk 100 per unit or kilowatt-hour of electricity from solar energy over the lifetime of a solar home system, IjazHossain, energy expert and also a professor at Chemical Engineering Department of BUET, told New Age.
He, however, said the cost drops significantly for the solar grid system where the solar energy is converted into electricity and fed on to the power grid.
In contrast, he said the government was receiving project proposals for purchasing electricity at less than Tk 10 per unit from wind farms to be installed by the private companies.
And the costs of electricity generation using different bio-wastes are yet to be assessed for popular commercial electricity generation, he said.
The two city corporations of capital Dhaka are implementing two bio-waste-based power plants with 50MW capacity each.
The authorities concerned had received proposals to buy electricity from the plants at Tk 8.75 per unit.
Now, power generation using renewable sources has a share of 3.48 per cent in the total installed capacity for power generation as approximately 360MW of capacity has so far been installed to tap renewable energy sources including the Karnaphuli Hydro Power Station with 230MW capacity, according to the data available with the power division.
Out of the 360MW capacity, only 4MW capacity was installed to tap wind and bio-waste energy and over 125MW was installed to tap solar power.
Meanwhile, the government set a target to generate five per cent of total electricity generated by 2015 from renewable sources and 10 per cent by 2030.
This means, the public and private sector will jointly have to generate electricity of about 700MW from renewable sources by 2014 which will have to be about 4,000MW by 2030, according to the government’s plan.
In 2010, the government came up with an ambitious target to explore approximately 500 MW of power from solar energy by 2017 which would require an investment of US$ 2.76 billion.
As planned, approximately 340 MW capacity will be installed as solar parks, solar irrigation, solar mini-grid and rooftop solar photovoltaic systems and the remaining 160 MW capacity would be installed under social sector solar projects.
Saiful Huq, expert on renewable energy and professor at Renewable Energy Institute of Dhaka University, said the entire solar programmes were focused on solar home systems only.
He said the grid feeding solar power generation system could be a better option to explore potentials for solar energy.
The price of electricity from grid feeding solar power generation system was between Tk 14 per unit and Tk 15 per unit.
Saiful also criticised the government’s recent decision of waiving a mandatory provision of setting up rooftop solar photovoltaic systems in the urban areas for getting new power connections.
He argued that there should have some compulsion on the new connection seekers in the urban areas to help attain the government’s target of fulfilling electricity generation from renewable sources.
In the last three years, the government took numerous projects requiring huge investment for the fulfillment of its plan to set up 500MW capacity in the solar photovoltaic sector.
Of the total commercial and social projects’ requirement, US$ 1.38 billion is expected to come as financial support from different countries in the form of grant and an additional US$ 0.85 billion in low interest credit from foreign lending agencies.
The remaining fund of US$ 0.53 billion will be arranged from the government and private sector.
On the other hand, potentials of the wind mills and biogas are yet to be explored as the government failed to come up with any substantial study and commercial model to develop the sector.
The successive governments have not yet conducted wind mapping on over 50 metres of height in the potential areas in the last two and half a decades, although the country has the potential seashore for tapping wind energy, Ijaz said.
In 2008, the Power Development Board had installed two wind farms in Kutubdia and Feni with 1MW capacity each.
But the projects failed as the Kutubdia 1MW (20kw capacity having 50 turbines) plant was hit hard by cyclone Aila while the other having a capacity of 225kw (having four turbines) had to be shut because of inappropriate wind mapping.
Later in February 2012, the government signed deal with an Indian company, ReGen Powertech Pvt Ltd, for wind mapping in five coastal regions such as Feni, Cox’s Bazar, Anawara of Chittagong, and Kuakata and Khepupara of Patuakhali.
In 2013, the government took up a project for wind mapping with Tk 11.9 crore worth of financial assistance from the USAID.
German-based Centre for International Migration and Development and US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory were assigned to conduct the mapping.
Recently, the government also took an initiative to produce biogas for electricity from human waste under a pilot project with the financial support of Tk 31 crore from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UK Department for International Development in Khulna City Corporation.

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