Donors to discuss funding of major solar projects next month

Donors to discuss funding of major solar projects next month
Syful Islam

Bangladesh will host an international donors’ conference this month or next in Dhaka to secure US$1.57 billion fund to generate a total of 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar power by 2015, a top energy ministry official said.

Renewable energy sources contribute now some 55 mw to the electricity supplies in the country.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will organise the conference on behalf of the government. The key development partners will attend it to discuss matters relating to funding of some major solar projects.

“We put forward the initial idea at the ADB’s third Social Energy Forum in Bangkok this June which the lender conceptually endorsed. The ADB will hold a conference in Dhaka in the presence of other donor agencies in late September or early October this year to secure funds for the solar energy programme,” Tapos Kumar Roy, additional secretary of the ministry told the FE.

The move to generate more electricity from solar power aims at increasing the share of green energy in the country’s overall energy output.

Mr Roy said the government is also exploring the possibility of generating electricity from other sources like wind, hydro, biomass gasification, biogas, geo thermal and sea-wave.

Against the country’s present requirements for nearly 5,500 mw of electricity, the fossil fuel-based power plants generate some 5,000 mw. The national grid so far could cover 49 per of total population of the country.

Of the total 55 mw of power from renewable energy sources, 47 mw comes from 1.0 million solar home system (SHS), 3.0 mw from roof-top solar photovoltaic systems of new electricity consumers, 2.0 mw from wind energy, 1.0 mw from other solar photovoltaic applications, 1.0 mw each from biomass and biogas based electricity. Solar power projects with a capacity of generating 35 mw of electricity are in the pipeline.

“Electricity generation from fossil fuel emits greenhouse gases, causing warming of air and resulting in an increased number of climate-change related problems. The fossil fuel is depleting quickly which is a threat to future power generation. So, we are in search for alternative energy sources,” Mr Roy added.

Replying to a question, he said despite the high cost of generating electricity from the renewable sources, solar power is still popular in the rural areas when compared with the cost of kerosene.

According to him, the government has identified some 30 remote sub-districts where grid expansion is not possible in next 10-15 years. “So, we have no alternative to renewable energy to meet the government’s social commitment of providing electricity for all by 2020.”

According to the plan about 500 mw solar power, some 370 mw will be meant for irrigation pumps, solar power mini grid system, solar park, private commercial and residential buildings, solar home system in government and semi-government offices, and solar park in railway area.

Rural health centres, remote educational institutions, e-centres in local government offices, religious establishments, and remote railway stations will get 44 mw of solar power under the social sector projects, Mr Roy said.

Mr Roy said a total of $2.24 billion has to be invested to generate additional 500 mw of solar power. Some $1.57 billion is expected to come from the ADB and other development partners while the rest $0.67 billion will be funded by the government and the private sector.

Mr Roy told the FE that many foreign companies showed interest in helping Bangladesh generate power from the renewable sources.

After examining the satellite data, a US organisation named NREL said Bangladesh has a large possibility for wind energy generation in its coastal areas.

In this connection, the ADB has agreed to fund installation of two towers, USAID 10 towers, and UNDP five towers for wind mapping. Establishment of 50-200 mw wind power plant is in the pipeline under private sector financing.

Mr Roy said the government is studying the possibility of setting up geo-thermal power plants in country’s northern Panchagarh district.

Chief executive officer of Grameen Shakti, Abser Kamal, told the FE: “Generation of 500 mw of electricity from the renewable sources is possible but it will require a large involvement of fund.”

Chairman of technical standard committee of state-owned IDCOL, Dr Rezwan Khan said: “The government’s move for generating 500 mw of electricity from solar system will be viable if it only targets at promoting green energy, instead of considering its economic cost.”

He, however, said since there is a provision for carbon trading under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the government may achieve success to manage the high costs of renewable establishments.

“But at the initial stage, the government will have to provide a large amount of subsidy,” he added.


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