Category Archives: Environmental/Green

Biogas plants’ benefit visible in Rajshahi rural, sub-urban areas

Biogas plants’ benefit visible in Rajshahi rural, sub-urban areas
By Dr Aynal Haque

RAJSHAHI, June 10 (BSS)- Low-cost biogas, an alternative fuel for cooking, is increasingly getting popular among the people at different rural areas even in outskirts of the metropolis for the last couple of years.

Biogas is not only used as fuel for cooking foods but the slurry, main effluent of the biogas plant, is also being used as organic fertiliser in the farming fields for boosting its production and in the ponds as fish meal.

The people, who never thought of having gas for cooking rice in their remote areas, are now regularly using for their domestic purposes like civic life. Currently, more than 400 rural families are using biogas instead of firewood to cook foods and to boost farm and fish production.

The Premtaly and some of its adjacent localities under Godagari Upazila has been identified as biogas village, local sources said.

Most of the users expressed their satisfaction over the biogas plants as they find this alternative fuel much cheaper than firewood and any other fossil fuel.

Marzina Begum, 45, a housewife of Bijoynagar area under Godagari upazila, has been using the biogas for the last one and half years. She cooks meal for her seven-member family twice everyday.

She said the use of the price hiked kerosene and LPG cylinder has become unbearable in the rural life.

In that case, use of biogas is very comfortable and it has no negative impact to the environment, she clarified.

“In addition to cooking meals of our eight-member family, I have been running a cow-fattening farm with 26 cattle and seed production project on 45-bigha of lands commercially with my two biogas plants simultaneously for the last one and half years,” said Aminul Islam Fatik of Bidirpur area.

He said that he had set up a 2.5 square-meter plant with his own initiative in 2007 for meeting up his domestic fuel demands.

Afterwards, he installed another 4.8 square-meter plant in 2010 for fulfilling his domestic and commercial demands through using the natural resources especially eco-friendly biogas and slurry.

Sabrina Reja, 30, wife of Selim Reja, of Premtali Dumuria, described her practice while she was cooking their midday meal in her double-burner oven. She said all of their daily family cooking is being done with the biogas excepting the winter season.

She added that the biogas is very effective for the cooking meal for any farming family as it requires more utensils and needs additional workforce for cleaning of those regularly.

But, the biogas has no smoke and black spot on the utensils, so there is no extra burden of cleaning and washing.

“We have eight cattleheads and all of their dung are being used in our plant,” she said adding, “We cook rice bran of four kilograms for the cattleheads besides three-time meals for our seven-member family everyday and regularly with the gas”.

In the process, she said there is no extra cost to feed the cows excepting the rice straw.

Referring to multifarious problems relating to cooking in conventional earthen stove Sabrina Reja attributed that the biogas cooking contributes a lot to remove the obstacles by large.

By dint of the biogas cooking, she said their life style has been changed at a greater extent.

Women members of the family are being benefited more in the new system as most of them are liable to manage the rural family especially cooking together with cleaning and washing the utensils.

Murshalin of Premtali Khetur area said the use of biogas has brought a new dimension in his family.

As a whole, the plant has ensured security of the domestic consumption of fuel.

“In addition to cooking meals of our nine-member family, I have been running a tea stall at Premtaly Bazar where around 80 cups of tea are sold everyday and all the tea-water are being boiled by our own biogas,” said Shariful Islam of Kathalbaria.

‘We never thought of having such type of privilege in our village. But biogas has made things happen, by which we save at least Taka 900 per month as the water boiling purpose.’

Not only that, the harvested bioslurry is being used in 10 bigha of fish culture ponds as primary feeds for boosting fish production.

“Earlier, we had to use the cow-dung as cooking fuel, but now using those in the biogas plant by which, we are getting diversified benefits,” said Rafiqul Islam of Shekherpara adding that the dried slurry is also being used as cooking fuel.

He said a family of five to six members can easily cook their foods and fulfill the demands of organic fertiliser of his farming field and fish culture ponds from one plant.

Various vegetables and fruits especially banana are being grown well on surrounding grounds of the slurry dumping ditch without any extra fertiliser and care, he viewed.


Gooryong Fashions plans green building

Gooryong Fashions plans green building
Star Business Report

Gooryong Fashions Ltd, a Gazipur-based garment group, has signed agreements with two consultancy firms to set up a green building at its existing premises within the next one year.

Green building refers to a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life-cycle: from sitting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.

The move comes in response to growing demand from international buyers for clothing items manufactured with environment-friendly technologies.

Spectrum Lanka Technology Solutions Ltd and Energy Solve International (Pvt) Ltd will provide consultancy services in exchange of a $90,000 fee for the construction of the sustainable building that meets the requirements of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), said Delwar Hossain, chairman of Gooryong.

US-based LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction and operation and maintenance solutions.

Farooq Hasan, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the government and the garment makers’ associations are working together to capacitate garment factories to move from traditional production methods to green technology.

The Solar Alternative

Cover Story

The Solar Alternative

About 37% of Bangladesh’s population is connected to the electricity grid, meaning the majority of countrymen do not have access to a formal electricity connection. But life must go on. Solar energy is considered to be an alternative as it generates power independently in the off-grid areas. It is also cleaner compared to fossil fuel fired power supplied by the grid. According to the Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL), as of 2011, solar energy has given approximately 10 million rural people access to power; enabling them to explore various modern livelihood options. Dr. Rumi Shammin (Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences at Oberlin College, Ohio, USA) and I visited rural areas in Khulna to see how solar energy had changed the lives of village people.

Dr. A. K. Enamul Haque

We had set out early on 28 March 2012. To find people using solar energy, we needed to travel further than the reach of the national power grid, so, our destinations were Batiaghata and Dacope, both in the Khulna district. We wanted to understand who uses solar power in rural Bangladesh, and how solar energy benefits them. Despite it being almost three times as costly as the next best alternative (lantern), solar energy is changing the lives of thousands. We wanted to see how people are adopting such instances of technological innovation and what do they do with the new found ‘light’ in their homes and businesses. Frankly, we were surprised by the ingenuity of village folk in using solar energy to change their life and raise their income.

It starts with basic indoor lighting, and since solar energy became available, rural activities no longer stop with the sunset. We met a lady who, after being divorced by her husband, has taken up teaching school students privately at her home. She lives with her mother and brother, but one batch wasn’t allowing her to earn enough. Now she teaches two batches, one in daylight, and one at night using solar lights. Her income has doubled. Even in parts that have grid electricity, solar powered power systems provide backup power, filling in for power cuts. We had tea at a roadside tea stall which was using solar power. When asked, the stall keeper said he preferred to use a legal solar system, instead of using an illegal stolen connection which he could lose at any moment.

Solar energy has changed entertainment options as well. In a privately run game centre behind a tea stall, people were paying 8 taka per game to play ‘karam’ at night, with the room lit up by a solar powered light bulb. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to see one, we heard of irrigation pumps being run by solar power as well.

Once we had left the poles of the power grid more than 20 kms behind, we were surprised to find that life was abuzz in villages, even at night. With almost every person in the country having access to mobile phones, there is a need to recharge batteries. We found mobile phone charging shops that charge by the hour to charge phones! The person running it also knew some light mobile engineering and operates a solar-powered mobile repair shop as well. Small businesses also exist where people can make phone calls from, at only 1 taka per call. These small businesses need to charge their phones constantly, and are able to do so using solar power.

Unfortunately, solar power is not being used where it should be, in the cities. The tall buildings of Dhaka have tremendous potential of generating electricity using solar panels, a potential that has not been tapped. Since formal electricity is being sold at subsidized prices (costing the government billions in fuel costs), there is no natural incentive to use solar power at homes where grid energy exists. People would rather use diesel based backup power instead of solar, since solar power is still comparatively more expensive. But things need to change slowly over time, and we need policy to change people’s motivations, starting with a mandatory requirement of generating a portion of all consumed electricity on site using solar power. This will reduce pressure on grid electricity, reduce power cuts, improve environmental conditions, and free up electricity which can be supplied to spots where poles and wires exist without any actual supply. In the long run, such a policy will also motivate estate developers and apartment builders to design the surface area of buildings in a way that is greener and more conducive to capturing sunlight, enabling buildings to generate as much solar power as possible.

A solar home system would cost between 10,000 taka to 50,000 taka depending on its capacity and what really bothered me is that rural people were borrowing money to pay for this light source even though they perhaps never spent this much money to buy a comfortable bed in their houses. Yet, in city areas, we are set to use generators instead of solar lights to power our houses during power failures.

The cost of solar units in urban locations will be even cheaper if we promote a ‘net meter’ by which SHSs can be used to produce and sell electricity to the power distribution companies in the cities using our rooftops. Rough calculations would show that there is opportunity in Dhaka city alone to produce nearly 600MW of electricity if we ensure that all dwellers produce 10-20% of their power consumptions using solar systems. However, instead of consuming at home they should supply it to the grid so that the need for batteries is reduced, in turn reducing the cost by at least 50% or more. Alternatively, government could think of reverse incentives scheme through a discriminatory pricing of electricity in urban areas. This means that houses who produce and sell electricity at least 10% of their consumed power needs to the distribution companies will continue to pay same price per unit of power while who does not will have to pay 50-100 greater price for a unit of electricity. There are various policy options that can be considered to make this a reality. Ironically, producing electricity through diesel costs very little (compared to solar energy) and so we are using diesel powered generators in the cities and polluting the air. This fact alone should make us respect our rural people more, who pay so much more for power.

Dr. Haque is Professor of Economics at United International University

Cover Art by Ujjal Ghose

2000 mw power to be generated by biogas plants

2000 mw power to be generated by biogas plants, Cox’s Bazar

Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr AtiurRahman Saturday said it is possible to generate 2000mw of electricity bybringing the country’s 120,000 poultry farms under biogas management plants.

The central bank chief came upwith the disclosure while addressing the inaugural function of biogas plantmanagement as a chief guest at Ramu upazila of the district.

He added: “Poultry industryis the second largest source of grameen employment.”

“With a view to encouraging the people, Bangladesh Bank has taken initiative ever first to invest in theenvironment friendly biogas plant management programme,” he said.

A poultry farmer named Mujibur Rahman said, “I made a biogas plant by using the wastage of a poultry farmwith the technical help of Rahman Renewable Energy Company.”

He added: “A total of Tk 10lakh has been cost behind the project whereas the Eastern Bank Limited gave meloan of Tk 7.35 lakh.”

“Now I am producing 3500kwof electricity from the plant sized in 50 cubic mitres of biogas plant,”he said.

Meeting my needs, I am nowplanning to supply the excess electricity to the neighbouring 15 housescommercially, said Rahman.

Khorshed Alam, SME Chief ofEastern Bank, said the bank has introduced ‘EBL-Nabadoy’ scheme for thedevelopment of sustainable business.

One can get Tk 10 lakh loanwithout deposit under the scheme, he said adding in the meantime, Tk 39 lakhhas been disbursed to six projects.

Eastern Bank Managing DirectorAli Reza Iftekhar, International Finance Corporation Regional Representative Ziba A Perumal Pillai, Programme Manager Mrinal K Sarkar, Rahman RenewableEnergy Company Managing Director Redoanur Rahman were among others present  at the function.

IFC helps farmers convert waste to electricity

IFC helps farmers convert waste to electricity
Staff Correspondent

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is working with Eastern Bank Limited (EBL) to help poultry farmers buy technology that uses waste to generate electricity, enabling farmers to increase their efficiency, productivity and profitability.

With support from SouthAsia Enterprise Development Facility, managed by IFC, in partnership with UK Department for International Development and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, EBL yesterday launched ‘EBL Nobodoy’, a customised loan product to help farmers install fixed-dome biogas plants to convert animal waste into electricity.

IFC said around 2 billion chickens in Bangladesh produce some 2.2 million tonnes of manure a year. Efficient management of this waste, converting it into a cheap and reliable source of energy, will help small farmers develop sustainable poultry businesses, it added in a press release on Friday.

Dr Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh Bank, Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director of EBL and Jeeva A Perumalpillai-Essex, head of IFC’s Sustainable Business Advisory in South Asia, among others, addressed the inaugural function in Cox’s Bazar.

Dr Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh Bank, encouraged other financial institutions to create “need-based initiatives that promote climate-change mitigation projects.” Farmers being able to generate their own electricity will also help reduce the diesel subsidy being provided by the government, he added.

Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director of Eastern Bank, said: “Our bank is dedicated to sustainable development, which is the cornerstone of everything that we do. We are committed to financing businesses that invest in green technology and will continue exploring innovative ways to improve local communities and the environment.”

Jeeva A. Perumalpillai-Essex: “In the area of clean and renewable energy promotion, we look for projects that combat climate change and benefit the overall economy of Bangladesh. This project is a perfect example of getting far-reaching results from a very local approach.”

IFC said Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and as a low-lying country is also extremely vulnerable to climate change, with food security and disaster management deserving high priority. Bangladesh’s GDP stands at $100 billion, fueled mostly by growth in textiles and agriculture.

Solar-powered ATM booth in Sandwip

Solar-powered ATM booth in Sandwip

AB Bank Ltd has recently opened its fourth solar-powered ATM booth in Sandwip, Chittagong. All necessary equipment of the booth will be powered by 16 kilowatts of energy supplied by solar panels set up on its roof. Photo: AB Bank Ltd

Solar power lights up Bangladesh

Solar power lights up Bangladesh
Much of Bangladesh’s rural population lived without electricity until low power solar systems transformed their lives.

Naimul Haq

DHAKA, BANGLADESH – The sun never shone brighter on rural Bangladesh with low power solar systems transforming the lives of tens of millions of marginalised rural people who are unconnected to the national grid.

Nizamuddin Sheikh, 52, who runs a small eatery in Foilerhat market in Bagerhat district, thinks that the Bangladeshi Taka 1,900 (US $24) he paid for a 20 watt solar set, that includes solar panels, battery, regulator and a set of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and LED lights, is the best investment he ever made.

“Before I bought the set from GS (Grameen Shakthi, a sister concern of Grameen Bank) my restaurant was kept open only during the daytime, but now I have extended my business well into the evenings,” Nizamuddin said. “My income has doubled.”

Nizamuddin has to repay the rest of the cost of the solar home system (SHS) over the next 36 months at five dollars per month, which, he says, is no burden.

“Once we demonstrate the benefits of SHS, people respond with tremendous interest,” said Habibur Rahman, GS regional manager in Bagerhat. “And then we offer easy and affordable monthly installment facilities.”

There are various packages on offer suited to different income groups of people in the rural areas. The very poor can own an SHS, paying as low as 10 per cent of the total cost with the rest payable in 36 equal installments.

Typically, people from the poorer sections opt for an SHS set that costs $124 and capable of generating about 10 watts of electricity to light a five watt CFL for about three hours.

Better off people buy more powerful systems, paying 35 per cent of the total cost of the SHS in advance and the balance over a 12-month period. Costs vary with energy output, with the most expensive model costing $925 and providing 135 watts of uninterrupted power for four hours.

Acting managing director of GS, Abser Kamal, said, “SHS units are in demand due to many advantages, but especially because it is far cheaper than conventional fuels like kerosene and diesel and has no maintenance expenses.”

“In the villages solar power provides extended working hours for students, shopkeepers and housewives. Now they can do things like conveniently charge mobile phones – which have already been changing lives,” Kamal said.

A sluggish national grid

“Without solar power many villagers would probably have had to wait years to get electricity from the national grid,” he said. “Solar is transforming their lives – this is quick social and economical development.”

Only 41 per cent of Bangladesh’s 142 million people have access to electricity from the sluggish national grid.

GS, a pioneer in promoting ‘green energy’, started out in 1996 as a lone player and today is the largest distributor of SHS – over 700,000 units out of a total of about 1.1 million in the country – contributing to the daily generation of about 60 Mw of solar power.

So successful was the initial programme of promoting SHS that the private sector sold 50,000 sets in about five years – two years ahead of the target of 2008.

In 2008, the government set a target of five per cent of total energy from renewable sources and 10 per cent by 2020.

Current power generation from some 81 power plants amounts to 6,700 Mw, with 95 per cent of it coming from burning fossil fuels like coal, furnace oil, gas and diesel. Hydroelectric power accounts for another 3.3 per cent

Bangladesh’s energy minister Muhammad Enamul Huq explained, “We want to promote solar system in every corner of the country and so we are giving huge incentives to the private sector to make solar affordable.”

Government incentives for companies setting up solar plants include a 15-year tax holiday and exemption from paying import duty on equipment.

Foreign investors get exemptions on royalties, technical knowhow, technical assistance fees and facilities for their repatriation of profits. Foreigners working in solar energy projects need pay no income tax for the first three years of their stay in this country.

Last year the government also made it mandatory for all newly constructed domestic and commercial buildings to have solar systems installed on rooftops.

“Today we are helping to change the lives of 7,000 rural people every day through solar technology,” said Islam Sharif, chief of the state-owned financier, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which funds 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 1.1 million SHS – mostly in partnership with GS, but also with other companies and NGOs.

Sharif said, “Through our 29 partners we are now helping to add 24 Mw of solar power in Bangladesh every year.”

MA Gofran, a leading Bangladeshi expert on renewable energy said: “In 10 years from now we want to celebrate the 50 years of independence of the nation by seeing all our villages using renewable energy.”