The rooftop solar system with net-metering facility has now become attractive. An evaluation by the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) evidences that the cost of power generation stands at Tk 2.0 per unit considering 20 years of payback period for a 50 KW capacity unit. This is far more attractive than the grid power. Consequently, investment is growing in the rooftop solar. Some 500 MW solar power may come into operation very quickly.
SREDA Chairman and Additional Secretary Mohammad Alauddin revealed this in an exclusive interview.
What are your observations about the present state of development of Renewable Energy (RE) in Bangladesh?
I believe renewable energy development of Bangladesh is on the right track. The achievement is not that much but we are now at the take off stage. We must not consider RE in isolation. We have to consider energy conservation and energy efficiency along with it as well. It is a matter of satisfaction for Bangladesh that the costs of various technologies of RE are now getting gradually cheaper. Consequently, the RE is getting affordable for the consumers. We must complete the resource mapping through surveys as soon as possible. Some surveys have been done with wind and solar. More are required to be done soon. One survey on biomass has been done. On overall analysis, I believe, RE, energy efficiency and energy conservation initiatives in Bangladesh are advancing on the right track now.
SREDA is responsible for formulating policies on RE development, energy efficiency and conservation, coordination between public and private sector initiatives and human resources development. How successfully SREDA is managing these? What more SREDA should do?
Please note that all the works are at different stages of accomplishment now.You must be aware that works are being directed according to the plan for achieving the RE development and energy efficiency by 2030. The “Energy Efficiency Road Map” has been finalized for achieving expected efficiency in energy use. Five different action plans are under implementation towards achieving the objectives. These are: a. Energy Management Program, b. EE Product Leveling Program, c. EE building program, d. Financing for EE, and e. Developing awareness. SREDA has almost completed program for National Awareness Campaigning for EE. SREDA is assisting private sector through developing policy guideline.
Leveling works for 5 electrical appliances have been completed. In phases it will be done for all appliances. Preparations are being made for engaging energy manager for bulk consumers. Energy auditors would be developed through training.
Please note that we have successfully overcome all impediments for achieving RE development targets through conducting surveys and creating human capital through training. The works for properly structuring SREDA with competent human resources is now at the advanced stage.
Bangladesh has already achieved success in solar power. We are now carrying out surveys on solar radiation in 8 more locations. Surveys for wind power locations are essential. SREDA is now seriously considering to take those projects.
Many countries of the world introduced Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) for jump-starting RE. Bangladesh did not adopt this despite demands from the private sector and environment activists. Do you think RE development lagged behind due to absence of FiT?
I do not think that FiT is an issue for RE development in Bangladesh. Rather, many countries suffered from over supply due to introducing FiT. Consequently, they abandoned it. Bangladesh is giving fiscal incentives, providing negotiated tariff instead of FiT. That is why grid-connected RE development got momentum.
Finally, net-metering has been introduced. It is being told that this has hastened development of RE in the commercial and industrial sectors. What kind of success you are expecting?
Please note that the essence of net-metering is that any consumer whenever feeds power to the grid after meeting its own requirement would get the tariff that it would have to pay for supplying from the grid. That means, according to the category of consumers, the tariff would vary between Tk 8.53 and Tk 10.30 per unit. But SREDA desires that consumers generate their entire electricity from their rooftop solar. That is commercially profitable. A SREDA study evidenced that considering a 20 years of payback period for a 50 kw rooftop unit, the cost of generation would be as low as around Tk 3.00 per unit.
For this policy, now about 20 MW of rooftop solar power generation has been achieved. We are optimistic that it may grow to 500 MW soon.
Records evidence that contracts initialed or LoI issued for about 2000 MW of grid-connected solar. But so far only 86 MW could be made operational. Do you think flawed selection of entrepreneurs is the reason for this?
Please note that the entrepreneurs have been selected in two different ways. First through tendering process. The technically evaluated lowest bidders were selected. Another process was letting out contracts through negotiation with bidders offering unsolicited proposals under the ambit of special power act. Here also, technical and financial capabilities came under consideration.
SREDA prepared PPA and IA giving highest considerations to RE development. But many entrepreneurs could not start the works. We have observed that land is a major issue for grid-connected solar plants. Scarcity of competent human resource for preparing bankable documents is another hindrance. The Power Division and SREDA are endeavoring to overcome these.
Bangladesh is a roll model for the rest of the world for its successful Solar Home System (SHS). But for extending power grid countrywide, investment in SHS is now encouraging. Ordinary quality solar have mushroomed for development under Food for Work Program. What are your views?
Please note that bringing the entire country under national power grid is a time tested program. Every technology has a saturation point. That happened with SHS. But we are examining through surveys whether SHS can be integrated within the distribution networks. Expanding SHS under Food for Work Program is not a bad initiative. But it is also true that the quality could not be controlled for all the connections.
What do you think about the preparation of SREDA for implementation of the Energy Efficiency (EE) roadmap?
Considering 2013-14 as the base year, the energy efficiency roadmap has been formulated for achieving its targets by 2030. The main objective is achieving 20% conservation of power through enhancing efficiency. But SREDA is not responsible for efficient use of primary fuel for power generation. It is within the scope of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC).
Success has started flowing in every areas starting from lighting load to appliances. Works started for efficient use of energy in commercial and industrial sectors. Changing of equipment and plants is essential for making industries efficient. IDCOL and BIFFL are providing low interest loans through donor financing. Some 21 industries have so far been given such loans. SREDA is working as a post office for this loan.
Energy auditing is essential for monitoring EE. Have you achieved success in developing auditors? When auditing can be made mandatory?
Works for developing energy auditors is ongoing. Some 165 people have so far been trained, but only one has got certificates after coming out successful in test. It may take the entire 2021 for getting required minimum number of certified auditors.
Greater success in solar irrigation was expected. Initiative was launched for developing a commercial model for selling the surplus power to the grid. IDCOL was doing that. What is SREDA doing about it?
Please note that till now a commercial model for solar irrigation could not be developed. BREB, BADC, Barendra Project and IDCOL have worked on it. There are marked differences in implementation strategy and financing of each of the organizations. SREDA is working to integrate these efforts. Within a month’s time, it will be finalized.
Expected dividends would not come from here till an appropriate commercial model is developed.
What are the plans of SREDA for solar projects along the railway lines, airport and floating solar plants?
Shortage of land for solar plant is acute in Bangladesh. Hence, the prospect of floating solar is bright in Bangladesh. But for this, we need carrying out required feasibility studies. A study for such plant in Kaptai Lake has been done. We are considering for a detail feasibility study to explore the possibility of a floating solar plant in the 200 acre abandoned land of Barapukuria coal mine.
We have requested the Bangladesh Railway and Civil Aviation Authority for considering solar power generation plants besides railway lines and airports. SREDA will provide required assistance if asked. Bangladesh Railway is going to sign a MoU with Kfw for conducting a feasibility study for Solar Power Plants beside railway lines.
Many think Bangladesh may achieve 100% transition to RE by 2050. What is your view? Does Bangladesh have any such plan?
We are not yet ready for it. But we do not know yet where innovation of technology will drive. It may so happen that future innovation of technology would make Bangladesh suitable for 100% RE country.