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Solar energy and the future of Bangladesh

Solar energy and the future of Bangladesh
Rickshaw drivers patiently wait on their vehicles during a traffic jam on one of the main streets in Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The energy gap is one of the largest bottlenecks for economic growth in Bangladesh. Studies indicate that the country loses at least 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product as a result of power shortages.

The energy infrastructure in Bangladesh is quite small and insufficient to support the nation’s power demand. Thus the country has one of the lowest energy consumption rates per capita in the world.

For instance, its power facilities could only provide about 4,000 megawatts of power while the peak demand electricity reaches around 6,100 MW. Consequently, there is no choice but to have scheduled load-shedding of electricity supply during peak time.

The country commonly experiences unmanageable demand-supply gap of electricity, especially during summer, according to a research published at Chemical Engineering and Science Magazine.

As an agriculture-based country, about half of its energy consumption is currently being met by non-commercial energy sources such as wood fuel, animal waste and crop residues. Meanwhile, commercial energy consumption relies on natural gas at around 66 percent, followed by oil, hydropower and coal.

Untapped resource

“As a major consumer of electricity, urban households can use solar energy as an alternative source not only to get rid of everyday load shedding miseries but also to reduce the power shortage,” the report suggested.

However, the utilization of solar energy in urban areas is not yet popular. Mostly, solar energy in the country is used for lighting remote rural households that are not reached by electricity.

To date, Bangladesh has a 15-MW solar energy capacity across rural households and 1.9 MW of wind energy in the districts of Kutubdia and Feni.

But the country, having a tropical climate, receives ample amount of sunlight with an average of 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter of solar radiation over 300 days annually. This solar potential across the region remains untapped.


Recognizing this, over the next three years, the government aims to generate 5 percent of the country’s overall power output through renewable energy over the next three years, with plans to double it by 2020.

In a report by the Gulf Times, the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, a platform for renewable energy products and businesses in the country, said it aims to establish a “solar energy nation” over the next decade.

The group said it wants to ensure solar energy is spread in all parts of the country, covering as much as 51 percent.

Recently, during the inauguration of Baneco Solar Energy Ltd., a German-Bangladeshi solar module manufacturing company, Dr. Albrecht Conze, German ambassador in Bangladesh, said solar power is the country’s future, with a potential to resolve its energy shortage problem.

“We want to supplement the government’s efforts in turning Bangladesh into an energy-efficient country through [the] utilization of untapped renewable energy,” Baneco managing director A.K.M. Mazibur Rahman was quoted as saying in a report from Energy Bangla.

Baneco, which officially started its operations in the south Asian country, is affiliated with JVG Thoma G.m.b.H., Thoma Group of Germany, to assemble European Standard solar panels in Bangladesh. ¬– C. Dominguez

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