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Focus on developing renewables to reduce dependence on costly fossil fuel imports: Speakers

Speakers at a webinar have said that development of renewable energy through a proper strategy can reduce the country’s otherwise growing dependence on import of high-cost fossil fuel.

They also called for a more focused role to be played by Sustainable and Renewable Energy Authority (SREDA) to promote renewable energy by offering a one-stop service to aspiring investors in the sector.

The virtual seminar titled: “Ensuring RE-EE for a Sustainable Future: Role of SREDA & Development Partners”, was organized by the Energy and Power magazine on Saturday.

It was addressed by Special Envoy to CVF Presidency and President of Bangladesh Energy Society Abul Kalam Azad, Additional Secretary and Chairman of the SREDA Mohammad Alauddin, Director General of Power Cell Mohammad Hossain, President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association Dipal Chandra Barua, Energy Specialist Al Mudabbir Bin Anam and Managing Director of Jules Power Limited Noher L Khan. Mollah Amjad Hossain, editor of the magazine, conducted the function.

The growing potential of renewable sources of energy (e.g. wind, solar) to power our world in the future has been met for the most part by a fossil fuel industry determined to hold on to its power and influence. Some, sensing the inevitable shift to come, have already moved to establish a foothold in the renewables sector – including Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest company purely by market value.

As more and more players engage themselves to work in renewables, the one great advantage that fossil fuels currently enjoy over new, up-and-coming, alternative sources is in terms of the cost. The fossil fuel industry’s well-oiled, mature processes are still able to supply energy at significantly lower costs per unit. Renewables’ costs have been coming down though for many years, and as the industry matures, further cost reductions are expected till parity is achieved in the foreseeable future.

Abul Kalam Azad said that it is “very much possible” to generate electricity from different sources of renewable energy at a cost of between 4-5 US cents (around Tk 5) per unit if a proper strategy is evolved by the government.

He said the abandoned non-agricultural lands could be offered to the investors to set up solar and wind power plants under a long term agreement, which will reduce the production cost of the renewable energy.

“In this case the power evacuation facilities should be ensured by the government,” he added.

He observed that the import of fossil fuels at higher cost has proved a big burden for the government. The recent price surge of LNG to abnormally high levels has made it one of the most unpredictable energy commodities in the world.The point is illustrated by the fact that in March 2021, Bangladesh bought LNG at USD 7 per mmBtu from the spot market. In October of 2021, Bangladesh had to pay USD 36 per mmBtu for the same LNG.

Such a burden could be relaxed through power generation from renewable sources, he said, in the absence of the discovery of new gasfields that the country can claim ownership over, plus the dwindling production of gas from its existing gasfields.

Mohammad Alauddin said there should be a business model that investors can follow to invest in the renewable energy sector.

He said the solar-irrigation project could be a good method for replacing diesel-run irrigation pumps with solar-run ones. But the irrigation pumps are utilized for four months for pumping and supplying the waters to the crops-field while the electricity from solar projects remain unutilized for the remaining 8 months. If the electricity is supplied to the grid, it can be a good option to utilize the power from the solar plants, he added.

Dipal C Barua said if the tariff of grid-connected electricity goes beyond the public’s purchasing capacity, people will not get the benefit of hundred percent electricity coverage.

He also urged the government to prepare a national road map for promotion of renewable energy across the country.

Source: United News of Bangladesh