Facing energy security challenges  

Facing energy security challenges   

Bangladesh will face energy security challenges by the year 2030 if the country is to attain Gross Domestic Product (GDP) beyond 7.0 per cent. An expert Dr. Mohammad Tamim of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has attributed this to likely expansion of the country's export base with diversified products as envisioned in the Seventh Five-Year Plan document.

The recent industrial momentum in Bangladesh has seen notable development in the power generation sector increasing electricity generation capacity up to 15,300 megawatt (MW), contributing to transformation of the economy. The demand for energy consumption is driven by industrial growth, modernisation of agriculture sector, transformation of rural economy, rapid urbanisation and improved standard of living.

But then the supply side in energy sector has not been able to support the growing demands today; many factories and industries are severely affected by this shortage. The energy crisis, driven by supply-demand gap, has created serious opportunity loss and affected the country's competitiveness. A clear roadmap is needed to meet our energy need and energy sources.

On the other hand, depleting natural gas has posed threat to the industrial growth of the country. Gas supply and exploration--both onshore and offshore--are critical for our future. For better preparation to sustain in the upcoming industrial revolution and scale-up growth towards the desired level, extensive focus needs to be given on 'Energy Security'.

Coal is a major source for energy in numerous countries. India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam have undertaken 82 per cent of the world's new coal-fired power plants as per a report from Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the UK.  By 2041, Bangladesh needs to import 60 million tons of coal per year. It needs to utilise optimum level of her large coal reserve for its energy source reducing its dependence on imported coal. It must put emphasis on charting a strategic plan to accommodate the large coal reserves, rationalise the cost of LNG including other primary energy and power, fast track new exploration and right energy mix.

On the other hand, in the present context, industrial worries as well as discouraging factors are evident for diversification of industrial base due to absence of reliable grid power, short and uncertain gas supply and gap between promise and performance. Frequent policy shift, uncertain fuel mix and unpredictable future price for electricity and gas are identified as prime bottlenecks for energy security.

Energy security has become urgent for footing the continuous accelerated growth with Bangladesh becoming the 30th largest economy with one trillion-dollar GDP having nearly US$200 billion of export earnings and per capita income reaching close to US$6000 by the next 17 years from now - by the year 2030. Low-cost production base will not be adequate to qualify Bangladesh as a competitive and attractive investment destination. Efficient transportation, modern infrastructure with competitive and reliable energy will become the most crucial elements for Bangladesh to remain competitive on global investors' map.

A recent roundtable, participated by all stakeholders, has sought free land for generating renewable energy as well as the power keeping the generation cost at a minimum level. It also called for regional cooperation for hydro-based energy with Nepal and Bhutan tagging with Sustainable Development Goal 2030.

Considering global climate change, focus needs to be given on renewable energy for energy mix along with energy efficiency to bring out good results. Poor progress in onshore and offshore gas exploration, imported coal and good governance are the causes of bleak energy scenario. There is a need to focus on human resources development with an eye on energy resource engineering, energy conservation, energy project management, and mechanical development.

    According to an estimate, 13,000 megawatt (MW) can be produced from renewable sources in Bangladesh.  The country has the potential of producing 2,500 MW solar power using rooftop solar panels.

Efficiency level of existing power plant needs to be improved rather than developing new power plant as there is huge mismatch between installed capacity and actual power generation. Efficiency of old power plants is poor and needs refurbishment.

Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Power, Energy & Mineral Resources Affairs, has his own plan to address energy security challenges. He has sought to identify priorities including reliable transportation and distribution networks and reduce system loss to a single digit by next year. On the other hand, he said gas supply will be improved by 50 per cent to 500 mmcfd by that time.

It is encouraging to note that the government is keen on consultation with the private sector to understand the affordability of private sector in setting the energy price blending with LPG and other primary energy sources.

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