Bangladesh to invest in solar panels but not everyone has access to power

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh, Developing Countries | No Comments

Bangladesh is investing in 22 solar power projects which would generate an additional 1,370MW of power. But universal electricity access is far from a reality, with one quarter of the population still left in the dark.

The Bangladesh state-run infrastructure company Idcol have confirmed that they are looking for a private company to build and run a 10MW solar power plant in the northwestern area of Bangladesh, at the cost of Tk 69 crore (£6.2 million).

The solar plant will sit across 42 acres of land in the northwestern border town of Tetulia. As it stands, the plant will commence producing power in February 2019.

In addition to the above project, the government of Bangladesh have also approved another 22 on-grid solar power projects. This will add 1,370MW to the national grid, helping small communities keeping the lights on all year round.

By 2020, Bangladesh has vowed to ensure that 10% of its power generation comes from renewable sources. In February 2017, the installed capacity rate in Bangladesh stood at 13,555MW.

Currently solar only accounts for 2% of the country’s installed energy sources, with gas accounting for the most at 65%, oil at 20%, coal at 1.8% and the rest sourced from diesel or hydro energy.

The Bangladesh government has pledged to ensure that over 50% of its energy mix will be sourced from coal energy projects, but they still have a long way to go to make this happen.

The government in Bangladesh should reprioritise its agenda to support, finance and build more base-load power projects that ensure the supply of uninterruptible electricity. It is only with low-cost reliable electricity from coal, gas and hydro that communities and individuals can lift themselves out of poverty.

The mission of every government should be to ensure that everyone can power their lives, ensuring they are safe walking home at night with street lamps; providing power to schools giving a good education to children; or allowing people to create their own businesses.

New supercritical coal power plant coming soon to Bangladesh

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh, Developing Countries | No Comments

The new power project will cost over US$2.5 billion and supply an additional 1,320MW to the national grid. Currently, only two-thirds of Bangladeshis have access to power, but this is predicted to substantially increase by 2030.

This coal power plant will be ultra-supercritical, which means that it will be 43% more efficient than conventional coal power stations, emitting fewer emissions whilst producing more electricity.

The Bangladesh government plans to exceed expected demand of 34,000MW by 2030, but current supply stands around 13,000-17,000MW mark. Added to this, just under 60 million Bangladeshis still currently lack any form of power whatsoever.

It is welcome that the government is pushing for a more coal-based electricity grid with an ambitious target of 50% electricity production from domestic and international coal sources by 2030.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reported in 2015 that there are 52 upcoming power generation projects across the country, either in development, under construction or in the planning phase. Once all 52 are complete, it will provide an additional 18,000MW of power to the national grid.

This new supercritical power station will go along way in increasing the country’s electricity output, as will the other 52 projects under development or construction.

Only by giving Bangladeshis power, will the country achieve their overall goal of being a middle-income country and improving the standard of living in the country.

Bangladesh should ensure universal access before cutting its energy subsidy

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh, Developing Countries | No Comments


The Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has recently confirmed that her government will be looking at removing the energy subsidy when the economy improves. But with high electricity prices and 10% of the population without any form of electricity, is this move a bit presumptive?

As previously written on Why Electricity Matters, Bangladesh has been a leading example for all developing countries to follow as they have turned around their energy access and supply in the past ten years.

Bangladesh has quadrupled its energy output since 2008, increased its power stations from 27 to 121, and has pledged to have 50% of its energy production from coal.

In spite of the improvements to the country’s energy output, there are still 16 million Bangladeshis without any form of electricity; preventing them from accessing better healthcare and better living conditions.

Before the prime minister should even start considering to remove the subsidy, she should ensure that the country reaches 100% access to electricity, meaning that the supply of electricity can equal or outstrip demand, reducing prices that ordinary Bangladeshis have to pay.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has commented that when the economy improves, she will look at removing the subsidy that helps Bangladeshis from accessing power.

Currently, the subsidy reduces the cost of power from Tk6.25 (5.7p) to Tk4.82 (4.4p) per unit.

The average wage is 13,258 taka (£120) per month and the cost of electricity and heating is 2,656 taka (£24) per month. Meaning that Bangladeshis who have access to electricity and is awarded the median wage in the country is currently paying over 20% of their salaries on electricity.

The Bangladesh government should double-down on their commitment of building new on-grid power plants as their first priority.

Only once they have achieved universal access to electricity and given all 163 million citizens this vital resource, can they then look at changing or removing the energy subsidy.

Bangladesh is a leading example of how electricity access can power development

Bangladesh is a leading example of how electricity access can power development

By | Bangladesh | No Comments

Bangladesh are becoming world leaders in developing their own national grid, with a continuing commitment to provide universal access to electricity for all of their citizens.

In the last nine years, the Bangladesh Power Development Board have almost doubled the number of Bangladeshis with access to electricity, with over 90% access to the national grid.

In the same time-span, the Bangladesh government have quadrupled the national power supply from 3,268mw in 2009 to 11,059mw in 2018; over 299 million residents now have an electricity supply; and the number of power plants have increased from 27 to 121.

Bangladesh is setting a shining example of how a developing country should priortise access to electricity for all of its citizens.

Rather than prioritising expensive renewable technology, the government has focused on base-load power such as gas and coal to provide constant uninterruptible power. The government in Bangladesh has a commitment to generate over 50% of its total electricity supply from coal-based power plants by 2030.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has also expressed support for renewable energy with a target of 2,000mw of renewable energy by 2021, but it is clear that base-load power is the priority in order to give universal access to electricity.

Bangladesh is on course to reach universal electrification within the next decade, which will put the country on a trajectory towards a fully-developed nation.

This underlines an approach that all developing nations should follow: prioritising grid-level electricity supply as a means to give all citizens the ability to keep their lights on, power their businesses, and in turn allowing the economy to grow pulling the poorest in society out of poverty.

UK bank takes pragmatic stance on coal power for development

UK bank takes pragmatic stance on coal power for development

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, Indonesia | No Comments

Despite coming under pressure from Western environmental activists, British bank HSBC has said it will continue to fund coal power in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam

HSBC has also promised to stop lending to coal power projects in developed markets by the end of 2019.

Daniel Klier, head of strategy and sustainable finance at HSBC, said coal power was still the only realistic way to sufficiently increase the power supply in coal-rich developing countries such as Bangladesh, where 62 million people still lack no access to electricity.

“We are trying to balance two different sustainable development goals of getting power to the people and limiting the environmental impact,” Mr Klier told the FT.

Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam have all made huge strides on poverty reduction in recent years, thanks in part to a mass-expansion of the coal-powered grid.

All three Asian countries favour coal because it’s available locally in the region and unlike solar, it can provide “baseload” electricity that can operate day and night.

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, Nigeria | No Comments

The UK’s £14 billion aid budget is set for its biggest overhaul in years, with plans to use aid spending to help British exporters to invest in Africa and developing Asia.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has promised her department will experience a “big shift”, following years of controversy about the UK’s 0.7 percent of GDP

The new strategy would see UK companies given support to invest in poorer markets, on the principle that the aid budget should only grow if a part of that spending benefits the UK economy too. Ministers are said to be “frustrated” that French and German businesses have been more successful at exporting to the developing world, including to Commonwealth countries.

In the energy access space this could mean UK manufacturers being supported to deliver large-scale power projects in energy poor Commonwealth partners like Nigeria and Bangladesh.

With our huge expertise in clean coal, renewables and carbon capture, this could be a chance to bring energy to millions, unlock new markets AND boost UK plc.

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, India, Nigeria | No Comments

At its annual meeting in Washington this month, the World Bank will be demanding more money from British taxpayers, as a part of planned increase to its capital budget. The US is already highly sceptical, and we believe the UK Government should only agree if certain conditions are met.

First, we have to be sure that our money will be spent wisely.

World Bank rules which privilege renewable energy at the expense of conventional energy projects do little to help with poverty. Developing countries can only build up their industry, create jobs and improve healthcare if they have a foundation of reliable power. As Indian Railways Minister Piyush Goyal put it last year “Every country needs a baseload. I cannot tell my country. ‘guys, it’s 6pm in the evening, shut everything down because the solar has gone off.”

Second, we should insist that World Bank spending supports British trade as well as aid

Key Commonwealth partners like India, Nigeria and Bangladesh have populations in the tens of millions without access to reliable power. They are desperate to use their coal and gas resources to bring electricity to their people, and they want to do so in the cleanest possible way. Technology like high efficiency low-emissions coal plants, which British manufacturers specialise in, can help them, providing a crucial transitional bridge as we move towards a low-carbon economy. Yet under current World Bank rules it is not eligible for funding. We should insist on an end to these restrictions, helping millions access lifesaving electricity while supporting British exports.

The world’s poorest countries did not create the problem of climate change. They should not be made to pay for the mistakes of developed countries by forgoing access to the low-cost, reliable power that we used to industrialise. When the UK delegation travels to Washington this month, this is the case we need them to make.

World Bank Report: access to electricity is key to tackling rural poverty, but it has to be reliable

By | Bangladesh | No Comments

A new World Bank report has found that when the poorest communities in Bangladesh – and particularly women and girls – gain access to electricity it boosts their incomes, their job prospects and their time spent in study. However, the report also finds that many of these benefits are lost if the electricity supply is too unreliable.

The World Bank study looked at households in rural Bangladesh which gained electricity between 2005 and 2010. It found that after obtaining access to grid electricity, these households saw their income rise by 17 percent on average. According to the paper, the rise in income comes mainly from non-farm related activities, suggesting that the arrival of electricity gives communities the chance to set up new businesses or work their way into better paying jobs.

An immediate benefit of gaining electricity is not having to spend a large proportion of the household budget on dirty and dangerous kerosene lamps. The study found that households with a grid connection saw their spending on kerosene fall by 73 percent.

Longer term, the World Bank found that access to electricity has an outsized impact on women and girls.

With electricity, the time girls spend in study increases by 0.47 hours a day on average, with electric lighting meaning they can do more homework after sunset. Further down the line this feeds through into better job prospects for women. For each year a community is connected to the grid, the number of women in paid work rises by 2.3 percent.

However, the study also warns that many of these development benefits fail to materialise if households only receive a few hours of electricity a day. Every extra hour of power outages a day reduces a household’s income by 0.3 percent, according to the World Bank. And this all adds up. With reliable power, these communities would have seen their non-farm income rise 34 percent over the five years examined in the study.

This highlights the importance of having reliable, 24/7 power. It’s no good suggesting that these communities can make do with rooftop solar panels that only work for a few hours a day. Instead what’s essential is a grid connection that allows electricity to generated whenever it is needed. This is what allows communities to rise out of poverty, create new businesses and offer a better future for women and girls.

UNESCO backs new coal plant in Bangladesh

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries | One Comment

At a UNSECO meeting last week, twelve countries backed Bangladesh’s plans to build a new coal-fired power plant. This is a major victory for Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has long argued that she needs to use her country’s coal reserves to bring reliable grid electricity to the 60 million people who still live without it.

Ms Hasina set out her case earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, telling a panel:

“We have to provide energy to our people because I have to develop our country…We have to ensure food security. We have to give them job opportunities.”

UNSECO, the UN organisation responsible for looking after World Heritage Sites, had raised concerns that the new power plant at Rampal might impact on a protected mangrove forest in the same region.

That objection has now been withdrawn, after the Bangladeshi government explained that the new plant will be using advanced pollution mitigation technology.

The Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, said: “Unesco was concerned with the World Heritage Sitem but we have successfully convinced them about the use of latest and most sophisticated technology which will have minimal impact on the mangrove forest.”

The Rampal plant will use the ultra-supercritical technology already employed by countries like Germany, South Korea and Japan, which cuts pollutants by operating at higher levels of efficiency than older systems.

But Bangladesh, which is aiming to ensure access to reliable and affordable grid electricity for all by 2021, will have to go further still to deliver on that goal.

Top UK climate scientist: carbon capture essential for developing world

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries | No Comments

One of Britain’s top climate scientists says that developing countries can deliver on climate commitments and eliminate poverty through the use of carbon capture technology.

Speaking in Bangladesh – a country where 60 million people still live without electricity – Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at Oxford, said that carbon capture is the “technology Bangladesh is going to need in the long-term to exploit [its] coal reserves without putting CO2 into the atmosphere.”

Twenty-four countries responsible for more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have written continued coal use into their nationally determined contributions as part of the Paris Agreement. Some, like Nigeria and Ghana, have asked the developed world for assistance in gaining access to the latest “clean coal” technologies.

Professor Allen said that CCS “works, it just costs money”, and argues that it’s the responsibility of the richest countries to make carbon capture more widely available.

A recent report from the influential Energy Transitions Commission took the same view, stating that there needs to be “strong global support” for the deployment for carbon capture in poor countries where fossil fuels are the only feasible way of delivering mass-electrification.

Douglas Hollett, a former principal deputy assistant secretary at the US Office of Fossil Energy, which oversees CCS research, agrees.

“The world’s going to be continuing to burn a lot of coal for a long time,” he said. “That’s what makes CCUS even more vital on a worldwide scale — and not just capturing, but also using and storing or sequestering that CO2.”

All of this shows how our aid policy has huge potential to support UK jobs and science. Britain is a world leader in carbon capture technology. By backing this sector now, we can support those high-tech jobs in Britain, while providing the tech that developing countries need to use their own natural resources to lift their citizens out of poverty.