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.

"Bangladesh's route to lifting millions of its citizens out of poverty: reliable electricity"

Bangladesh’s route to lifting millions of its citizens out of poverty: reliable electricity

By | Bangladesh | No Comments

Bangladesh wants to achieve middle-income country status by 2021. This isn’t just a matter of international accounting – it would mean lifting tens of millions out of extreme poverty forever.

But to deliver on that goal, Bangladesh first has to provide electricity to the 60 million of its citizens who currently live without it.

But there are serious challenges ahead. Bangladesh’s gas reserves are running out and it’s currently having to import oil from overseas. This is fast becoming unaffordable. Wind and solar, while important, cannot yet provide the large-scale, ‘baseload’ electricity needed to power the country’s factories, hospitals and critical infrastructure.

The government have made clear that the only option available to them is to use the country’s abundant reserves of coal. According to one industry expert, Dr Mushfiqur Rahman, failure to do use its own coal would force the country to be “90 percent reliant on imported fuel by 2030”.

This vastly expensive alternative would mean abandoning development goals and leaving millions of people trapped in poverty, fueling instability in one of the most densely populated countries on earth.

Fortunately, that’s not the government’s plan. Bangladesh is already investing in modern power stations, which allow coal to be used more safely and efficiently than ever before. But to make full use of its reserves, experts say the country will have to adopt rapidly advancing carbon capture and storage technology.

Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at Oxford University, recently said “CCS works, it just costs money” and called on the international community to make it available to countries like Bangladesh. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is also backing CCS so it can be used in the developing world.

Helping the world’s poorest countries develop is more important than ever for global stability. By backing them to use latest energy technology, we can help them bring electricity to their people make the world a safer, more prosperous place.

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Access to electricity is a human right, and the only way for poorer countries to develop. Add your name if you agree.

Developing countries are standing up to the West on energy access

Developing countries are standing up to the West on energy access

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

Leaders in developing countries are increasingly calling out the West for holding development back.

The latest example is Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month made an impassioned defence of her country’s energy plans.

'This power plant is necessary for our development' – Bangladeshi PM makes a passionate plea for her country's right to modern electricity.

Posted by Why Electricity Matters on Monday, February 6, 2017


Bangladesh, historically one of the poorest countries in Asia, aims to reach “middle-income country” status by 2021 and is planning to abolish extreme poverty – defined as living on $1.90 a day – by 2030. To realise that goal, the government will have to provide much-needed electricity to some 60 million Bangladeshis.

At the session in Davos, Ms Hasina clashed with US environmentalist Al Gore, who said that a new coal-fired power station was incompatible with Bangladesh’s environmental commitments.

The Bangladeshi PM hit back, saying it was her responsibility to develop the country, create jobs and eliminate the threat of famine. She also pointed out that the plant will be fitted with the same emissions reduction technology used by advanced economies like Germany, Japan and the US.

Ms Hasina’s comments echo remarks by Nigerian Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun who last year told a joint meeting of the IMF and World Bank:

“We in Nigeria have coal but we have power problems, yet we’ve been blocked because it is not green. There is some hypocrisy because we have an entire western industrialisation built on coal energy.”

It’s no surprise that leaders in developing countries are pushing back against Western attempts to restrict investment in the cheapest and most reliable forms of energy. The international community has set a goal of achieving universal electricity access by 2030, yet official figures show that even by 2040 over half a billion people will still be going without. With young and fast-growing populations to support, these leaders are absolutely determined to bring life-changing electricity to their people.

For a more secure world, it’s vital that we support them.

Join the campaign

Access to electricity is a human right, and the only way for poorer countries to develop. Add your name if you agree.