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.