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Bangladeshi PM makes plea for cheap and reliable electricity

Bangladeshi PM makes plea for cheap and reliable electricity

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh, Developing Countries | One Comment

Over the next 35 years Africa’s population is set to double. To provide a decent standard of living for that many people, an estimated 18 million jobs a year will have to be created.

But that huge effort on jobs requires huge amounts of electricity, and so far the world is falling short. A former UK aid minister recently said that progress on electricity access has been ‘painfully slow’. Indeed, in parts of Africa the number of people without modern power is rising.

Thankfully, the UK Government has woken up to this fact. In its new aid strategy, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is putting access to energy front and centre.

Following detailed analysis of 28 target countries, DfID admit that they now need to “step up efforts on energy”, as well as key sectors that are heavily reliant on electricity, including manufacturing, farming and infrastructure.

The challenge is to ensure that Britain’s aid plans actually deliver. Because too often in the past DfID have have tried to meet energy targets with small-scale solar projects that can power a lightbulb for a few hours a day but can’t run the factories and hospitals that a country needs to develop.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, recently made a passionate plea for the right to use cheap and reliable conventional fuels, telling a panel in Davos:

“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.”

If DfID are really serious about delivering “sustained job-creating growth” in the world’s poorest countries, they need to listen to leaders like Sheikh Hasina and make all the latest technologies available, so they can have modern, affordable, round-the-clock power.

Failure to do so will mean more poverty, hopelessness and instability, with direct consequences for the developed world.

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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.

Oxford scientist Myles Allen points to latest energy technology for Bangladesh

Oxford scientist Myles Allen points to latest energy technology for Bangladesh

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh | 3 Comments

A leading Oxford scientist has said that for Bangladesh to achieve its development goals, it will have to make full use of the latest energy technology.

Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, told Bangladesh’s Daily Star last week that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is ‘the technology Bangladesh is going to need in the long-term to exploit Bangladesh’s coal reserves without putting CO2 into the atmosphere.’

Since 2000, Bangladesh has managed to lift 16 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The country’s rapid industrialisation has been powered by cheap and reliable energy. To keep up that progress, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said she will need to continue using low-cost conventional fuels.

Ms Hasina set out her case recently 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.’

Professor Allen said that CCS ‘works, it just costs money’, and argued that it’s the responsibility of the international community to make the technology more widely available.

The comments follow news that Bill Gates’s new energy innovation fund is also backing CCS.

It’s vital that developing countries can produce the electricity they need to grow and escape poverty. By ensuring they have access to the latest energy technology, we can help them on that journey and build a more secure and prosperous world.

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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.

Bangladesh’s electricity challenge

Bangladesh’s electricity challenge

By | Bangladesh | No Comments

Anyone with access to electricity in Bangladesh will be familiar with ‘load-shedding’, where power gets temporarily switched off during periods of high demand because the grid can’t cope.  

Bangladeshi-born novelist Tahmima Anam describes load-shedding like this:

‘It’s when you’re sitting under the ceiling fan on a particularly hot day, the soles of your feet burning, hoping the evening will bring rain, or at the very least, a slight breeze … and suddenly the world goes quiet, the lights go out, and the fan’s revolutions slow, then stop.

We look at our watches. Load-shedding, we say to one another, hoping that this instance of it will follow the usual pattern, and that the electricity will come on in exactly an hour. Any longer and we worry the food in the fridge will spoil, or that we’ll miss the end of the Bangladesh-India cricket match on television.’

And that’s just the experience of those who have electricity. 40 percent of the population – some 60 million people – can only dream of having a fridge to keep food safe to eat or a TV to watch the cricket on.

If Bangladesh is going to escape the poverty trap, a heroic effort is going to be needed: to improve the reliability of the power supply and to get those remaining 60 million onto the grid.

The challenge for the government is that 82 percent of the country’s electricity is generated from natural gas and the gas reserves are running out.

Off-grid solar has been promoted by the World Bank as an alternative way of getting electricity to rural Bangladesh, but as as Bill Gates has said, this technology can’t power the schools, hospitals and factories that a developing country needs to become richer over time.  

For Gates the ideal fuel is one that is ‘widely available […] affordable, reliable and does not produce carbon’ – which is why he has prioritised investment in carbon capture technologies that mitigate the environmental impact of coal or gas power plants.

The world needs to commit to this technology now, so countries like Bangladesh can generate the power they need to prosper. 

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.