The Power System Master PLan (PSMP) 2016 had set a target to reach the renewable energy’s share to 10 percent of total power generation capacity (2470 MW) by 2021 - a major focus was supposed to be on exploiting the potential of solar energy to achieve the goal.
Available data shows the country now has generating capacity of 20,595 MW from conventional sources while power from renewable sources is lagging far behind at 700.61 MW, which is around 3 percent of the total generation capacity.
Numbers from the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) show that among different renewable energy sources, PV solar leads the sector with 466.68 MW generation capacity, while it is followed by hydro with 230 MW capacity, 2.9 MW from wind, 0.63 MW from Bio-gas and 0.4 MW from Biomass.
Bangladesh is far behind Pakistan and India, among its South Asian neighbors in utilising renewable energy resources for electricity generation.
The statistics show while Bangladesh generates 3 percent from renewable energy, the corresponding share in India is 24.16 percent with 90,399 MW generation capacity against its total installed power generation capacity of 374,199 MW (not including hydro capacity).
Pakistan generates 5 percent (1,870 MW) from renewable sources (solar and wind) against its total installed power generation capacity of 37,402 MW.
Experts and stakeholders in the energy sector attributed the poor renewable energy situation to the lack of commitment in policy level, scarcity of land, lack of coordination among state entities and rigid bureaucratic mindset in favour of conventional fuels.
Official sources said after the framing of the PSMP 2016, the government planned to implement a total of 36 grid-connected solar park projects with a total 2110.65 MW in public and private sectors in the last 5-6 years.
Only 5 projects were implemented so far although contracts were awarded for some 26 projects.
The five implemented projects having total capacity of about 88.5 MW, are 50 MW Gauripur, Mymensingh, 7.5 MW Kaptai, 8 MW Panchagarh, 20 MW Teknaf, and 3 MW Sharishabari solar parks.
Official sources said the grid-connected solar power plants need huge amounts of land for installing panels and other equipment, leading to large capital requirements, that has to be also supplemented by efficient management for timely implementations of solar power projects.
But most of the sponsors in grid-tied solar projects failed to arrange adequate free land while many of them also failed to arrange the required fund as banks are not found to be interested in financing non-conventional power projects, despite a refinancing scheme on offer from the central bank for supporting green energy projects, according to industry insiders.
They, however, said there is only a success area for Bangladesh—the Solar Home System for remote localities—where it had earned global recognition with installing 5.8 million SHSs for the off-grid households.
The world’s single largest project illuminated more than 20 million people to improve their socio-economic condition, said Munawar Moin, the President of the Partners Forum (PO), an association of non-government bodies working dedicatedly for the SHS programme.
Commenting on the poor progress in grid-connected large-scale solar power plant projects, he, also senior Vice President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association BSREA, said there is still a lack of policy-level commitment in setting renewable energy as a priority sector.
He also said fulfilling the large land requirements without running into litigation is a big challenge in Bangladesh and only the government can bypass the bottleneck like its move for creating economic zones.
Echoing Munawar Moin, Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain said most private sector entrepreneurs cannot arrange a litigation-free land to implement a large solar project which appears to be a major obstacle in scaling up green energy’s share in total power generation.
Green industry insiders also said that while there is land scarcity, there is huge potential for rooftop solar. The rooftops of government-buildings alone can generate huge solar power.
A study by Sreda shows Dhaka city can alone generate 1,400 MW electricity from rooftop solar if the free spaces are utilised for green energy.
Without a mandatory provision for public buildings to provide their rooftops for solar power projects, Bangladesh is missing out on the opportunity, said a top official of Power Division.
Admitting the poor progress in renewable energy in reaching the national goal set by PSMP, Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of Sreda, said renewable energy is now passing its take-off stage. During this phase, Sreda is acting as a facilitating body for different sectors interacting in the industry, to strengthen coordination and overcome the challenges.
“Any sector has to face huge challenges in the taking-off stage,” he said.