Bangladesh inches toward green power goal

Solar use is widespread in Bangladesh, considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Bangladesh inches toward green power goal

  • The new 28 megawatt solar power plant in Cox’s Bazar District is the largest yet opened in the country
  • The solar plants come on top of the widespread use of solar home systems in the low-lying country

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s electricity generation from renewable sources has passed the 5 percent mark with the opening of a major new solar plant — boosting hopes the country might meet its goal of getting 10 percent of power from renewables by 2020, experts said.
The new 28 megawatt solar power plant in Cox’s Bazar District is the largest yet opened in the country, following the earlier construction of a 3 MW plant.
The solar plants come on top of the widespread use of solar home systems in the low-lying country, considered one of those most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Currently about 5.2 million small-scale solar home systems provide electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people, Dipal C. Barua, president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He said that accelerating construction of solar power facilities “will build confidence among future investors.”
The new 116-acre solar park will supply enough electricity to meet about 80 percent of power demand in the Teknaf sub-district where it is located, said Mahmudul Hasan, chief financial officer for Joules Power.
That area has about 300,000 power users, though little in the way of industrial or large commercial users, he said.
Nuher Latif Khan, managing director of Technaf Solartech Energy, part of Joules Power that owns the plant, said it had begun operations ahead of schedule.
In Bangladesh, “the future of solar power is very fantastic,” he said.
Khan said the solar park can produce up to 28 MW of solar electricity at peak capacity and has contracted to provide 20 MW to the government grid.
Barua said several other large solar plants are in the pipeline in Bangladesh, after receiving government approval, with a few at advanced stages of construction.
While solar plants need a large amount of initial investment to set up, he said, they have small operational costs afterward, unlike plants that need ongoing sources of coal or other fossil fuels.
The government has supported construction of rooftop solar plants on factories and other commercial buildings, he said, with some facilities on large plants expected to generate a megawatt or more each. With such solar plants, thousands of factories in Bangladesh should be able to meet their own electricity needs, and contribute surplus power to the national grid.
“I think one day we will see every building has a rooftop solar power system,” Barua said.
However, finding available land to set up ground-level solar plants is a major challenge in densely populated Bangladesh, he said.
Sheikh Reaz Ahmed, director of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), said the country’s 2008 renewable energy policy calls for generating 10 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020. With the country expected to generate 20,000 MW of electricity in total by the date, renewables would have to reach 2,000 MW to hit that target, he said.
So far Bangladesh generates just over 530 MW from renewables, nearly half of that from hydropower plants, he said. But the country is set to put online another 600 MW of renewable power in 2019 alone, he said, with another 1,100 MW rolled out in 2020 and 2021.
Not all construction is progressing smoothly, however, with some plants tied up in problems with land acquisition and other issues.
Meanwhile, energy generation from fossil fuels also is rising.
Last year, Bangladesh approved a proposal to construct 10 new oil-fired power plants, capable of generating 1,800 MW of electricity.
In January, construction also began on a 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant in Cox’s Bazar, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
That means boosting Bangladesh’s percentage of renewable energy above 10 percent won’t be easy, as “each year total power generation from traditional sources will go up” too, Ahmed said.


Pakistani central bank lifts interest rate as inflation bites

Updated 20 May 2019
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Pakistani central bank lifts interest rate as inflation bites

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 12.25% on Monday, warning that already soaring inflation risked further rises on the back of higher oil prices and reforms required for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The 150 basis points increase follows a preliminary agreement last week with the IMF for a $6 billion loan that is expected to come with tough conditions, including raising more tax revenues and putting up gas and power prices. It was the eighth time the central bank has increased its main policy rate since the start of last year.
With economic growth set to slow to 2.9% this year from 5.2% last year, according to IMF forecasts, the rate rise adds to pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power last year facing a balance of payments crisis that has now forced his government to turn to the IMF.
Higher prices for basic essentials including food and energy has already stirred public anger but the central bank suggested there was little prospect of any immediate improvement.
Noting average headline inflation rose to 7% in the July-April period from 3.8 percent a year earlier, the central bank said recent rises in domestic oil prices and the cost of food suggested that “inflationary pressures are likely to continue for some time.”

 

It said it expected headline inflation to average between 6.5% and 7.5% for the financial year to the end of June and was expected to be “considerably higher” in the coming year. Expected tax measures in next month’s budget as well as higher gas and power prices and volatility in international oil prices could push inflation up further, it said.
It said the fiscal deficit, which the IMF expects to reach 7.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, was likely to have been “considerably higher” during the July-March period than in the same period a year earlier due to shortfalls in revenue collection, higher interest payments and security costs.
Despite some improvements, financing the current account deficit remained “challenging” and foreign exchange reserves of $8.8 billion were below standard adequacy levels at less than the equivalent of three months of imports.
The central bank said it was watching foreign exchange markets closely and was prepared to take action to curb “unwarranted” volatility, after the sharp fall in the rupee over recent days that saw the currency touch a record low of 150 against the US dollar.
Details of what Pakistan will be required to do under the IMF agreement, which must still be approved by the Fund’s board, have not been announced but already opposition parties are planning protests.
As well as higher energy prices that will hit households hard, there are also expectations of new taxes and spending cuts in next month’s budget to reach a primary budget deficit — excluding interest payments — of 0.6% of GDP.
With the IMF forecasting a primary deficit of 2.2% for the coming financial year, that implies squeezing roughly $5 billion in extra revenues from Pakistan’s $315 billion economy, which has long suffered from problems raising tax revenue.

FACTOID

Pakistan’s economic growth is set to slow to 2.9% this year.