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.


Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

Updated 24 March 2019
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Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

  • The initiative will help Abu Dhabi reduce reliance on oil
  • Mubadala hopes to attract Chinese and Indian companies

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi will commit up to $272 million to support technology start-ups, it said on Sunday, in a dedicated hub as part of efforts to diversify its economy.

US tech giant Microsoft will be a strategic partner, providing technology and cloud services to the businesses that join the hub as the capital of the United Arab Emirates continues its push to reduce reliance on oil revenue.
Abu Dhabi derives about 50 percent of its real gross domestic product and about 90 percent of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, according to ratings agency S&P.
The emirate launched a $13.6 billion stimulus fund, Ghadan 21, in September last year to accelerate economic growth. Ghadan means tomorrow in Arabic. The new initiative, named Hub 71, is linked to Ghadan will also involve the launch of a $136 million fund to invest in start-ups, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Mubadala Ventures, the technology arm of Mubadala Investment Co.
The goal is to have 100 companies over the next three to five years, Ajami said. “The market opportunities in this region are immense,” he added.
Mubadala, with assets of $225 billion and a big investor in tech companies, will act as the driver of the hub, located in the emirate’s financial district.
Softbank will be active in the hub and support the expansion of companies in which it has invested, Ajami said, adding that Mubadala is also aiming to attract Chinese and Indian companies, among others.
Mubadala which has committed $15 billion to the Softbank Vision Fund, plans to launch a $400 million fund to invest in leading European technology companies.
Incentives mapped out by the government include housing, office space and health insurance as part of the $272 million commitment, Ajami said.
Abu Dhabi will also announce a new research and development initiative on Monday linked to the Ghadan 21 plan, according to an invitation sent to journalists.