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Rooftop solar power to meet energy demand at affordable price

Raihan M Chowdhury | March 18, 2018 00:00:00

The recent launch of International Solar Alliance (ISA) will help Bangladesh move quickly to scale up its use of renewable power, experts said.

The launch of ISA aims to build a network to help tropical countries around the world boost their use of solar power.

Bangladesh is blessed with ample sunshine round the year and this can help satisfy industries' ever-increasing need for electricity and industrialists need to take a fresh look at their roofs.

It requires only 100 Sq.ft. space and about Tk 75,000 to generate 1.0 KW of electricity. The unit cost of electricity from rooftop solar falls below Tk 8.0/unit and this is the opportunity the industrialists should utilise.

According to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, the flat rate of electricity for industries is Tk 8.20/unit and this is further subsidised by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB). Furthermore, the rate is increasing every year and thus making the industrial production cost even higher. Often the industries do not rely solely on the grid connection because of power outage and instead use diesel generators. Use of diesel generators is expensive and harmful for the environment as it emits carbon into the atmosphere. It is estimated that the average cost of industrial electricity ranges between Tk 12-15/unit considering the electricity consumption from the national grid and diesel generators.

The GoB has set a target to generate 2,000 MW of electricity from renewable energy by 2021, of which more than 1,600 MW will be produced from solar energy. It is estimated that more than 400 MW of electricity can be produced from the textile industries' rooftops and there is a potential of producing about 4,000 MW of electricity from industrial and commercial rooftops.

IDCOL has 30 solar rooftop projects in its pipeline with a cumulative capacity of 30 MW and IDCOL intends to finance solar rooftop projects to generate 1,000 MW.

Effective utilisation of excess electricity from solar rooftop projects remains a major concern.

"At present it is not possible to ensure utilisation of the electricity produced on any industrial holidays or even in winter as the electricity cannot be stored," a source of IDCOL told The FE.

To address the issue, the GoB is in the process of finalising a net-metering policy. Net metering is a process which will allow the industrialists to sell the excess or unused electricity to the power distribution agencies.

Once the policy is approved, it will help reduce dependence on the national grid by the industries and encourage power generation by incentivising the end users.

"Apart from approving the net metering policy, the GoB should encourage solar rooftops by offering lower taxation on green technologies. The industrialists should adopt environment-friendly technology not only to save the cost but also to save the natural environment," another source of IDCOL said.

Since renewable energy is cheaper, solar rooftops can help eco-friendly businesses grow.

Bangladesh has a good track record of having various renewable energy programmes including the world's largest and fastest growing off-grid Solar Home System (SHS) Programme. The country has already installed more than 4.6 million SHSs which have benefited more than 21 million people. Bangladesh is followed by many Asian and African countries in adopting renewable energy programmes.

Bangladesh is now emphasising large-scale industrial and commercial solar projects.

Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a state-owned non-banking financial institution, and Grameen Shakti have earned worldwide reputation for successful implementation of various renewable energy programmes and projects in Bangladesh.

IDCOL has been implementing various renewable energy programmes in Bangladesh, including SHS Programme, Biogas & Bio-fertiliser Programme, Solar Mini-grid projects, Solar Irrigation programme, Improved Cook Stoves programme and other renewable energy projects.

IDCOL has recently financed its first 723 kWp solar rooftop project of Paragon Poultry Ltd located at Baniarchala, Gazipur. The cost of the project was Tk 58 million, of which 80 per cent was financed by IDCOL at an interest rate of 6.0 per cent for a period of 10 years.

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