Tuesday June 25, 2019
Home Business Bangladesh Tu...

Bangladesh Turns to Fill Ever-Growing Gap Between Energy Consumption and Supply by FDI

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe

0
//
energy industry, bangladesh
A Bangladeshi man works on the tangled electric cables hanging above a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA

Bangladesh has long struggled with power outages, with the nation experiencing its worst electricity crises in 2008 and 2009. Reports said one blackout, in 2014, affected as many as 100 million people — more than 60% of the population.

With a growing economy and a large population, the country always runs the risk of hampering its development process, which could cause instability. To counteract this, Bangladesh has turned to courting foreign direct investment to fill its ever-growing gap between energy consumption and supply. Companies from Britain, China, India and the United States have invested in the energy industry in Bangladesh.

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, talks about how a developing country like Bangladesh is taking initiatives to bring power to the entire population by 2021 that will include an increase in green energy alternatives.

energy industry, bangladesh
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, June 29, 2018. VOA

VOA: In your address during during Bangladesh Energy and Power Summit 2018, you said investment and development of innovative technologies are the two major issues that need to be given more priority to meet the power generation targets. What steps have you taken so far to achieve this?

Chowdhury: Since 2009, we have mobilized $20 billion of investment in the power sector projects, which has been approved and are being implemented. Half of this $20 billion investment will come from the private sector. We are encouraging foreign private investors to come and invest in the power sector.

Moving away from a policy of relying on domestic investment or investments from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, our government went out to the market and involved the private sector, in particular the foreign companies who have made bids for various power projects, to raise funds on their own.

In terms of development of innovative technologies, we have established the Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council to develop technological solutions, which are environmentally friendly. The council also aims to promote research and innovation in sustainable renewable energy.

VOA: As of 2018, Bangladesh had a capacity of generating power of 18,000 megawatts and your goal is to generate 60,000 megawatts by 2041. But how much of this 60,000 would be renewable energy?

Chowdhury: I would say 10% is a good target. We are building a nuclear power plant with 1,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity that can be upgraded to generating up to 2,400 megawatts.

energy industry, bangladesh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019. VOA

We are also exploring possibilities of using wind energy turbines in five or six areas of the country, and invited proposals from interested companies.

We have the largest [coverage of] solar home systems in the world, [amounting to] over 6 million homes. Multiply this [by] five [members] in each home, and you have 30 million people who have access to renewable energy via solar home systems.

These are stand-alone solar home systems, small solar panels for individual households, not connected to a national grid. So they have their limitations, and I think we have reached as far as we can go through this route.

We are exploring the possibilities of connecting our national grid to national grids of other South Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. … Nepal and Bhutan have great potential in developing hydropower projects that would produce renewable energy in enormous quantity that can be imported to Bangladesh by connecting our national grids with the national grids of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

VOA: In an interview with Voice of America, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. M.A. Momen said that in his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, the U.S. investment or the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership in exploration [of hydrocarbon reserves in offshore blocks] did come up, so where are we on that?

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

energy industry, bangladesh
FILE – The logo of General Electric is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. VOA

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology.

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

ALSO READ: Trump Administration Commits to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner, Says Energy Secretary

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology. (VOA)

Next Story

Bangladesh’s Second Nuclear Plant, Chinese Companies Look Up For The Contract

“Currently, we have been working on site selection,” he said, adding that the officials of the Chinese companies formally expressed their intent through letters sent to the ministry of science and technology and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

0
Dhaka
Construction workers use heavy equipment while building Bangladesh’s first nuclear plant in Rooppur in northwestern Pabna district, about 160 km (100 miles) from Dhaka, in this undated handout photo. VAO

Three Chinese companies have started lobbying Bangladesh for a contract to build the nation’s second nuclear power plant, officials said, as the government pushed to finish its first multibillion-dollar Russian-backed nuclear reactor within five years.

Mahbubul Hoq, chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, that officials of three Chinese companies met with him during the past few months and expressed interest in building the second nuclear plant, which is expected to cost 1.5 trillion taka (U.S. $18 billion).

“The project is at the formative stage,” Hoq said Wednesday. “We are yet to decide who would build the plant.”

“But the officials of Chinese companies came to my office and did show their interest in building the second nuclear power plant,” he said.

China
“The influence of Chinese companies has been on the rise,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, an economist and former commerce adviser. “Now they want to implement nuclear power project in Bangladesh.” Pixabay

In November 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated construction of the first nuclear plant – estimated to cost more than 1 trillion taka (U.S. $13 billion) – in Rooppur in northwestern Pabna district, about 160 km (100 miles) from Dhaka.

Officials expect it to become operational by 2024, about a year from its original target date of completion. Previously, officials said the two reactors would be expected to produce a combined output of 2,400 megawatts per day.

“Hopefully, we will start producing electricity by December 2024,” Hoq said, referring to the first power plant.

He said representatives of the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) handed him brochures about the state-owned company during their meeting at his office in Dhaka.

“Besides, two more representatives of the Chinese companies saw me in this regard. They assured us that they could build the nuclear plant using state-of-the-art technology,” Hoq said while declining to name the other companies.

The Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not respond to BenarNews emails seeking comments.

Hoq said Hasina, during a recent public event, pledged to build the second plant in the southern coastal districts.

“In line with her announcement, the authorities last year tasked us to find a suitable place to build the second nuclear power plant,” Hoq said.

Project director Mizanur Rahman confirmed to BenarNews that the government had approved plans to build the second plant in one of the country’s southern coastal districts.

“Currently, we have been working on site selection,” he said, adding that the officials of the Chinese companies formally expressed their intent through letters sent to the ministry of science and technology and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Bangladesh has not decided on how it would finance the construction of the second plant. Officials previously told BenarNews that Russia was providing 90 percent of the funds for the first plant through soft loans, while the Bangladeshi government would shoulder the remaining 10 percent of the construction cost.

Getting dragged in China-India regional power play

China is one of Bangladesh’s largest trading partners, with bilateral trade reaching about U.S. $18 billion, with imbalance tilted heavily in Beijing’s favor. The Bangladeshi Army has been equipped with Chinese tanks, its navy uses Chinese frigates and its air force flies Chinese fighter jets.

There are 400 Chinese companies in Bangladesh, according to Chinese envoy Zhang Zuo during a speech at a Dhaka business event last month.

electricity
Officials expect it to become operational by 2024, about a year from its original target date of completion. Previously, officials said the two reactors would be expected to produce a combined output of 2,400 megawatts per day. Pixabay

Bangladesh officially joined China’s massive One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative in 2016 when it signed agreements for implementing 27 projects, including 10 infrastructure initiatives that would be financed by Beijing, according to documents from the Bangladesh finance ministry.

“Of the total 27 projects, 10 are Belt-and-Road initiative projects,” a ministry official told BenarNews on the condition of anonymity. “But we do not mention in official papers due to political sensitivity about the BRI.”

OBOR, also known in other countries as Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI), is Beijing’s globe-spanning project with a price tag of at least U.S. $1 trillion. It stretches across 70 countries and aims to become a 21st Century Silk Road by weaving a network of railways, ports and bridges, linking China with Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Also Read: Amazon Accused of Violating Kids’ Privacy with Alexa

But involving Beijing in the construction of nuclear plants in Bangladesh may drag Hasina’s government into the power tussle between Beijing and New Delhi over dominance in South Asia, an analyst told BenarNews.

“The influence of Chinese companies has been on the rise,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, an economist and former commerce adviser. “Now they want to implement nuclear power project in Bangladesh.” (RFA)