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What will we do with this 'Sustainable Renewable Energy Development Authority'!



Wed, 13 Mar 24

The government has set up the 'Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority' (SREDA) to develop renewable energy in the country. This organization is working on the development of renewable energy. On March 11, the organization presented a research paper. According to that study, $66 billion is needed to convert the country's fossil fuel and electricity-powered irrigation pumps to solar-powered irrigation pumps. The plan shows that SREDA has planned to convert 17 lakh pumps to solar power by 2031.

The unfortunate thing is, is this plan to install SREDA’s Solar Irrigation Pump really sustainable? If one dollar is equal to 130 taka, one billion Dollar is 13 thousand crore Taka. Now, to build a 100 MW solar power plant, an average of Tk 1,000 crore is required. That is, it is possible to build (produce?) 1 thousand 300 megawatts solar power plants with one billion dollars. And if the entire 66 billion dollars is calculated, then 85 thousand 800 megawatts of electricity production are possible.

In our country, the peak electricity demand during the summer season is 16,000 megawatts. Within these 16,000 megawatts, there is already a provision of 2,000 megawatts for irrigation. Therefore, even if we were to generate 100% of our electricity from renewable sources, we wouldn't require the entire $66 billion budget. However, it is not advisable to solely rely on renewable energy sources for electricity generation at this moment. This is not only applicable to Bangladesh but to any country. Perhaps technological advancements in the future will compel people to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources, or there might be no alternative due to the inadequacy of biomass fuel.

SREDA has presented various plans to Prime Minister's Energy Adviser Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury Bir Bikram and state minister of Power Nasrul Hamid. After hearing SREDA's plans, both the adviser and the minister expressed doubts about the feasibility of implementing such projects with the allocated budget. However, no one has spoken about the weaknesses of these plans.

The plan cannot be activated solely on the basis of mathematical calculations. SREDA has devised this plan, which may not be entirely appropriate. After reviewing the research paper, it seems that SREDA has considered the cost of installing one pump and then extrapolated the total cost based on the number of pumps to be installed. By simply multiplying, the figure of $66 billion has been derived.

It is necessary to consider these factors carefully. Currently, farmers irrigate their land using water pumps, and there is already an established system for water supply. SREDA cannot throw away the investment that farmers have made over the ages in irrigation systems by installing solar pumps. Or should it be omitted?

The farmers have already drilled boreholes to install the pumps, meaning they have laid pipes to a specific depth underground to access water. They have purchased pumps and installed them there. Now, if they opt to install solar pumps, will they need to repeat the same process?

According to SREDA, the installation of pumps for 4 kwh to 25 kwh electricity consumption will cost from 3 thousand 300 dollars to 4 thousand 700 dollars. How much will it cost to install such 17 lakh pumps? The answer is $66 billion. Is it appropriate to calculate and plan the answer for the organization that has the word 'sustainable' in front of its name?

If all the electricity for irrigation was thought to be generated from solar energy then SREDA could have advised the government to build 2000 MW solar power plant. Now that electricity has reached all areas of the country, it was possible to run irrigation works during the day using electricity from the grid. In that case, the maximum cost for the construction of these power plants would be one and a half to two billion dollars.

While making this plan, SREDA says that out of 66 billion dollars, the government will give 33 billion dollars to farmers as loans or grants. The remaining 33 billion dollars will be paid by farmers from their own pockets. Solar panels, pumps and all the parts required to install such irrigation systems are dependent on imports. That is, the government and the farmer have to pay this amount. And Bangladesh Bank has to convert this money into dollars.

SREDA indicates that from 2023 to 2031, over a span of 9 years, this plan will be implemented. Therefore, according to SREDA's estimation, an annual investment of approximately 7.33 billion dollars will be necessary. However, when the government is struggling due to a shortage of dollars to import fuel, at that very time, what does it mean to devise such a plan?

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