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‘Policy shifting from rental to solar power is a right decision‎’

Munawar Misbah Moin has long been working to popularise the renewable energy usages in Bangladesh.  Especially, he has emphasised and worked on to promote usages of renewable energy (RE) in the private sector.

Currently, Munawar is the Senior Vice-president of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA) and also the Managing    Director of Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Limited, one of the leading private sector companies.

In an exclusive interview with energynewsbd.com Editor Aminur Rahman, this pioneering entrepreneur talked about the present scenario and achievements of the RE sector.

energynewsbd.com:  What is your viewpoint about the government decision of switching its interest from the rental power plant to the solar based power plant?

Munawar Misbah Moin:  As you know till the mid of 2009, nearly 90% of our energy used to come from gas. However, at the end of 2009 the practical scenario was different than what we used to think before that our country was floating on gas.

Not too many new reserves had been discovered resulting in recurrent power failure. To cope with the severe power crisis, the government went for contractual agreements such as quick rental power plants and small independent power producers (SIPPs), mostly diesel or furnace oil based on an emergency basis.

Since then, the primary energy mix has changed with the increase of imported liquid fuel share. Thus the government has two options in front of it, either to raise power tariffs or have to subsidise heavily.

“Government is also inviting privately sponsored solar projects. The response is very positive and till now nearly 40 private companies submitted their proposal valuing more than 1000MW.”
   

Off course there must be some sort of cap on how much higher prices can be charged in one side. Government is well aware of the importance and sustainability of renewable and hence set 10% RE target by 2020.

Hence, the government decision of switching its interest from the rental power plant to the solar based power plant is right on two fronts-first for long time sustainability and then for reducing the green gas emission.

energynewsbd.com:  Is it possible for the private investors to produce huge electricity by the solar based power plants?

Munawar:  Private investors interested in megawatt (MW)-size solar energy project want a feasible tariff structure based on clear and concrete policy. Also, the tariff should be fixed based on project size and duration of project implementation.

Hence, it is possible for the private investors to produce huge electricity by solar based power plant provided that congenial or win-win situation prevails among the private investors, utility agencies and other stakeholders.

Also, Government should provide favourable concrete policy and declare fixed tariff rate. This will help attract reputed investors to invest here in Bangladesh. I believe those are essential for the investors to calculate the risk and return on their investments.

energynewsbd.com:  Previously, in some cases the government had failed to build solar power plants even after the deals were struck with the private investors. Do you feel this time the government will be succeeding in doing so?

Munawar:  It is true that the government had failed to build solar power plants even after the deals were made with the private investors. This can be attributed to insufficient government attention including a lack of feasibility studies and the absence of a concrete and acceptable tariff policy.

It seems that the government is now serious for a tariff policy to procure electricity from big renewable power grids. A number of projects are being implemented under several initiatives like public-private partnership (PPP), independent power producers (IPPs) and rental power in private sector.

Recently, government has approved construction of a 200 MW solar power project that will be constructed by SunEdison. If government put proper attention, I hope that they will be succeeding in no times.

energynewsbd.com:  Will the government finally make it happen to produce 3,168 MW power from the renewable energy by 2021? We learned that of the plan, solar plants supposed to produce 1,740 MW. Is it possible?

Munawar:  Bangladesh government has set a target of producing 3,168 MW power from renewable energy by 2021, of which 1,740 MW from solar power, 1,370 MW from wind and, the remaining from biomass-based power generation technologies.

The government already approved a proposal for setting up a 200 MW solar park, the largest ever grid-connected renewable energy project in Bangladesh, on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis in Teknaf.

SunEdison will develop the project. This is a very good initiative towards achieving the goal. We are optimistic that the government will provide congenial investment atmosphere to attract both local and foreign developers to come and invest MW solar plant in Bangladesh. 

Government is also inviting privately sponsored solar projects. The response is very positive and till now nearly 40 private companies submitted their proposal valuing more than 1000MW. Hence, I strongly believe that it is possible to produce 1,740 MW power by solar plant.

“Central Bank needs to be empowered to play a bigger role in Green Financing, we are glad to hear that Bangladesh Bank is embarking on a US $200 Million green fund at below 5% fund cost.”

   

energynewsbd.com:  Which option is better to produce electricity from renewable energy in Bangladesh?  Solar/ wind or hydro? Can you please explain, why?

Munawar:  Bangladesh is enriched many renewable resources such as solar energy, hydro energy, biomass energy and wind energy. All of them have been implemented already.

In the context of Bangladesh, hydropower has very limited potential. Theoretically, micro hydropower could be feasible for some local electricity need but they will be seasonal.

Most of the cities are few meters up from the sea level and hence there is not that much feasibility for hydropower except Chittagong Hill Tracts and few other places.

Internationally accepted thumb rule that a site having annual average wind speed of 6.0 m/s or higher is feasible for harnessing wind electricity with commercial viability.

So generating electrical energy using wind mill with commercial viability in Bangladesh is possible. However, this viability is found in the coastal area as the annual average wind speed is found to be more than 6.5 m/s.

Solar energy is the best renewable energy source other than the primary nonrenewable sources in urban area. So the solar energy is the ultimate suitable form of renewable energy for urban region because of availability of plenty of sunshine.

energynewsbd.com:  How private investors can solve the barriers of finding finance for large scale investment and problems related with land acquisition?

Munawar:  MW Solar projects require big investment and it will be hard to take those from our own resources. Government can explore the possibility of getting money from the Green Climate Fund.

Government should create a favourable investment environment along with concrete policy and fixed tariff. Such environment and policy will attract investors to invest here in Bangladesh.

Central Bank needs to be empowered to play a bigger role in Green Financing, we are glad to hear that Bangladesh Bank is embarking on a US $200 Million green fund at below 5% fund cost.

Large-sized solar power plants need a huge area of land to install solar panels. In Bangladesh uncultivable land is hardly available and hence the shortage barren land is a significant constraint for large scale solar plant.

However, large sized solar power plant is being installed in haor/ Chor/non-agricultural land in Bangladesh.

energynewsbd.com:  Please let me know about the programs over the renewable energy sectors you have taken at your company in present. What`s the plan for future?

Munawar:  We will continue to work at the Access to Energy level with innovative technology, financing and business model that will continue to enhance and positively uplift and impact our rural population livelihood and quality of life.

At the same time we will work with key stakeholders in scaling up RE, Specifically in a Solar PV with a solar irrigation pumps, Solar MW grid connected PV plants and roof tops.

energynewsbd.com:  It will be great if you shed light about the future of renewable energy in Bangladesh.

Munawar:  It is shaping up. With policy matter getting finalised, many Government of Bangladesh resource and budget being committed we see the possibility of 3500MW by 2021 a very feasible plan. However it is important that compared to the past, policy, funding and programs needs to be done effectively and timely ia.

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