A common characteristic of all undeveloped nations around the globe is the incompetence to match respective demand for energy.
For instance, use of traditional indigenous energy resources in Bangladesh is inadequate in ensuring energy sufficiency across the nation.
As a result, the country’s growth prospects are being hampered to a great extent. Traditionally, developing economies have endeavoured in employing bio-fuels such as wood and cow dung cakes for energy.
However, putting these and other non-renewable energy sources into use have generated adversities in the form of environmental degradation and health hazards. As a result, the pace of development had been curtailed to a major extent.
It has been witnessed that use of traditional bio-fuels in Bangladesh had led to heath issues of women who cook food using fuel wood and also the cooking efficiency was found to be less than 15 percent.
In addition to these, carbon emission is also a concern since most of these energy sources result in emission of greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere.
Thus, bio-energy in the form of bio-fuels can resolve these issues making it an ideal sustainable renewable energy source for Bangladesh which would also be both eco-friendly and healthy.
Bio-energy can also relieve the fiscal burdens of the nation arising from oil imports by the quick rentals companies to generate power which in turn would ensure greater investments in relatively more productive sectors spawning higher rates of economic growth.
Furthermore, bio-energy in the form of bio-gas can also match the country’s overall electricity demand providing electrification in those rural areas that are yet to be brought under the national grid.
In the early 1980’s bio-mass dominated energy requirement in Bangladesh and contributed to more than 55% of the entire energy requirement of the country. It is to be mentioned that the contribution of bio-mass has significantly decreased with the increase in commercial energy use employing other energy sources.
In 2015, Bangladesh’s primary energy consumption is estimated 62% natural gas, 12% traditional bio-mass and waste, 21% oil, 2.5% coal, and 2.5% hydropower and solar. Despite such a sharp fall in overall energy contribution, bio-mass still is the principal source of energy for the rural population and comprise almost one-sixth of the total primary energy consumption in Bangladesh.
However, given the country’s vast availability of bio-energy resources, it is ideal for Bangladesh to contribute more to the total energy supply within the economy.
In Bangladesh, biomass is used for both energy and non-energy purposes. It is extensively utilised in rural areas as a fuel source primarily used for cooking and heating. The traditional biomass sources include agricultural residue (rice husks, rice and jute stalks, sugarcane bagasse, etc.), animal waste (mainly dried form, but some biogas plants, too), scrub wood and fire wood.
These renewable bio-mass resources are considered to have significant potential to meet the energy demand, especially in the rural areas. Many commercial and industrial entities also employ bio-mass as an input.
In addition, bio-mass are even used as animal feed, rural house building material, wood for furniture making and as for producing fertiliser. The country wide pattern of utilisation of bio-mass for energy varies from one region of the nation to another and is also harnessed to differences in income groups of households, family sizes, land ownerships, and educational status.
Although Bangladesh demonstrated some progress to achieve macroeconomic stability, sustaining annual growth rate of 6.34 % since 2011, it continues to face challenges in the form energy crisis, notably a deficit in electricity supply.
One of the many reasons behind this gap is the fact that addition in installed capacity is not matched in terms of proportional increase in electricity generation as some plants may remain out of operation due to acute energy shortages.
Almost 62.5 % of total electricity production in Bangladesh is fueled by natural gas and such heavy dependence on natural gas is ominous for the nation since its natural gas reserve, at the current rate of exploration and consumption, is expected to be exhausted by 2031.
In order to somewhat relieve the pressure on natural gas imported oils were used as a replacement fuel to generate electricity but such an action led to fiscal burdens. The next best option, coal, could not be solve the energy crisis instantly due to various problems like carbon emissions, high expense costs and inadequate expertise in coal extraction.
Thus, in quest for meeting domestic electricity demand Bangladesh can look to at its indigenous bio-mass reserves using bio-energy as a renewable input for large scale commercial electricity generation.
It is acknowledged that bio-energy is environmentally safe in the sense that combustion of biomass to produce biogas, if executed in a protected environment, does not lead to emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Therefore, the challenge that remains is to successfully transfer the bio-energy into industrial heating and/or electricity production.
Apart from industrial uses, bio-energy can also be used for municipal use especially in the rural areas relieving people from the burden of waste disposal and sanitation problems. Moreover, bio-gas can be used to generate electricity that can be used to run waste management plants.
Another possible use of bio-energy can be in the household sector where bio-gas can be directly used for cooking and heating purposes which would induce domestic savings from the associated costs otherwise.
In addition to these, bio-energy can be extremely helpful for farmers who no longer have to rely on the expensive diesel and kerosene to run irrigation pumps and lighten houses, using bio-gas as a substitute to these fuels.
Finally, solid bio-mass can be converted in compressed natural gas that can be employed to run vehicles whereby the import bills, arising from petroleum imports, could be reduced to a huge extent.
Although bio-energy contributes to a nominal portion of entire world demand for energy, there are some developing countries that have used bio-mass as their principle source of energy. For example, bio-mass is the prime source of energy in Malawi.
It is responsible for 97 percent of total energy supply within Malawi. Moreover, 88.5 percent of the country’s entire energy requirement is met by bio-energy resources. Similarly, bio-mass accounts for about 68 percent of Kenya’s local energy demands and it is expected to remain the main source of energy in future.
Hence, it is recommended that Bangladesh should follow these countries and focus on making best use of its bio-energy generation potentials which would complement the other renewable and non-renewable energy sources already in use.
Dr Sakib Bin Amin is an Assistant Professor at the School of Business and Economics at North South University.
Muntasir Murshed is a BS Graduate in the field of Economics from North South University, Bangladesh.