Akash Solar MD addresses Daily Star forum on Alternate Energy in Bangladesh

Saifur Rahman, director of Advanced Research Institute, Virginia Tech, speaks at The Daily Star Leadership Colloquium on Alternative Energy and New Technology yesterday. Seated from left to right, Mohammad Farooque, Debapriya Bhattacharya, Mehdi Anwar and Ahmed Badruzzaman. Photo: STAR

Energy experts have suggested Bangladesh could exploit an array of solutions including the use of new technologies and alternative renewable resources to maintain its gas reserve and ensure long-term energy security.

The country should utilise its coal resources in a way that benefits the people.

The observations came from a foreign and five non-resident Bangladeshi experts at the first-ever The Daily Star Leadership Colloquium on Alternative Energy and New Technology yesterday.

Bangladesh must conduct comprehensive cost-benefit studies to minimise social and environmental costs to achieve the goal. But such studies have not been carried out in Bangladesh, they said.

Reflecting the global trend, they made presentations on how Bangladesh could meet a large portion of its energy demands using solar, biomass, wind power, fuel cell technologies.

The experts said it would be more practical for Bangladesh to go for small-scale nuclear power plants instead of large ones that are costlier.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, moderated the colloquium at The Daily Star auditorium in the capital. The programme was sponsored by Summit, Bank Asia and Citi.

Dr Saifur Rahman, director of the Advanced Research Institute, Virginia Tech; Mohammad Farooque, senior vice-president of Fuel Cell Energy (FCE) Inc, USA; Dr Mehdi Anwar, professor at electrical and computer engineering department, University of Connecticut; and Ahmed Badruzzaman of Chevron Energy Technology Co spoke.

Dr Shams Siddiqi from California and Dr Avni Argun from Massachusetts Institute of Technology addressed the colloquium through video conferencing.

“Energy solution is a combination of all solutions. It is a combination of policy and pricing,” said Dr Mehdi Anwar, professor at electrical and computer engineering department, University of Connecticut.

Speaking on “Energy Challenges for Bangladesh — A Roadmap for Sustainable Energy Solutions”, he said Bangladesh aims to have a power generation capacity of 14,000megawatt by 2020. This requires generating 1,000MW a year for the next nine years.

He said new and alternative energy sources and technologies are the answers. Large-scale solar plants are still too expensive, but small-scale local application is affordable in the context of Bangladesh.

Dr Mehdi Anwar said Bangladesh could opt for biomass, which is relatively inexpensive. Rice husks could be a good source of biomass.

He recommended that Bangladesh should go for short and long-term sustainable energy, water solutions and adaptive fuel switching, so that it does not have to depend on any particular source of energy.

The expert suggested partnership between the private sector, academia and the government to form ideas for energy generation.

“However, great technology is not the solution if it is not cost-effective,” Anwar said.

On “Fossil Fuels Conservation by High Efficiency Power Generation and Utilisation”, Mohammad Farooque, senior vice-president and discipline fellow of FuelCell Energy Inc, USA, said it is imperative to develop alternative energy resources and conserve the existing ones efficiently as energy reserves are depleting fast.

He said Bangladesh could try efficient technologies such as fuel cells developed from chemical energy stored in fossil fuels.

“But its cost is a key question,” he said.

Fuel cell technologies, which have emerged as viable options for power generation, can ensure green power generation as well as conservation of water sources and saving of fuel up to 30 percent.

Planners in USA, Europe and Asia now strongly favour these technologies. Fuel cell solutions are available for applications — from sub-kilowatt mobile to multi-megawatt grid-support — in Japan, South Korea and USA, Farooque said.

Energy demand will grow and eventually threaten to exceed the supply in foreseeable future. Fuel conservation is a must to ensure energy security and lessen economic impacts of high energy costs, he noted.

On solar, wind and biomass technologies, Prof Saifur Rahman, director of the Advanced Research Institute, Virginia Tech, said many countries in Asia, Europe and North America had gone for wind and solar power to meet their increasing energy demands.

He said present global electricity generation from wind exceeds 150,000MW and countries like Germany, USA, Spain, China and India produce 10,000MW each from wind.

Even an oil rich nation like Kuwait aimed to meet a large part of its energy demands from renewable energy fearing its oil resources might not be enough to meet its domestic demand after 2020, the expert said.

Renewable energy sources can meet the demand for electricity in remote areas as well as large power plants, said Prof Saifur adding sources like the sun, wind, biogas and water extend the scope of using electricity by the disadvantaged.

“For Bangladesh, it’s a question of survival,” he said referring to the country’s energy issue.

In Bangladesh there are opportunities to install renewable energy solutions on rooftops in villages, develop multifamily solar panels, solar water pumping, localised grouping of electricity generation and photovoltaic power generation for national grid.

Dr Ahmed Badruzzaman, an energy scientist for Chevron Energy Technology Co, suggested better utilisation of natural gas, oil, nuclear and coal resources using the latest technology in Bangladesh.

He said the requirement of gas between 2004 and 2030 for a 7.1 percent growth was estimated at 35 TCF.

According to some estimates, an addition of up to 87 TCF including that from the offshore is possible using advanced technology.

He said the coal reserve in the country will be difficult to extract and use without assessing environmental and social impacts.

Besides, large-scale addition to hydroelectric capacity is unfeasible. Current nuclear plants, though they promise a low carbon footprint, can be expensive and risky to introduce in a densely populated country with limited safety, Badruzzaman said.

Even with the rapid growth in production of solar electricity, which is expected to reach 50 MW by 2012, it will be a mere fraction of the 8,500 MW the government anticipates generating by 2013, he said.

Bangladesh in the near future will have to rely on the merger of conventional energy sources — marketed and traditional — while it strives for renewable sources, the physicist said.

He said advanced exploration technologies could allow access to new oil-gas reservoirs that are complex, remote or located in ecologically sensitive areas.

CNG can facilitate transport of gas over large distances reducing the need for gas pipelines in a country crisscrossed by rivers or an expensive LNG infrastructure, Badruzzaman said.

Rapidly advancing small modular reactors would be more suitable for Bangladesh, both in terms of safety and economics, the expert noted.

From California, Dr Shams Siddiqi spoke about deregulated electricity market.

He suggested Bangladesh let gas prices reflect global trend, otherwise any renewable energy project would be disadvantaged due to subsidised natural gas and electricity prices.

“We need to introduce tax incentives to encourage renewable projects.”

Siddiqi also said Bangladesh must have premium electricity buy-back prices for electricity generated from renewable sources.

From MIT, Dr Avni Argun spoke on Highly Conductive Nanoassemblies for Clean and Sustainable Energy. Argun highlighted the commercialisation of alternative energy.

“Policy is important, of course. Renewable energy should be able to penetrate the free market. Long-term subsidisation and fundamental research are also important,” he said.

The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said the newspaper organised the event to create a platform where NRB experts, national policymakers and private sector can share ideas and find solutions for various development issues of the nation.

The first colloquium focuses on alternative energy and new technologies because the energy crisis is a major issue for Bangladesh, he said. The Daily Star intends to hold a colloquium on different subjects every year.

He said ideas are generated and then fizzle out, but this colloquium is not a one-shot affair for The Daily Star.

“You have a constant partner in The Daily Star to push things forward,” he said to the audience in the afternoon session. “Partner with us, intellectually.”

“From now, The Daily Star will provide special space for energy efficiency,” Mahfuz Anam said.

08 Jan 2011 | The Daily Star (Bangladesh) | http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=169196

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