Affordable clean energy for LDC – lessons from Bangladesh

Last June 5 to 10, 2014, Psychology Volunteers on Bikes External Relations Officer Monica Manluluyo attended the 2014 International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability. The 6-day conference was held in Tongji University, Shanghai, China where experts on environment, energy, urban development and economy discussed regional and global ecological civilization and green development in the new age together with participants around the world.

Mohammad Asraful Alam is a Doctor of Philosophy Research Fellow at Dalian University of Technology and the co-founder of the Bangladeshi Junior Academy of Science. During the 2014 ISCES: Symposium on Energy Transition and Climate Change held last June 5, 2014 at Tongji University, Shanghai, China where he was an awardee of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) scholarship, he discussed about Affordable clean energy for LDC – lessons from Bangladesh.

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Least Developed Countries have no access to electricity and modern fuel. In Bangladesh, only 62% of the population has access to electricity, and in the rural areas, only 22% has. Furthermore, climate change has brought about extremities – floods in the rainy season and droughts in the summer.

A fast developing country with an aim of reaching a “middle income” state by the next decade, Bangladesh needs to sustain and enhance their energy supply. The import of fossil fuel is draining their finances, and the depletion of global crude oil is causing inflation in oil prices. The natural gas reserves of the country are also rapidly depleting, leading to the curtailing of electricity generation. According to Alam, “On average, Bangladesh imports about 3.9 million tons of petrochemicals yearly, of which diesel accounts for 2.3 million tons costing around $570 million. The Bangladesh tea industry consumes about 0.14% of this volume, which is approximately 3,220 tons.”

However, Bangladesh has been making steps towards using renewable sources of energy, and solar energy has been gaining some ground. There have also been attempts in wind and bio-fuel, but the project on wind energy is still in its infancy. Bio-fuel, on the other hand, is one of the promising options. “Jatropha Carcus”is a good source of bio-fuel whose seeds require only a simple and economical method of extracting diesel to substitute fossil diesel.

There is approximately 8,600 ha of land available for Jatropha cultivation in the tea estates of Bangladesh, and even then, Jatropha may be cultivated in lands which are less productive, unsuitable for tea and has no irrigation facilities. Jatropha leaves may also be used for tea, and with favourable weather conditions, demand in the tea industry and a big number of available land, its cultivation for bio-fuel is a very viable proposition. This would save the tea sector over $120 million dollars, and the government of Bangladesh has made the appropriate policies.

With their continuing activities on renewable energy, Bangladesh aims to increase their share of RE, invest in energy, involve all the stakeholders, create strong global partnerships and form an enabling policy and regulatory framework.