Green News

Bangladesh bets on coal to meet rising energy demand

On 1 February, Bangladesh’s energy minister Nasrul Hamid gave a speech outlining the government’s plan to massively expand energy production through coal.

He spoke about a slew of mega projects being built with the assistance of China, Japan and India, but said little about Bangladesh’s failure to expand its renewable energy sector.

Bangladesh is betting on coal to support its fast growing economy, even as other countries in Asia try to shift away from the dirty fuel amid an intensifying pollution crisis. The government hopes coal use will jump from 2% to over 50% of the Bangladesh’s electricity supply by 2022, with 23,000 megawatts of new coal powered plants in the pipeline.

“In Moheshkhali [an Island of Cox’s Bazar in the Bay of Bengal], a hub is being built to produce 10,000 megawatts of electricity [from coal]... Construction of a US$ 6 billion (1,200 MW coal-fired) power plant has started in Matarbari [in the same district near the Bay of Bengal] with Japanese assistance; we will get electricity from the Matarbari plant by 2022,” Hamid told the parliament.

The minister said a 1,320 megawatt coal-fired plant was under construction in the newly built Payra seaport, with Chinese support. Another power plant, the 1,320 megawatt Rampal project in the Sundarbans, funded by India, would start to supply electricity by 2020. Protests against this power plant have been ongoing, costing a number of lives, with another set of protests happening at the end of last month.

This amount of electricity is a little more than Bangladesh’s current total installed capacity. Bangladesh has seen a swift upsurge in electricity usage. Hamid told the parliament that daily power generation capacity has grown from 3,000 megawatts in 2009 to15,500 megawatts by 2017. Currently, 80% of Bangladesh’s 160 million people have access to electricity-up from 47% in 2009.

According to the website of the Sustainable & Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) over half of Bangladesh’s electricity is currently generated from natural gas (54%) – but its gas reserves are declining and this is one of the reasons that coal is being considered. Renewable energy constitutes only 2.7% of the energy mix and coal power plants account for a paltry 1.6%. But if the minister’s plans come through, coal will account for more than half of Bangladesh’s electricity generation supply by 2022.