Alternative source is a must
UNDENIABLY true a nation, mired in unending crisis and courting disaster with alarming frequency and desperate to chart out a road map for progress, development and self-sufficiency, must focus its attention on two core issues: education and electricity. Steeped in a culture of ignorance and bad politics, our leaders and bureaucrats have long discarded these two primary objectives simply because of lack of vision, competence and vested interest.
Electricity is the driving force behind economic progress. There is hardly any sector or person that can do without electricity. Even the farmer in the remotest village wants electricity for irrigation purposes. In the face of acute shortage of power, the pent up resentment of the people is likely to burst into widespread protests spilling into rallies, clashes and even ransacking of public properties.
With power demand now reaching 5050 MW that will shoot up to 5400 MW in early June, against a generation capacity of 4184 MW at the maximum despite commissioning of a "spur line" to boost gas pressure in Jalalabad gas field there has been no appreciable increase in power generation.
The introduction of daylight saving scheme that is being talked about during the last few days might cut down about 250 MW as reports indicated. But that is still a conjecture only. As indications are available, PDB might get only 300 MW from 16 medium and large power plant projects initiated during the last CTG's tenure stipulated to generate 742 MW from early June. All these ominous signals give the impression that peoples' suffering will see no end in the near future
With load shedding shooting up to 1800 to 2000 MW since May. The proposal placed before the P.M by a delegation of knit wear manufacturers as reported in the newspaper for allowing immediate import of 5000 diesel generators to be installed in their factory premises with facilities of providing excess power to the national grid after meeting their needs seems to be a way out to augment the present crisis situation.
As a long term solution, people in the country lend their support to the P.M's contention for setting up coal fired power plants in the northern part of Bangladesh because of the availability of coal in that region and a power plant in Bhola as gas has been found there.
It is time now to tap the alternative and benign sources of energy. With the experiences of global energy crisis still fresh in public mind, search for renewable sources like all must conduct solar, wind and tidal wave making concerted effort to achieve self-sufficiency in power. This is especially true for Bangladesh where conventional sources of energy are scarce and gas, as the vital natural source so long touted to be a big reserve is drying up.
Without any contradiction, availability of energy in the form of electricity is very important for industrial growth, export viability and irrigation power to attain food self-sufficiency other than meeting the day-to-day needs.
Encouragingly, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, biogas, hydro, wave and tidal energy, which are inexhaustible and available in abundance throughout the year, can play a vital role in augmenting the energy crisis appreciably. The biggest facility and benefits from tapping such sources arises from the fact that they need no major maintenance, have no pollution hazard, and can be used in isolated areas.
With some pilot project launched in early 2001 by a team of experts from Buet after studying the speed and direction of the wind in coastal areas, there were indications that wind energy can be tapped fruitfully with fabrication of suitable types of wind turbines, especially during May to August when the wind speed is very high. Surveys made at that time in different coastal regions of Bangladesh showed that Kuakata had the brightest prospect of utilising wind energy with the wind speed at a constant value of 77.6 m/s.
The need for harnessing wind energy in the coastal belts of Bangladesh was greatly felt because these places remained away from the reach of national power grid. These coastal zones and offshore islands inhabited by about 33 million people offer high prospects of alleviating poverty and expanding businesses such as shrimp cultivation, fishing, pisciculture, salt production, tourism etc.
Meanwhile, conventional sources of power, like gas, available in the country continue to dry up with ever increasing exploitation and most shockingly with no further exploration effort for the last ten years. In such a critical situation, we have to look for alternative sources like wind and solar power for generation of electricity so crucially needed to achieve poverty alleviation programs and other goals. Five nations -- Germany, USA, Denmark, Spain and India -- account for 80% of the world's installed wind energy. Wind energy continues to be the fastest growing renewable energy source with worldwide wind power installed capacity reaching 14,000 MW.
In her meeting with the power and energy ministry officials on April 2 last, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned about the launching of two pilot projects, one in Noakhali for wind energy and another in Narsingdi for solar energy, initiated by the last Al government. Unhappily nobody in the country knows about the fate of those projects.
People welcome the present Al- led government's move to float tenders for Bibiyana 450 MW power plant, as well as Sirajganj and Meghnaghat power plants with 'duel fuel' as the gas crisis looms up, and import LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and 15 million pieces of CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs and distributing these for free that will save around 200 MW of power.
Any delay in implementing these projects like the previous BNP-Jamaat government will create serious resentment and mass upheaval which no government by applying brute force can contain. But along with these there must be an effort in the home front to generate electricity from indigenous renewable, benign and environment-friendly sources.
If wind or solar power does not fulfil its promise as an alternative energy source by 2020 as stipulated by this government, it will not be a failure of the technology. It will be a failure of vision on the part of the administration and society to make the necessary commitment.
In an effort to make wind energy project successful the government must allow duty-free import of wind turbines. With assistance and expertise borrowed from countries like Denmark and Germany, now leading in this technology, one can reasonably hope that our scientists and engineers would be able to achieve a breakthrough soon enough in tapping wind energy for both grid power and stand alone system.
Md. Asadullah Khan is a former teacher of physics and Controller of Examinations, BUET. E-mail : [email protected]