Diesel consumption for irrigation decreased from 4.3 million tonnes in 2018 to 3.4 million tonnes last year, as the use of electricity-run and solar-powered irrigation pumps is on the rise.
According to the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC), this is a 21 percent decrease in diesel consumption in the sector compared to 2018.
At present, the country has 1.34 million diesel-run irrigation pumps, which annually consume fuel worth over $1 billion. Even a few years ago, irrigation in the country was mostly done by such pumps.
However, the government campaign for 100 percent electrification is playing a major role in decreasing the number of diesel-run pumps.
The number of electricity-run pumps has reached 240,000, which saved diesel needed to generate 1,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Bangladesh also has 1,446 solar irrigation pumps at present, which have a combined electricity generation capacity of 31MW per hour.
Although the BPC had assumed that the demand for diesel could increase to 4.6 million tonnes in 2019, the demand fell to 3.4 million tonnes.
The state-owned BPC – the only agency designated to import and distribute fuel across the country – is afraid of losing the diesel market for irrigation, said company officials.
"The demand dropped as the irrigation system has been shifting from using diesel-run pumps to electricity-run engines," Syed Mehdi Hasan, Director (Marketing) of BPC told The Business Standard.
Demand will further decrease next year as grid-connected electricity continues to reach remote areas, he anticipated.
The Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), a state-owned non-banking financial institution, has also targeted installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025. The government has made low-interest loans available to the company for this purpose.
BPC officials assume that farmers will reduce using diesel-run pumps as solar-powered irrigation is opening up a new door for low-cost crop cultivation, particularly for the Boro paddy, without requiring any fuel for a long time.
The Power Division is also focusing on installing solar pumps, not only to reduce farming costs, but also to reduce carbon emissions.
Irrigation is the second top diesel-run sector in Bangladesh, which consumes over 15 percent of the total diesel imported.
Diesel is the main fuel for the transportation sector, including railways, waterways and road vehicles – accounting for 49.40 percent of total diesel consumption in Bangladesh.