The government needs to invest heavily in renewable energy first for instilling confidence in private investors to put their money in the new sector to help the country meet its climate goals by 2050, speakers said at a roundtable.
The government wants to cut carbon emission by 29% compared to that of 2010, but the ongoing reliance on fossil fuel-based energy made it difficult to achieve, they added.
The Business Standard and the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED) jointly organised the event titled 'The Integrated Energy and Power Master Plan: What should be considered for a just transition' on Saturday in the capital.
"Government has allocated only 2% of the energy investment for renewable energy under its Annual Development Programme over the past decade, while the lion's share of the investment went to fossil fuel-based power projects," Hasan Mehedi, member secretary at the BWGED, said while presenting the keynote.
"This is why the upcoming Integrated Energy and Power Master Plan (IEPMP) should focus on how to increase investment in renewable energy to meet the target of zero carbon-based economy by 2050," he said.
He suggested increasing energy efficiency at existing power plants, making coal and loss-incurring fossil fuel-based plants renewable, setting up new smart grids and taking an effective plan for hundred per cent renewable energy by 2050.
Currently, out of the country's 25,235MW electricity generation capacity, only 2.8% can be produced from renewable sources.
In the panel discussion, local think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue's Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said the authorities needed to change the mindset of giving cheaper energy by using fossil fuel.
"Authorities should not give high emphasis on the power supply at subsidised rates as cheaper fossil fuel-based energy supply hampers renewable energy generation growth," said Moazzem.
On the target and period of the master plan, he said instead of long term plan projection, the government should make plans for a shorter period step by step.
"We are urging the government to make a plan up to 2030 instead of 2050 because the technology is changing rapidly," he further added.
Anu Muhammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University said that the government should consider the cost of environmental, health, and ecological damages occurred by the fossil fuel projects in the upcoming master plan which was not taken into account in the previous plans.
"Bangladesh was in a favourable position to ensure net-zero carbon emission, but the country fell in trouble to implement Indian and Chinese fossil fuel-based projects ignoring public opinion,' he said
He further added that the land was not a problem anymore as more sophisticated technology is coming day by day.
Mohammad Hossain, director general at the Power Cell of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, however, said that the power division had to take the fossil fuel-based plants to meet the electricity demand on an immediate basis.
On the Indian and Chinese investment, Hossain said, "Where should we go? As there was not enough local investment, we had to allow them (foreign power projects)."
BD Rahmatullah, former director-general of the Power Cell said renewable energy is not avoidable to save the country because renewable energy is affordable and sustainable.
The discussion was chaired and moderated by Sharier Khan, executive editor of The Business Standard.
Among others, Dipal Chandra Barua, president at the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA): Shamsul Huda, executive director of the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD); Dr Kazi Maruful Islam, professor at the Department of Development Studies at Dhaka University; and Qazi Zahed Iqbal, a lawyer at the Supreme Court spoke at the programme.