• 3,213sq km land comprised of existing and newly accreted land will become available, 2021-2041
• Of that, 150sqkm, less than 5%, will be used to install solar power plants
• The banks of the Jamuna in Gaibandha, Jamalpur, and Sirajganj can each host 2,000MW of power generation
• 3,000MW can be generated on the banks of the Padma in Munshiganj and Rajbari
• 1,000MW can be generated on the banks of the Padma and the Jamuna in Pabna
• Bangladesh plans to generate 10% of total power from renewable sources by 2041
The banks of major rivers in Bangladesh can provide the land required to generate 15,000MW solar power by 2041, says the National Solar Energy Action Plan 2021-2041.
The plan, finalised in August 2020, says uncultivable and uninhabitable land along the banks of the major rivers and low lying river islands can be used to meet land requirements for solar power generation .
It also predicts other possibilities for solar energy generation in Bangladesh.
A total of 3,213 square kilometres of land comprising the existing and newly accreted land will become available between 2021 and 2041. Of those, 150 square kilometres, less than 5%, will be used to install solar power plants.
Some portions of stretches of land can even be considered for the deployment of a gigawatt-scale solar park.
Accreted land on the Meghna estuary in the south of the country can host 3,000MW of solar power generation while the banks of the Jamuna in Gaibandha, Jamalpur, and Sirajganj districts can each host 2,000MW of power generation.
Another 3,000MW can be generated on the banks of the mighty Padma in Munshiganj and Rajbari districts. Yet another 1,000MW can also be generated on the banks of the Padma and the Jamuna in Pabna.
Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda), said, "According to the Delta Plan 2100, fresh land will become available from river dredging. Land accretion depends on whether a project is taken on in line with the delta plan."
"The solar energy action plan says these lands have the potential to be used for setting up solar power plants. Also, if the government allows us to use these lands and takes on appropriate projects, such lands have the potential to be used for setting up solar plants like rooftops and other potential areas," he said.
Currently, 490MW of power comes from solar energy, with 143MW on-grid and 347MW off-grid. Power generation will reach 2,665MW in 2031 and 8,000MW in 2041 if no special care is taken. But 20,000MW of power could be generated if the sector receives both international support and government patronage.
If the sector is given the government attention it deserves and has reliable international financial support, power generation from solar energy will reach 30,000MW, which will be 40% of total capacity in 2041, the action plan says.
The estimated solar power will be generated from solar power hubs, rooftops, irrigation pumps, street lamps, solar charging stations, solar telecommunication towers, and other solar powered systems. According to the revised power sector master plan, Bangladesh plans to generate 10% of total power from renewable sources by 2041.
But the action plan suggests more consultation about flood problems in the river bank areas at the time of setting up solar power plants.
"Floods will not be a problem as the delta plan will control the calamity. Moreover, it is easy to raise the height of solar panels," said M Zakir Hossain Khan, senior programme manager (climate finance governance) of Transparency International Bangladesh.
"Setting up large scale solar plants on river banks has huge potential which will help in two ways. First, it will save agricultural land and reduce carbon emission of the country. Second, it will help prevent river bank encroachment," he said.
Bangladesh near the bottom of Green Future Index
The MIT Technology Review prepared the Green Future Index comprising 76 countries, including Bangladesh, in January. Bangladesh ranked 69th on the index.
The index consolidated scores given to each country across five pillars – carbon emission, energy transition, green society, clean innovation, and climate policy.
In the clean innovation category, Bangladesh ranked 73rd, and in carbon emission growth rate reduction, it ranked 71st.
The country did well in energy transition and green society, ranking 27th and 25th respectively. It is in 51st position for climate policy.
Pakistan is two steps ahead of Bangladesh on the index and secured 67th position, while India is in 21st position and is ahead of Bangladesh in all indicators, except for green society. Some poor African countries like Uganda and Nigeria are in far better positions than Bangladesh.
Speaking about Bangladesh's position on the index, Alauddin said, "I do not think we are at the bottom. Our carbon emission is less than 0.4%, which is nothing compared to India, China, and other developed countries. We are revising the Renewable Energy Policy 2008 to make it more up to date."
Zakir said Bangladesh should withdraw all tariff restrictions on solar power equipment imports.
"Different industrial units, especially garment factories, are making their own LNG-based captive power plants instead of using solar technology. The lack of opportunity to supply surplus electricity to the national grid and distributing it to the nearest small factories has forced industrialists to use fossil fuel," he said.