An alternative energy future for Bangladesh

Off the coast of Bangladesh sits the small island of Manpura. Shaped like a banana when viewed from above, this will be the country’s first “green island” powered by only renewable energy.

Dreamt up by the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority, as part of a larger initiative to provide renewable energy to 250 other hard-to-reach places, Manpura will be powered by a mix of solar, wind and biogas.

“We want to make it a green island,” explained Siddique Zobair from the energy authority. “This is part of the plan to ensure electricity to all by 2021.”

While it is great that the country is investing in renewable energy, if you look at the overall picture, the nation’s main energy source in a few years will be coal.

And that is a problem. Because burning coal means greenhouse gases, and that means climate change. And as everyone knows, Bangladesh is at risk of climate change.

Now renewable energy is still part of the government’s plan, but it’s a little unclear to what extent.

The renewable energy policy from 2008 sets the goal at ten percent renewable energy by 2020, whereas the power master plan from 2016 has the goal at three percent for 2021. Not to mention, last year, Bangladesh along with other climate vulnerable countries at the UN climate talks committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Within the current paradigm of development, which believes every citizen’s access to grid electricity is fundamental to the country’s ability to develop and grow its economy, an overhaul to renewable energy is unlikely any time soon.

But there might be another way for the country to have a clean energy revolution—it would just require some rethinking of our chosen development pathway.

 

Coal, coal

Currently, we rely on natural gas for most of our country’s energy needs. Yet as the supply of easily accessible natural gas runs out, we have decided to turn to coal.

Over the next few years, the government is planning to build at least a…

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