Bangladesh aims for big growth in solar power

 Rural areas of Bangladesh are to see an increase in solar electricity generation as part of an ambitious plan to boost the provision of power from renewable sources.

The government has set a target of generating 500 megawatts (MW) of green energy almost ten times the current amount by 2015, in an attempt to narrow the gap between current supplies of grid electricity and the needs of the country s 160 million people.

Only 49 percent of Bangladesh s population has access to electricity from the national grid. Fossil fuels account for almost all the current capacity of 5,500 MW, with renewable sources mostly solar power contributing just 55 MW.

The government says there are environmental and developmental imperatives behind its search for alternative energy sources. Burning fossil fuel emits greenhouse gases into the air, contributing to the warming of the globe. (And) fossil fuels are depleting very quickly which is a threat to future power generation, said Tapos Kumar Roy, additional secretary of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources.

Under the plan, 340 MW of new capacity will be generated from systems installed on residential, commercial and industrial buildings, as well irrigation pumps, mini-grid systems and solar power parks.

The government believes investments totalling $2.24 billion will be required to reach its solar power target. It is seeking about $1.6 billion dollars in financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other development partners. The plan calls for the remainder to be funded by the government and the private sector.