Solar manufacturers in Bangladesh have asked for government support after being crippled by a 40-day Covid-19 industrial shutdown.
Module makers have demanded BDT5 billion ($58.9 million) worth of grants; interest-free, long-term loans; and tax incentives over the next five years to help them weather the crisis.
Industry representatives have also called for a program to drive solar rooftop installation on public buildings to be fast-tracked to generate work for solar manufacturers and installers now the government has extended the industrial shutdown until at least May 16.
“We want the assistance to minimize the financial losses the sector incurred during the shutdown and keep afloat the investment opportunity,” wrote Munawar Moin, president of the Solar Module Manufacturers Association of Bangladesh, in a letter to the Ministry of Finance and Commerce.
Moin also cited a shortage of solar panel raw materials during the Bangladeshi lockdown period. The president of the industry body said 10,000 people are employed by the industry in Bangladesh and the halt to productivity had also reduced foreign currency generated for the treasury by exports.
The Covid-19 crisis dashed hopes for the industry after it had earlier designated solar panels the nation’s product of the year, raising interest among investors.
Bangladesh has nine solar companies which, combined, can produce more than 100 MW of modules per year.
Dipal C Barua, president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, told pv magazine urgent government action was necessary.
“We have no work now,” he said. “We are even failing to pay salaries to employees during the prolonged shutdown.” The industry association president said his organization was assessing the extent of the financial damage suffered by members and would soon approach the politicians for assistance.
“There is huge potential for setting up solar rooftop panels on public buildings which can generate thousands of megawatts of electricity,” said Barua, adding: “If the government quickens and eases the procedures, we can get some jobs in this crisis moment.”
A senior official at the Ministry of Finance told pv magazine prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed had already announced BDT1 trillion worth of stimulus packages to help industrial sectors cope and recover.
“Renewables is now a government priority sector,” said the official. “They can get funds from … Incentive Package-2, which [was] formed to provide working capital to medium [-sized] enterprises.”
Bangladesh generates 629 MW of renewable energy, of which 395.17 MW comes from solar. The government aims to generate 10% of the nation’s electricity from renewables by next year.
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This article was amended on 05/05/20 to reflect “more than 100 MW per year” is the total production capacity of Bangladesh’s nine solar companies, rather than that the nation has nine manufacturers which each have an annual capacity of more than 100 MW, as previously stated.
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