Bangladesh looks to Beijing to speed its solar ambition

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Bangladeshi power minister Nasrul Hamid has said the government has invited China to accelerate the renewable energy ambitions of the South Asian nation because private sector investors were not driving forward solar deployment fast enough.

Welcoming the decision to form a joint venture (JV) between state-owned entities from each nation which will drive 450 MW of new solar capacity and a 50 MW wind farm, Hamid said lack of local investment meant solar power projects still cost $0.10-0.13/kWh in Bangladesh despite marked falls elsewhere in the world.

Bangladesh’s highest decision-making body, the cabinet committee, on Monday approved a joint venture which will see the host nation’s North-West Power Generation Company Limited supply land for clean energy generation. Chinese engineering contractor the National Machinery Import and Export Corporation will invest an estimated $500 million in developing the planned solar and wind facilities, via the new Bangladesh-China Power Company (Pvt) Ltd Renewables entity.

It is not clear whether the JV will be established as part of China’s continent-spanning Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure program of which Bangladesh is a member but Hamid confirmed Dhaka wants at least 3 GW of solar capacity installed in the years ahead.

Initial projects

Under the terms of the JV arrangement – which was held up, in part, by the Covid-19 crisis in Bangladesh – a 60 MW solar plant, for which a feasibility study has been prepared, will be set up on 205 acres of government-owned, non-cultivated khas’ land, with the facility set to go online by next June. A feasibility study has also been prepared for a 100 MW solar project planned in the Sirajganj district. That facility is expected to begin generating by June 2022 and arrangements to lease the required land are under way.

The 50 MW wind farm has been planned near the southern port of Payra and wind mapping of the site is almost complete, with the facility expected to be operational by December 2022.

Cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told media after Monday’s cabinet committee, site selection and land acquisition for the remaining 290 MW of Chinese-funded solar capacity is also in train.

Once the JV is formally constituted, tenders for the three furthest-advanced renewables sites mentioned will be held. A M Khurshedul Alam, chief executive of the North-West Power Generation Company, told a local news site bid documents had already been prepared for the three generation assets.