The government of Bangladesh has issued guidelines for the net metering and grid integration of solar-powered pumps but there are concerns the new rules could disincentivize adoption for farmers who may need to draw down grid power as well using the solar energy generated by the systems.
Under the new system, the owners of solar pumps which do not need to draw down grid electricity – apart from a permitted 1 kWh per month to keep certain systems functional – can remain classed as independent power producers under their existing grid integration approval.
However, a Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) official has told pv magazine irrigation system owners who expect to need to draw on grid power to boost the solar energy generated will now be required to surrender grid integration status and instead apply for net metering. Under the new rules issued by SREDA last week, net metering will enable solar pump owners to have the energy they export back to the grid offset against the electricity they consume at the same rate. However, net metered customers will be classed as electricity consumers and will face payment of a demand charge and line rent, adding an additional financial burden.
Dipal C Barua, president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, told pv magazine the lack of access to grid power for pump owners outside net metering was a shortcoming which may act as a deterrent to solar pump deployment. In neighboring India, solar pump owners can operate either under net metering or a solar-power-only basis under the Solarisation of Grid-connected Agricultural Pumps legislation.
Most of Bangladesh’s 1,702 solar pumps – which have a total generation capacity of more than 45.5 MW – are off-grid at present.
The state-owned Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), which provides low-cost loans for solar pumps, aims to install 50,000 solar devices by 2025 to displace some of the nation’s 365,000 electric irrigation pumps, which consume almost 2 GWh of grid power each summer. Around 1.34 million diesel-powered devices consume $1 billion worth of fuel per year.
Barua’s Bright Green Energy Foundation connected the nation’s first grid-connected solar pump to a 25 kW solar panel in the Mirpur sub-district of Kushtia district in southwestern Bangladesh. The device exported 6,956 kWh of electricity to the grid within nine months, and should receive $410 from the local power distribution company as a result.
“One pump owner can get over $50 per month by selling power to the grid, apart from earning by supplying water,” Barua told pv magazine.
The renewables trade body chief has suggested the availability of finance for solar pumps should be widened beyond IDCOL and said the government body preferred funding more costly, large devices; often required applicants to take out a mortgage; and took too long to issue loans. He suggested “more organisations should [offer] loans, for faster conversion” and added: “We suggest [the] setting up of small-sized pumps, which cost less and can be operated easily.”
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