20th January 2021
Dr. Sultan Ahmed

Bangladesh has achieved a lot in reducing carbon emission despite having no obligation in this regard. The power sector has already been able to cut the emission by 7-8%.  I think, we will have to ensure advanced technologies in the power value chain from generation to consumption levels, efficient use of energy and increasing renewable energy to reduce the emission. Taking all these into consideration, we will have to obtain recognition in this regard. And, based on that certified emission reduction (CER), we will have to seek funds from the international community to accelerate reduction of emission. The issues will also have to be presented clearly while updating the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to limit the global temperature rise below 20 Celsius.

Former secretary of the government Dr. Sultan Ahmed, who is also an energy and environment expert, made the observation in an exclusive interview with Energy & Power Editor Mollah Amzad Hossain.

One of the priorities of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is low carbon development. How do you see the measures and their implementation towards achieving the goal?

Bangladesh is not a carbon polluting country and it has no obligation to reduce it. But the country is under various kinds of threat due to the impact of climate change. Under the circumstances, the country has already adopted low carbon development policy and started its implementation. In fact, the Prime Minister has given highest priority to sustainable development, which is SDG-7.

As part of the low carbon development path, the PM asked the authorities concerned to formulate the upcoming Power System Master Plan (PSMP). Her government is strictly following the low carbon path from generation to distribution in successfully achieving the target to ensure power for all by 2021. She also asked for using advanced technologies to ensure pollution-free generation of power. Following this path, Bangladesh has even set up coal-based power plant at Payra, but with using ultra super critical technology that has de-sulfurization plant and low SOx burner. Similar technology is also being used in Rampal and Matarbari coal plants now under construction. Meanwhile, the old simple cycle gas based power plants are being converted into combined cycle ones to reduce pollution and increase generation efficiency. We are also importing 1,160MW of power from India. All these measures are contributing to reduce carbon nationally. Besides with a plan to generate 10% power from renewables, Bangladesh is following an energy efficiency roadmap for ensuring efficient use of energy and power. It is expected to help reduce household power consumption by 36%. The household consumption of energy and power contributes 38% of the country’s total carbon pollution.

Bangladesh is working on updating its NDC that had focused on reducing emission from transport, power, energy and industry sectors. It had no commitment to reduce pollution in the agriculture sector. To what extent the country could control the emission so far as targeted in the NDC? What issues should get priority in the updated NDC which will be submitted to the UNFCCC?

A proper progress report should be included with adequate narratives in the updated NDC. We have achieved more than that of the committed 5% - we could reduce 7-8% of emission in the power sector. So, we could set a target to reduce emission by 18% until 2030 in the updated NDC. Bangladesh is also working on finalizing a roadmap to implement the updated NDC now being formulated.

The country is working on agriculture as it is trying to go for alternative wetting and drying (AWD) of crop land instead of flooded irrigation. Out of the country’s 30 ecological zones, 11 are cluster zones. There is a scope to use AWD in 10 of the clusters. It would facilitate reduction of methane pollution without affecting production. On the other hand, massive works are going on in the transportation sector to reduce the pollution as the speed of transports would be accelerated due to metro rail, elevated expressway and Padma Bridge. Meanwhile, the government has already restricted marketing of fuel oil containing high level of sulfur content under a clean fuel master plan. The country would also go for advanced technology as far as engines are concerned.

All these issues should be highlighted in the updated NDC.

At a recent virtual discussion, you stressed on making specific where Bangladesh needs assistance to reduce GHG emission by 10% more. How it can be done?

It should be made clear that what we did so far and what we are doing now in specific sectors like transportation, power and energy sectors. For example, we have been able to generate 700MW of power from renewables against a target to bring 4,200MW. In this case, we can seek investment from the world community to generate 50% of the target. The main thing is we will have to convey that we are reducing the emission and you the world community provide us with investment.

The main problem in this case is that the financiers want to know about the capability to utilize the fund and its transparency. But it would not have been possible for Bangladesh to achieve economic growth at around 8.0% if there is lack of transparency and capability to spend money. We should directly seek unconditional investment for our emission control initiatives.

The generation cost of coal-and gas-based power went up significantly due to using advanced technologies in the process. Do you think we have the scope to demand carbon benefit?

We should demand financing based on the Certified Emission Reduction (CER) status we have achieved so far in the three sectors. At the same time, we should strengthen our lobbying capacity.

An integrated development in the generation, transmission and distribution segments must be ensured for low carbon growth of the power sector. Where do we stand in this regard?   

We will have to automate the whole power system and go for smart grid to reduce the system loss and enhance operational efficiency. It would help save use of electricity and reduce pollution.

What do you think about nuclear as the low carbon power generation option?

There is no debate that nuclear generates non-carbonized power. However, many countries, including Germany, do not agree that it is environment-friendly considering its safety risks. I had the opportunity to know that the world’s safest nuclear power plant is being set up at Rooppur as I was involved in the process of issuing NOC for the plant.


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