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The Financial Express

Boosting rooftop solar power generation    

Shahiduzzaman Khan         | Published: October 14, 2017 21:22:00 | Updated: October 25, 2017 05:28:54


Boosting rooftop solar power generation      

It's a good piece of news that the first commercial project of rooftop solar power generation is expected to produce electricity in the city from June next.

According to a report, Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) has awarded contract to a private firm to buy electricity from the maiden project at Tk 9.80 per unit as part of the government's plan to generate 10 per cent electricity by 2020 in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (MDGs).

The goal no-7 of the MDGs is to ensure access to green and modern energy for the people. Under the project, the government has already finalised a national plan to generate 3,168 MW power from renewable energy sources by 2021. Out of this, about 1,000 MW of electricity is expected to come from the rooftops of buildings in Dhaka city.

The capacity of the DPDC rooftop solar project is 750 kilowatt. Matsaya Bhaban at Ramna and Shikkha Bhaban at Abdul Gani Road, Shilpakala Acedemy at Segunbaghicha are reportedly among the six government buildings, which will be brought under the project.

Under the project, the DPDC has arranged the rooftops of these buildings under a long term rent and handed over those to the sponsor to set up rooftop solar panels. Only Shilpakala Academy building is waiting to be handed over.

The contractor will implement the project on build-own-operate basis (BOO). It means the private firm will set up solar panels on the rooftop of the six buildings at its own cost and operate the plants. The DPDC will purchase electricity at Tk 9.80 per unit. Many believe that the project will be commercially viable as commercial rate of electricity tariff is almost same.

The government has, in the meantime, initiated a move to conduct a study on framing Net Metering Policy aiming to promote rooftop solar energy across the country. Users of rooftop solar power under the proposed policy can sell their unconsumed electricity to the government or adjust the bills of conventional electricity use through an exchange arrangement.

This means an user of rooftop solar panel can sell his extra or unused electricity to the government when he/she does not consume power from solar panel. Net Energy Metering (NEM) is a special billing arrangement that provides credit to customers with solar PV systems for the full retail value of the electricity their system generates.

The Power Cell recently appointed a consultant to conduct the study to determine the potentials of Net Energy Metering across the country and frame a policy as to how and at which rate the electricity trading could take place between the government and the consumers.

Analysts say large rooftops of the government office buildings, schools, garment and other factories could easily be used for rooftop solar power generation while rooftop of cold storages, textile and other mills outside the capital could be used for the same purpose.

Once the said metering policy is approved by the government, the power distribution entities will be obliged to buy electricity from their own consumers, especially the rooftop solar users. Under the present condition, if a new consumer wants to take electricity connection, he has to mandatorily install rooftop solar panel to generate a small amount of power from the rooftop plant. But due to absence of any NET metering system or policy, some consumers are allegedly installing fake solar panels only to get power connections.

The government has long been mulling to address electricity and water crises by installing solar panel and building rain water reservoir on rooftops of high-rise buildings. Through a circular to all concerned, the authorities made it mandatory for all owners of the high-rise buildings to get approval from the appropriate authorities.

The decision was taken following deterioration in power supply situation in Dhaka city and across the country. Normal life and businesses in the country are getting paralysed due to intermittent load shedding. The government was at a loss on how to generate additional electricity apropos to present demands which needs a long-term implementation period. With experts' advice, the government found solar panel installation to be an effective tool in mitigating the problem.

There is no denying that the expansion and development of local industries and agriculture are seriously hampered due to power shortage. In order to cope with the rising demand, generation of electricity through traditional method is way expensive and time-consuming too. If residents can get electricity from solar panels installed at their own buildings, pressure on power demand will somewhat ease.

Until now, many moves were taken to rejuvenate the energy sector. Traditional 'incandescent' bulbs were replaced with lower-wattage lights in an attempt to save energy. Under the initiative, the government distributed energy-efficient 15-20 watt compact fluorescent lights (CFL) free of costs among 9.0 million households.

The energy-saving lamp uses up to 75 per cent less power and lasts ten times longer. By contrast, incandescent lamps are inefficient, requiring replacement every 1,000 hours or so. Through use of energy-saving lamps, the country is saving at least 350 megawatt of electricity.

In addition to replacing normal bulbs, the government also took another initiative for setting up a nuclear power plant to meet the growing demand for electricity. The 600-1000 megawatt (MW) Rooppur nuclear plant is under construction. Nuclear power plant operation is, however, a very sensitive work and needs highly skilled manpower.

Bangladesh is undeniably relying heavily on gas to generate electricity. But this fuel source is feared to dry up soon, threatening to halt power generation across the country. Until now, consumption of renewable energy in the country is limited to people mainly in remote areas under the assistance from several public, private and non-government organisations. Currently, renewable energy contributes less than 2.0 per cent of the country's total electricity generation.

It is envisaged that by the year 2020, 10 per cent of total electricity will come from renewable resources. The number of solar system installations in the country is on the rise. Biogas plants are now popular in rural areas.

With the government's recent move to go for commercial purchase of  electricity from rooftop solar power generation in the city,  the country is likely to witness positive results on account of exploring various options to generate electricity. If such initiatives get wider expansion, people's suffering arising out of power crisis will be mitigated to some extent.

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