December 2015, No. 3 Vol. LII, Sustainable Energy

Bangladesh is a country of 147,570 km2 with a population of 159 million. The country has shown tremendous growth in recent years, and has attained an average gross domestic product growth rate of 6 per cent. Booming economic growth, rapid urbanization, and expanding industrialization and development have increased the country’s demand for electricity. It is recognized that energy is the key ingredient to alleviate poverty and to improve the socioeconomic condition of the people of Bangladesh. The vision of the Government is to make electricity available for all by 2021. In order to fulfill the vision, the Government has given topmost priority to the power sector and has prepared short-, medium- and long-term power generation plans using gas, coal, duel fuel, nuclear and renewable energy resources. Renewable energy will play a vital role in meeting the demand for electricity, especially in the off-grid areas of the country. The Government has set a target to generate 5 per cent of the total electricity supply from renewable energy resources by 2015 and 10 per cent by 2020. To achieve this goal, the Government has taken up a number of renewable energy programmes.

Present Electricity Situation

Due to the relentless efforts of the Government, commendable achievement has been made in the power sector in the recent past. The Government has been able to reduce the gap between supply and demand for electricity. Power generation capacity (including captive) has been increased from 4,942 Megawatts (MW) in 2009 to 13,883 MW in 2015. At present, 74 per cent of the population has electricity coverage and the per capita power generation has reached 371 kWh. The table below shows the power sector at a glance:



June 2015

Power Generation Capacity (including captive)

13,883 MW

Transmission Line 

9,695 circuit km

Distribution Line

341,000 km

Access to Electricity


Per Capita Power Generation

371 kWh

Nos. of consumers

17.5 million

Average System Loss



Long-Term Power Sector Planning

The Government has set a long-term target for electricity generation with the following strategies:

  • Fuel diversification
  • Development of domestic primary fuels
  • Private and joint venture participation
  • Energy efficiency improvement
  • Use of alternative energy
  • Coal as a main source of energy
  • Cross-border power trade
  • Use of nuclear energy
  • Low carbon emission
  • Construction of effective and efficient infrastructure
  • Multisector coordination

As a part of this strategy a Power System Master Plan (PSMP) was drawn up in 2010 (which is presently under revision) with the following goals:











Emphasis on Renewable Energy

  ( a ) Policies

Taking into account the country’s future energy security, the Government has given due consideration to renewable energy. To expedite the process of integration of renewable energy technology in the country, the Government approved the Renewable Energy Policy in 2008. The objectives of the policy are to harness the potential of renewable energy resources and disseminate it to the people, as well as to enable, encourage and facilitate both public and private sector investment. Apart from the Renewable Energy Policy, other acts, policies and regulations also support the promotion of renewable energy in Bangladesh.

   ( b ) Institutional Framework for Renewable Energy Development (Creation of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority)

The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) Act was passed in December 2012. The objectives of SREDA are to promote, develop and coordinate renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes in the country. SREDA will prepare short-, medium- and long-term plans to meet the targets set by the Government through its policy. It will monitor all renewable energy programmes and activities implemented by public and private entities. SREDA will innovate financing and incentive mechanisms for renewable energy projects.

Renewable Energy Resources of Bangladesh

The prospect of renewable energy in Bangladesh is bright particularly for solar. But in the immediate future, renewable energy will remain a supplement to the conventional energy production. Still renewable energy will play an important role in reaching consumers outside the national grid or in places where grid connection is delayed. Major sources of renewable energy in Bangladesh are as follows:

Solar Energy

Bangladesh, being located between 20030’ and 26045’ north latitude, has an average of 5 kWh/m2 of solar radiation falling over 300 days per annum. Daily sunlight in Bangladesh ranges from 7 to 10 hours. This abundant solar energy has a great potential in various sectors in Bangladesh, and its usage will contribute to reducing the traditional fossil fuel-based power consumption, while ensuring a green environment for future generations.

Wind Energy

Bangladesh has a 700 km coastline, and there are many islands in the Bay of Bengal. The strong south/south-westerly monsoon wind coming from the Indian Ocean can be utilized to generate electricity from wind farms. At present, several wind resource assessment programmes are ongoing in the country. However, progress in the wind energy sector in Bangladesh is not impressive.


Energy from biomass has prospects in the rural as well as urban areas. Apart from cow dung, other biomass such as wood, forest residue, municipal solid waste and poultry litter are popular sources of biomass energy.

Mini Hydro and Micro Hydro Projects

The land in Bangladesh is flat aside from some elevated areas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The gradient is not significant enough to offer the prospect for hydroelectricity except in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where the only hydropower plant (230 MW) operates in Kaptai. Some small plants can be envisaged only in this area.

Progress in the Renewable Energy Sector

Commendable progress has been made in the renewable energy sector in the last few years. At present, about 404 MW is being generated from renewable energy sources. Solar Home System (SHS) is a success story in Bangladesh. It has been hugely popular in the rural areas, especially in the off-grid regions. The below table shows the progress made so far in the renewable energy sector in Bangladesh.



Capacity (MW)

Installation of Solar Home System (3.5 million)


Installation of Rooftop PVs at Government/Semi-Government offices 


Installation of Rooftop PVs in commercial buildings and shopping malls


Installation of PVs by the consumer during new electricity connections


Installation of Wind-based power plants


Installation of Biomass-based power plants


Installation of Biogas-based power plants


Installation of Solar Irrigation (93 nos.)








Renewable Energy Development Programme

Power Generation Targets from Renewable Energy:

In line with the Government's Renewable Energy Policy targets, a plan is in place to develop at least 800 MW of power from renewable energy by 2015, as stated earlier. Expected power generation from renewable energy under public and private sector initiatives will be:





500  MW


200  MW


100 MW


800  MW


Solar Home System (SHS) Programme

Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) promotes and disseminates the Solar Home System (SHS) in remote, rural areas through its Solar Energy Programme with financial support from the World Bank, Global Environment Facility (GEF), KfW Development Bank, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank. IDCOL started the programme in January 2003 and by July 2015 it successfully financed more than 3.5 million SHSs with a capacity of about 150 MW. IDCOL aims to finance 6 million SHSs by the end of 2016.

Solar Rooftop Programme in Government and Semi-Government Offices

To meet the increasing demand of electricity, Government and Semi-Government offices have started to install rooftop solar systems to meet their light and fan loads. So far they have installed rooftop solar systems of 3 MW capacities.

Solar Irrigation

Bangladesh is predominantly an agrarian country with 7.56 million hectares of irrigable land. Plenty of water is needed for irrigation during the dry season (from January to April). About 1.42 million diesel-operated irrigation pumps are in use requiring about 1 million MT of imported diesel per year. On the other hand, the electricity demands for 0.33 million electric irrigation pumps are about 1,700 MW. In this context, the application of solar irrigation pumps has tremendous potential. A programme has been introduced by the Government to replace 18,700 diesel-based irrigation pumps with solar irrigation pumps. Under this programme about 150 MW of electricity will be generated.

Grid-Tied Solar Park

Electricity from solar mini-grids is expensive for rural people when the grids are installed under private entrepreneurship. Therefore, Government has taken up different grid-tied solar park projects with a total capacity of 793 MW. They will be implemented by Government-owned utility companies or through private entrepreneurship. These programmes are at different stages of implementation.


In Bangladesh, the majority of the population relies on biomass for cooking and heating. About 90 per cent of the energy required to meet household cooking demand comes from biomass sources. There are an estimated 30 million households in Bangladesh, the majority of which are rural. Few are aware that the toxic fumes produced by cooking can pose a serious risk to health—especially to that of women and young children. It is estimated that more than 24 million rural and nearly 6 million urban Bangladeshis are exposed to household air pollution due to solid fuel use. The pollutants released by burning solid biomass also contribute to climate change.

Households in Bangladesh generally use traditional stoves for cooking purposes. These stoves have low efficiency due to significant loss of heat and the dissipation of black smoke. Improved Cookstoves (ICSs) are traditional stoves which have been modified to provide higher thermal efficiencies and reduce emissions of pollutants. The Institute of Fuel Research and Development (IFRD) of the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) has been carrying out different pilot projects on biomass and ICS since 1973.

The Government, with the help of donor agencies, has devised a programme to popularize ICSs in rural areas. A nation-wide action plan was launched in 2013. Under different financial mechanisms, various donor agencies such as GIZ, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, the USAID Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh (CCEB) and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves are working in this sector. As of now 500,000 ICSs are in use, and the Government plans to install 30 million ICSs by 2020.

Wind Resources Mapping Programmes

Bangladesh has the potential to produce wind energy in the coastal areas and on its islands. The Government has a plan to generate electricity from wind power under public and private initiatives. However, private investors will not feel encouraged without reliable and complete bankable wind energy data. For that reason, wind resource mapping projects have been taken up by the Government.


The Government has made efforts to overcome the problems in the power sector. We firmly believe that we will be able to meet our electricity demands in a sustainable way. However, by and large, action-oriented national commitment from all stakeholders, including regulatory bodies, as well as support from development partners, are the key to success in achieving the Government’s declared vision of “Electricity for all by 2021”. Yet even with the best efforts of the Government, the entire area of Bangladesh cannot be brought under national electricity grid connectivity. Approximately 10 per cent of the remote areas will remain off the national grid. We will have to depend on renewable energy for attaining sustainable energy targets in Bangladesh.