Access to electricity addresses symptoms of world poverty. The World Bank describes access to electricity as at the “heart of development” and the United Nations recognizes access to reliable and clean electricity as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). For Bangladesh, achieving full energy accessibility by 2022 is a major goal. However, the specific source of energy production influences the effectiveness of energy development. As a result, the implementation of renewable energy in Bangladesh could help the country reach its goal.
Bangladesh significantly increased access to electricity by utilizing non-renewable sources of energy. However, working toward Bangladesh’s energy accessibility goal through non-renewable sources alleviates certain symptoms of poverty and exacerbates others. These circumstances leave room for the growth of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Renewable energy in Bangladesh can address poverty along with the unintended consequences of non-renewable sources of energy.
The Paradox of Energy in Bangladesh
Citizens are receiving the power they need while their neighborhoods suffer from harmful pollution. Government policy allowed for substantial increases in Bangladesh’s access to reliable energy. Between 2000 and 2019, access to electricity in Bangladesh rose from 32% of its population to 92.2%. Regardless, Bangladesh’s government invested in non-renewable power stations to power its most populous settings. This means those in urban settings are gaining energy access while sacrificing their health.
Natural gas has been leading Bangladesh’s surge in energy production. Other non-renewable sources of energy in Bangladesh such as coal and diesel are responsible for producing the majority of Bangladesh’s pollutive energy. Both release harmful pollutants that can cause various health problems. These consequences disproportionately affect those living in poverty. Impoverished citizens in Bangladesh who face pollution are more subject to illness and are less likely to receive treatment for it.
Bangladesh has recently rejected coal plant plans. The move is evidence that the Bangladesh government understands the health and environmental implications of certain forms of energy. According to a 2009 report, Bangladesh could save an estimated 10,000 lives per year if it reduces air pollution in four of its largest cities. In the decade following, Bangladesh increased its energy production through pollutive means. This means energy production, a contributor to such air pollution, is responsible for the deaths of Bangladeshi citizens. Renewable energy in Bangladesh presents an opportunity for Bangladesh to address this issue.
Energy in Comparison
Investing in renewable energy in Bangladesh is a matter of scale. Despite having the world’s largest rural solar installment and investing in wind power, renewable energy in Bangladesh only accounts for 3.3% of the total energy that the country generates. Renewable energy in Bangladesh has the potential to address the remaining energy needs without the pollution of non-renewable energy. This is a major advantage of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Improvements are occurring through more than one main source of renewable energy in Bangladesh: solar and wind.
Nearly 62% of Bangladeshis live in rural areas. This is where the Bangladesh government is working to provide more energy. Solar and wind are increasing the renewable share of Bangladesh’s energy market. Starting in 2003, the Bangladeshi government began the world’s largest rural solar installment. Today, the installment provides clean and reliable power to more than 20 million rural Bangladeshi citizens. Bangladesh also approved the country’s first major wind installment in 2020. Both provide alternatives to Bangladesh’s non-renewable grid.
Solar has a major advantage over other forms of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Solar can be easier to install than fossil-fueled power plants and wind power, especially in rural areas where Bangladesh’s lack of energy currently concentrates. Natural-gas-fueled power plants require significant investment in both finances and physical location and wind installments require similar investments. One can install solar nearly anywhere. This means solar energy in Bangladesh can be effective in its rural areas where large power plants are infeasible. For these reasons, small-scale renewables are growing in popularity.
Alleviating Poverty Through Renewables in Bangladesh
Communities that have access to electricity do better. Small-scale solar installments in similar rural areas to Bangladesh, such as villages in India, give households access to other necessities. Solar energy can more reliably and safely fuel pumps that provide potable water to villages. Bangladesh’s solar installment reduced the consumption of kerosene by 4.4 million liters. In addition, the installment of small-scale solar can provide energy for refrigeration and cooking. This means providing solar energy to remote villages can be effective for the Bangladesh government to ensure electricity is provided for every citizen. The installment of small-scale renewable energy in Bangladesh can mediate two crises: poverty and energy accessibility.
Bangladesh has significantly increased its electricity access. However, past development largely left renewables out. This means renewable energy in Bangladesh can address the remaining accessibility gaps in the electric grid. Future investments in renewables provide a viable pathway for Bangladesh to sustainably develop its most impoverished communities.
– Harrison Vogt