State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, tells the Daily ObserverAnaet Shawon
The State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, has said Bangladesh may face a new challenge with the disposal of used solar panel batteries but is yet to take any plan for dumping such hazardous and corrosive item.
In an exclusive interview with the daily Observer on Friday Hamid said, "We need to take appropriate action plans on priority basis to cope with the situation, otherwise, it will eat up the fruits of all of our efforts to keep our environment safe and sound."
He mentioned that batteries are already in use to store solar power in 4.4 million houses in rural areas while 80,000 solar panels are being provided to the people per month on subsidy from the government.
These batteries are very much hazardous to health and harmful for the soil and environment. But the government and aids organisations are yet to take waste management plan for used batteries. It may be mentioned here that usually a battery can give service for 5 to 7 years only.
Following is the excerpts of the interview taken by this correspondent:
Observer: What plans you have taken up to expand solar based electricity?
Nasrul Hamid: We have decided to give priority to local resources like coal to solve the problem of primary energy. Basically, solar based energy is very much expensive for the middle income country like Bangladesh. The countries having high per capita income can afford clean energy. Its maintenance cost and capital cost is huge. But we have started to think how it can be popular among the people through giving incentives. We have already built 4.4 million solar homes in our country which is the highest in the world.
We will talk to the aid organisations to think about recycling process of solar panels and its batteries.
On the other hand, a small country like Bangladesh cannot set up solar based power plants as it needs more land than the other power stations. Such as, for a 100 MW solar based power plant needs 300 acres of land but for such a gas or oil based power plant it needs only 10 to 20 acres of land.
Observer: What about clean energy?
Nasrul Hamid: We have taken many plans to popularise clean energy like production of energy from wind. In this regards wind mapping started last year to check its feasibility. The outcome of the mapping will come this year. Generally, it needs at least two years to complete such a survey.
Observer: What about your idea on much-talked about coal-based power plants?
Nasrul Hamid: We have set up plants to mine our own coal for local use. We have started mining coal as fast as possible. It is one of the priority areas of working in our election manifesto.
It may be mentioned here that the Awami League has achieved success more than what it pledged for the last six years. I am optimistic that we will be able to reach our goal that we set up for 2030 through facing all challenges.
Observer: Do you think the country should go for mega power plants instead of smaller ones?
Nasrul Hamid: Yes, we have a plan to shut down small (less than 100MW) power plants soon and keep eyes on mega plants though we have no experience to deal with such plants but we will train people for the job.
Observer: What steps are you going to take to stop pilferage of power?
Nasrul Hamid: The government has taken various programmes since 2009 to contain illegal power use, pilferage and system loss. The system loss is now reduced to an acceptable level. The programmes include aged-old electricity line repair and replacement, installing new lines and substations, changing the overloaded transformer and capacity enhancement, construction of new substations and capacity enhancement of the overloaded substations and disconnecting illegal lines.
Observer: What is your explanation regarding subscribers' allegation of tempering of electric meters?
Nasrul Hamid: The government has taken programmes to replace the analogue meters with the digital and prepaid ones, introduction of automatic meter reading (AMR) and target-based KPI system, conducting surprise drives by mobile courts to check power pilferage and establishing accountability and transparency in power purchase and selling.
Observer: Environmentalists are still opposed to Rampal project. Are you hoping for a timely implementation of the project?
Nasrul Hamid: Look, the opposition by environmentalists is there everywhere and we will have to
move with it. We will complete Rampal plant considering the environmental issues. I think, the environmentalists should cooperate with the government in implementing the project.