Solar power would cost up to 17 US cents per unit in Bangladesh against the prices ranging between 2.4 and 10 cents in other countries.
The country’s average cost of power generation is now stands at 6.88 cents or Tk 5.5 per kilowatt-hour or unit, said officials.
The Power Development Board signed power purchase agreements with three private companies – Southern Solar Power Limited, HDFC SinPower Ltd and HDISUN-Power Point & Haor Bangla-Korea Green Energy Ltd – between February 2016 and January 2017 to buy solar electricity at 17 cents (Tk 13.6) per unit for 20 years.
The latest contract the power board signed with Jules Power Limited on February 9, however, fixed the price at 13.9 cents per unit.
The four solar parks with a combined capacity of 302MW are expected to start supplying electricity from 2018.
Besides, 52 more proposals for supplying electricity at prices ranging from 12.5 cents and 17 cents from solar parks with a combined capacity of 5,628MW are under the government’s consideration, according to power division data updated until April.
The government planned to install renewable energy-based power plants with more than 2,000MW combined capacity, 10 per cent of the national power generation capacity, by 2020, according to government plan announced in 2015.
The large-scale solar projects are awarded or set to be awarded under the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provisions) Act 2010 that indemnifies officials concerned against any prosecution for awarding contracts without competitive bidding, power division officials said.
They said that solar parks would supply electricity to the national grid for five hours and a half a day on an average.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh energy adviser M Shamsul Alam, also an electrical engineer, said that the government was facilitating profiteering by vested quarters which would ultimately burden people with frequent power price hikes.
‘Similar business opportunities were created for solar home systems,’ he said, adding that the government was harming the country’s renewable energy market allowing some private companies to set up solar parks to sell electricity to the power board at exorbitantly high prices.
Public and private sector companies have so far installed about five million units of solar home systems and seven solar mini-grids to supply electricity to the people living in the country’s remote areas, said officials.
People spend Tk 50 to Tk 80 for each unit of electricity from the solar home systems, they said, adding that the electricity from solar mini-grid cost more than Tk 30 per unit.
Net output of a solar home system decreases due to lack of servicing and maintenance in the remote areas increasing the cost of electricity, a power board official said.
In a report prepared in April, the power division cited examples of 16 different countries of which only two countries — Indonesia and Uganda — signed contracts to pay higher prices for solar electricity than Bangladesh.
The report shows that Indonesia would pay 18.4 cents for each unit of solar electricity while Uganda would pay 16.3 cents.
For each unit of solar power, the United Arab Emirates would pay 2.4 cents, Chile 2.9 cents, Mexico 3.6 cents, India 4.4 cents, Peru 4.8 cents, Argentina 5.9 cents, Zambia 6 cents, Jordan 6.1 cents, South Africa 6.4 cents, Brazil and Jamaica 8.5 cents, El Salvador 10.2 cents, Guatemala 11 cents and Nigeria would pay 11.5 cents.
Power board chairman Khaled Mahmud told New Age on Tuesday that other countries could sign the contracts to purchase electricity at cheaper prices as they provided the companies with developed land and power evacuation facilities.
He said that the solar radiation rate in Bangladesh was comparatively lower than other countries which enabled them to generate power more than Bangladesh.
Solar radiation is electromagnetic radiation with wavelength between 0.25 micro metres and 4.5 micro metres, higher presence of which helps increased generation of electricity from solar energy, said experts.
Khaled said that they had a target to generate 10 per cent of electricity from renewable sources in the next three years.
It is not possible to attain the target if the power board and the other generation utilities do not go for large scale solar power projects as other renewable sources are yet to be explored for immediate development, he added.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country