ENERGY CRISIS

Can skills development minimise energy deficit?

Published: 21:55, Feb 02,2017

 
 

Higher educational institutions could design and launch academic course related to energy economics, energy engineering produce energy expertise in Bangladesh. If such academic courses are made available for students and skills are developed, it is possible to reduce reliance on foreign expertise, write Sakib B Amin, Muntasir Murshed and Fatema T Jannat

THE supply of energy is believed to be the utmost imperative mechanism to achieve a global transition towards more equitable and sustainable world. Enhancing access to the green and affordable energy services is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, ensuring sustained supplies of energy in various forms is central to the socio-economic development of all underdeveloped countries.
Energy crisis is one of the major problems in Bangladesh since its independence. It is becoming more acute as the difference between demand and production of energy is increasing with time. Moreover, energy security as well as economic stability in Bangladesh is threatened by spiralling population growth, scarcity of fossil fuel resources, high frequency of climatic events and decision making processes that often lack transparency. In addition, lack of skilled energy personnel operating in the energy sector is one of the most important factors attributing to this energy insecurity.
Energy security is indeed a dynamic concept. A developing country consumes a very low amount of energy per capita, given its low level of socio-economic and technological development. It is therefore, essential to take effective steps to ensure necessary energy supplies and their proper distribution to all citizens in the country.
Lack of technical expertise is definitely a factor limiting energy generation in Bangladesh. Despite having the naturally endowed reserves, such technical incompetence has resulted in those resources remain unused. Bangladesh is a country with substantial natural gas reserves which provide more than two-thirds of the nation’s commercial fossil fuel supply. Even though Bangladesh has these natural gas reserves and recently discovered coal resources, efficient use of these resources is limited due to lack of exploitation and distribution facilities.
The per capita production of commercial energy in the country has increased since 2010; however, it still remains as one of the lowest in the world. Bangladesh will, most likely be requiring to triple that amount of current energy generation to achieve its target of becoming a middle income country by 2021. In addition to reducing wasteful energy consumption, recruitment of skilled labour in the energy sector is a fundamental step towards achieving energy security.
Bangladesh has also been lagging behind in capitalising on its human resource. Due to lack of quality education and training, there is a limited pool of skilled workers in the energy sector. There is very little progress in the number of new recruits in the sector. Those who are recruited are not adequately proficient in science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills. As a matter of fact, Bangladesh traditionally had to rely on foreign expertise to handle its energy sector. At present the technical inefficiency along with lack of skilled and trained human resources seems to have aggravated. Sometimes, the import of expertise is so expensive that it becomes a fiscal burden for the government. Although the indigenous energy reserves are declining, it is believed that Bangladesh still has enormous quantity energy reserves that are yet to be unearthed. It is mainly because of lack of expertise in making new discoveries and inability to execute exploration of existing ones. For instance, according to a report by Natural Gas Asia, it was expected that at the current usage rate and provided no new reserves are discovered, the natural gas reserve in Bangladesh will be exhausted by 2031. Thus skills development to create technologically adept manpower to work in the energy sector is extremely important.
A major barrier constraining skills development in Bangladesh is lack of interest and incentives to invest in vocational training programs. Employers often report that it is difficult to attract new entrants to work in the energy sector since the benefits from engagement in this sector seems to be less lucrative than a potential job in other sectors. This is further aggravated by the fact that investment in energy sector is a neglected phenomenon in Bangladesh.
It is assumed energy diversification is one of the utmost imperative tools to counter energy insufficiency. More appropriately, a transition from use of traditional fossil fuels to greater use of renewable energy is considered to be extremely important in increasing energy supplies. However, lack of skills development tends to hamper this transition. To produce power using renewable sources is subject to modern technological application. Empirical studies have concluded that renewable energy market penetration is capable of creating more than 6.5 million jobs.
The government is developing human resources and acknowledged the role of strategic leadership and skills development in achieving the sustainable development goals. The minister for the power, energy and mineral resources ministry has emphasised the role of private universities in this regard. The higher educational institutions could design and launch academic course related to energy economics, energy engineering produce energy expertise in Bangladesh. If such academic programmes are made available for students, and skills are developed it is possible to reduce dependence on foreign expertise. The government should also reallocate its public fund from energy subsidies to skills development programmes. This reallocation is justified because energy-subsidisation triggers inefficient and wasteful use of energy leading to energy deficit. It is a crucial time to take the issue of skills development in energy sector more seriously in Bangladesh.

Sakib B Amin, Muntasir Murshed and Fatema T Jannat work at North South University.

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