Multi million Taka projects for popularising biogas energy produced virtually no results in Bangladesh due to lack of transparency in their implementation process.
Independent experts blamed the biogas plant suppliers for feeding incorrect data to show that the use of biogas energy plants increased in Bangladesh.
They said that reality was that the use of biogas plants shrank drastically due to partner organisations selling sub-standard biogas plants to mostly wrong clients.
They said that the NGOs, who were partner organisations for popularising biogas plants made huge mistakes by selecting clients who lacked the ability to use biogas plants.
Commercial biogas plant suppliers complained that they did not get financial support for biogas projects though the Bangladesh Bank and other financiers lent huge money for the manufacture and sale of biogas plants.
Many of the suppliers said that they themselves use biogas plants at their poultry and cattle farms.
Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, told New Age during an interview at his residence that the biogas plants installed across the country until now were not sustainable as they were not integrated commercially.
He said, ‘Investments mostly on small biogas plants for domestic use brought no significant results in Bangladesh.’
In the 1970s, Bangladesh was among the pioneer countries where the use of biogas for cooking became popular.
The fresh campaign for popularising the use of biogas as sustainable energy was launched after adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The campaign got a new momentum as financial support was made available for the use of biogas as an alternative to firewood and fossil fuel in keeping with the Kyoto Protocol’s stipulations.
Since 2006, over Tk 2.57 billion was invested to popularise the use of biogas in the country by the Bangladesh Bank, Infrastructure Development Company Limited, Bangladesh Climate Change Trust and the government, as key green financiers.
From fiscal 2009-10 when the Bangladesh Bank introduced a revolving fund of Tk 2 billion to refinance green initiatives until 2017-18 Tk 726.4 million was provided to commercial banks for providing loans on five per cent interest for the installation of biogas plants, said Bangladesh Bank’s Sustainable Finance Department officials.
Since 2006, government owned-IDCOL lent Tk 638. 6 million on six per cent interest and extended grants worth Tk 524.6 million for the installation of 48,183 biogas plants across the country, IDCOL’s Biogas Programme officials said.
IDCOL’s National Domestic Biogas and Manure Programme carried out the lending with support from SNV-Netherlands Development Organisation, German Development Bank (KfW) and the World Bank.
The programme was later renamed as IDCOL Biogas and Bio-Fertilizer Programme.
In December 2015, Rural Development Academy in Bogra completed implementation of a six-year project for
Poverty Alleviation Through Livestock Management and Biogas Bottling.
Under the project, RDA installed 112 large-scale biogas plants at a total expenditure of Tk 119.8 million.
About 22,000 beneficiaries of the project got loans after paying 10 per cent of the price as down payments, said Nazrul Islam Khan, project director of Poverty Alleviation Through Livestock Management and Biogas Bottling.
Though the RDA carried out no review report or survey, Nazrul, said that 70 per cent of the biogas plants were functional now.
Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research installed 29,650 biogas plants from the 1980s, said BCSIR officials.
From 2011 to 2016, the BCSIR with financial support from Bangladesh Climate Change Trust installed 7,800 biogas plants in two phases under Mitigation of Carbon Emission through Alternative Energy Usages from Dissemination of Biogas Technology project.
BCSIR chairman declined to provide any information to New Age about the location and the total cost of the biogas plants installed by BCSIR.
Bangladesh Climate Change Trust’s public relation officer Md Jane Alam told New Age that the BCCT provided Tk 193.1 million to BCSIR for installing 7,800 biogas plants.
On January 2014, the Department of Youth Development launched a four-year project for the Innovative Management of Resources for Poverty Alleviation Through Comprehensive Technology.
The government allocated Tk 378.4 million for the implementation of the project for installing at least 31,000 biogas plants in 62 upazilas of the country.
According to the last report posted on the DYD website, only two per cent progress in implementation was achieved in the 21 months since January 2014.
No further DYD reports were made public ever since.
New Age failed to contact DYD’s project director Abdul Hamid Khan as he neither took phone calls nor replied to text messages since July 11.
Bangladesh Biogas Development Foundation said that despite requests none of its 150 members were given funds for their biogas projects.
Bangladesh Biogas Development Foundation is a private think tank and association of biogas plant installers and owners.
In 2016, BBDF in collaboration with German Society for Sustainable Biogas and Bioenergy Utilization completed a study on 287 agricultural biogas plants across the country.
The study found that 37 per cent of the plants were constructed by owners’ personal funds while 50 per cent others by high interest bank loan and only 13 per cent received soft loans or subsidies.
BBDF general secretary Ekhlasul Haque said, ‘Despite the presence of so many green financiers in the market, accessing them for funds for biogas business project is almost impossible.’
Faizul Hasan a former poultry businessman from Brindabanpara, Bogra district’s Sadar upazila, said that he had installed a 50 cubic meter biogas plant 12 years back investing Tk 45,000 out of his own pocket.
Faizul Hasan said that he did not get any support from the green financing institutions despite repeated requests.
His biogas plant had to be abandoned after poultry litter supply stopped since his poultry farm was shut down following bird flu outbreak eight years ago.
According to project documents, 108,945 biogas plants were installed or financed by IDCOL, BCSIR, DYD and RDA.
But officials of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority under the power, energy and mineral resources ministry said, actually 74,000 biogas plants had been installed until now.
Independent experts expressed doubts about how many of the biogas plants were functional now.
Professor Saiful Huque, director of Institute of Energy under Dhaka University, said that less than 50 per cent of the biogas plants installed in the country were functional at present.
Except IDCOL, no other financers and biogas installers could provide any review report or user survey.
The last biogas survey by IDCOL done in 2013 shows that 18 per cent of its biogas plants became dysfunctional or partly functional due to lack of enforcement of quality standard, technical and institutional failures.
Saiful termed most of the biogas project implementation was non-transparent and the project officials lacked accountability.
Salima Zahan, member (renewable energy) of SREDA, said, ‘Sustainability of the completed biogas projects face many questions, as we have been kept in the darkness about their implementation status as no updates or periodic review reports were provided .’
She said that a biogas policy could ensure accountability of the player implementing biogas projects.