Coal Power Generation In Developing Countries: A Bangladesh Case Study

Numerous high-income countries are currently aiming for a socio-technical transformation toward carbon-neutrality and more sustainable energy resources. Developing countries, in contrast, seem to be rather locked in conventional fossil energy systems in order to fulfill basic societal functions: Access to reliable and affordable electricity. The study by Zaman et al. (2018) highlights this dilemmatic, unsustainable transition happening in the energy landscape of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is one of the countries that prefers the development of large-scale coal power generation in the coming decades. Bangladesh, in the one hand, is one of the Asian frontier economies following an incremental economic growth rate in the recent past; it is also endowed with a large population (163 million) having low per capita income (~ US$1,360 per year).

On the other hand, it is facing acute energy challenges, including dwindling local gas reserves, unexplored coal deposits due to difficult geological and hydrological settings, and a perennial supply-demand mismatch; the current grid electrification rate is as low as 66%. In the recent decades, Bangladesh was strongly dependent on natural gas to serve national electrification purposes, as can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Installed (on-grid and off-grid) generation capacity by fuel type in Bangladesh power generation during 2008-2016.

The recent national energy policies emphasize the implementation of large-scale coal fleets. It is estimated that coal contributes at least 35 % of the total electricity generation mix. On the one hand, such a large coal fleet will allow for cost-effective electricity generation and mitigate the prevalent energy security issues. On the other hand, this unsustainable transition sidelines not only the severity of climate change vulnerabilities Bangladesh tends to experience due to its geographical location, but also the associated long-term negative externalities that come with coal power generation.

This study, therefore, attempted to identify and assess predominating challenges and constraining factors influencing coal-based power generation in the context of Bangladesh. In a first phase, relevant context-specific factors were identified and validated by energy experts. A multi-criteria decision analysis method then was applied in a second phase to assess the relative importance of the identified factors. Table 1 represents the factors influencing coal power in Bangladesh along with their overall ranking.

Table 1: Priority ranking of factors in coal-based power generation in the context of Bangladesh.

The results reveal that factors related to socioeconomics, coal sourcing, and the environment are particularly significant. Lack of adequate legal instruments (F1), potential displacement and resettlement of affected populations in the coal mining areas (F15), low level of social acceptance (F14), related public health issues (F18, F19), and local environmental concerns (F20, F22, F24)  seem to challenge the large-scale implementation of coal power in the coming decades.

Interestingly, potential carbon emissions (F21) from coal power plants receive very low priority in the assessments undertaken by energy experts. With its low emission figure (0.39% of world’s total), it is argued that Bangladesh has the right to use coal as a cost-effective energy resource to accelerate macroeconomic development. Besides, factors related to technologies and regulatory settings (e.g., F4, F5, F12) also are considered unimportant; international cooperation on technology transfer and skills development, and continuous policy reforms could be possible explanations for such low rankings.

The findings of this study also have a number of implications for policymakers in Bangladesh. The authors suggest:

  • a detailed policy framework regarding displacement and resettlement issues,
  • responsible participation of energy companies in compensation schemes for relocation,
  • an inclusive stakeholder engagement in the decision-making process of the local coal projects,
  • political alignments for feasible coal extraction technologies,
  • government support for alternative agriculture farming,
  • and a comprehensive discourse and systematic review of environmental regulations, policies, and technological compliance issues.

However, negative externalities seem imminent with such a large-scale implementation of coal power in the coming decades. One prime concern is the path-dependency of the electricity system. Once the coal fleets have been installed, it will not be easy to phase them out again due to infrastructure investments, technology lock-ins, and established routines, rules, and practices. Moreover, implementing coal power is highly unsustainable not only with regards to CO2 emissions but also in terms of increased dependence on coal imports.

To conclude, the use of coal as an energy source might not be entirely unavoidable in Bangladesh yet; however, the issues related to the massive-scale extension of coal power call for careful and critical evaluations of the pro-coal strategies. Systematic policy learning, as well as strict regulatory enforcement, will be necessary not only to address national energy security but also to cope with Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change and mitigation efforts.

These findings are described in the article entitled A multi-criteria analysis of coal-based power generation in Bangladesh, recently published in the journal Energy Policy. This work was conducted by Rafia Zaman from Khulna University, Thomas Brudermann from the University of Graz, and S. Kumar and Nazrul Islam from the Asian Institute of Technology.

About The Author

Rafia Zarman

Rafia Zarman is in an Interdisciplinary doctoral position (under FWF-DK Klimawandel research project) at the Institute of Systems Sciences, Innovation and Sustainability Research, University of Graz, Austria. Her research interests are Electricity- Prosumers, (Sustainable) Energy Transitions, Energy Service Security and Energy Justice, Energy Governance, Energy Policy Management

Speak Your Mind!

READ THIS NEXT

Can Rotating Hot Plasma Jets In The Solar Corona Become Unstable?

Solar jets are small-scale eruptions of hot plasma flowing along vertical or slightly oblique magnetic field lines. They are ubiquitous in the solar atmosphere from the photosphere to the outer corona. Solar jets are always associated with micro-flares that transfer magnetic energy to heat and kinetic energy. The occurrence rate of jets is very high […]

Yellowstone Supervolcano May Blow Faster Than Thought

Yellowstone National Park is one of the first national parks in the United States. It is home to numerous ecosystems, species of animals, and natural sites to visit, like geysers and hot springs. It is a widely visited and nationally popular tourist site to celebrate the beauty of the natural world. It was the home […]

5 Examples Of Decomposers In The Environment

Decomposers are organisms which degrade, decay, or breakdown dead organisms, carrying out the process of decomposition. Decomposers are heterotrophic organisms, meaning that they derive their energy from organic substances, in contrast to autotrophic organisms which can generate energy from inorganic sources like sunlight. The term decomposers and detritivores are frequently used interchangeably, but there is […]

World Health Organization Says Trans Fats Should Be Eliminated From By 2023

On Monday the World Health Organization launched an initiative intended to have the governments of the world cease the use of trans fats in their food supply. Trans fats are an oil which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and other health problems, possibly contributing to millions of premature deaths. In response to the health […]

Investigating Low-load Resistance Training With Blood Flow Restriction

The KAATSU training method, now better known as blood flow restriction (BFR) training was created in 1966 by Japanese sports scientist and bodybuilder Yoshiaki Sato. This technique is characterized by restricting muscle blood flow by applying an external pressure, typically using a tourniquet/cuff system applied to the proximal section of the upper or lower limbs. […]

Using Track Vibrations To Power Railroad Devices

Riding along industrial developments, the railroad¬†carries many peoples’ lives and dreams. Various electrical devices are running constantly and anonymously, keeping rail networks operating safely, efficiently, and punctually. In the U.S. alone, the railroad network is over 183,000 miles, which accounts for more than 22% of worldwide rail length. Yet, many freight trains pull long hauls […]

Discovering The Mechanism Behind Sexual Transmission Of Filoviruses

Ebola virus and Marburg virus (MARV) are closely related filoviruses that cause severe hemorrhagic fever disease in humans and nonhuman primates and have high fatality rates. Sexual transmission of filoviruses was first reported in 1968 when MARV was identified in Germany as the first recorded filovirus. Several smaller outbreaks of filovirus disease have occurred since […]