When the rest of the world is switching over to renewable energy, Bangladesh is pushing ahead with building a dirty coal-fired power plant right next to the Sundarbans, endangering a fragile ecosystem that protects the delta from water salinisation and storms, experts said on Friday.
The $2 billion cost of building the Rampal power plant will rise to $5 billion after river dredging and for subsiding coal, the experts added.
The cost will also be affected by the price of coal; for instance, to produce one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity at Rampal power plant, the government has to spend $80-90.
“This is too expensive and impractical for Bangladesh and India to keep the power plant up and running,” said Tim Buckley, director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia.
The civil society discussion titled “Science and Economics of Coal-Based Power Plants in Bangladesh including the Rampal plant near the Sundarbans: A Strategic Review” was organised by National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans (NCSS) and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) in Dhaka University.
The 1,320MW coal-based power plant is going to have a terrible impact on the environment, Buckley said at the discussion.
He further said the rest of the world was moving toward renewable energy. “Countries like China, Japan, Germany and India are now focusing on renewable energy instead of coal-based power. Even the largest coal-based power producer, India, is now focusing on solar energy to reduce the cost of production and carbon emissions.
“From an environmental perspective, building the Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans is the worst decision, and coal is also very expensive.”
He opined that this money spent on the Rampal power plant could have been used for building solar panels, wind and hydropower plants.
Simon Nicholas, energy finance analyst of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), echoed Buckley’s opinion, saying:“If Bangladesh would give $3 billion subsidies to solar-based power plants, it would reap greater benefits. The cost of generating one megawatt-hour (MWh) electricity from solar panels is only $40, as opposed to the $90 from coal.
“Japan has planned to produce 50,000MWh electricity just by using solar panels on golf courses, roofs of warehouses and factories. India plans to produce 5,000MWh electricity within the next seven years by using solar panels on roofs of rail stations.
“Bangladesh too can produce thousands of MWh electricity by installing solar panels on the roof of garment factories.”
Both experts agreed that hydroelectricity was 90 times cheaper than coal.
During the discussion, Buckley said India would export low-quality coal with high fly ash content to be used at Rampal power plant.