Special Feature

Rooftop solar project hits snag for lack of policy support

01 Jul,2016


Special Feature (Sadrul Hasan):

Lack of proper policy support in fixing tariff is hindering the move taken by two power distribution entities in Dhaka city to install rooftop solar power plants on public and private buildings, official sources said. 

The move, they said, also suffers for lack of cooperation from government authorities in using the rooftops of their buildings.

According to them, Dhaka Electric Supply Company Ltd (Desco) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) have initiated the move to install rooftop solar power plants on government and private buildings.

Desco has initially decided to set up four rooftop plants at Haji Camp in Uttara, Mirpur indoor stadium, National Institute of Eye Science & Hospital in Shre-E-Bangla Nagar and Bangladesh Institute Bank Management (BIBM) in Mirpur.

On the other hand, the DPDC has planned to set up rooftop plants at Matsaya Bhaban at Ramna and Shikkha Bhaban at Abdul Gani Road. It has already installed rooftop plants at Bangladesh Secretariat’s Cabinet Division building on a pilot basis.

But all these plants will be set up on commercial basis as part of a government’s national plan on renewable energy, said the officials.

The government has already finalised a national plan to generate 3,168 MW power from renewable energy sources by 2021. Of this, officials believe, about 1000 MW electricity can easily come from the rooftops of buildings in Dhaka city.  

But when Desco moved for installing its first 500-kilowatt capacity rooftop plant at Uttara Haji Camp, its officials found no policy guideline for fixing the tariff. The Haji Camp rooftop will be rented by Desco for the project.

Desco will set up the plant through private sector on build-own-operate (BOO) basis. The private sponsor will run it as independent power producer (IPP). That means, Desco will select a private firm through competitive bidding process which will set up the plant and sell its electricity to Desco at prices supported by the government policy guideline.

Desco senior official Mohiuddin Ahmed, who has been in-charge of renewable energy project, said his distribution company is now buying electricity from PDB at nearly Tk 6 per unit. “But if it goes to buy from a sponsor of rooftop plant, the tariff may go up to over Tk 9.”

He said Desco as a public limited company cannot afford to suffer losses while buying electricity from rooftop plants. “But if there’s any government policy-guideline or directive, then it’s easy for Desco to go for such a venture.”

Desco has already sought a directive from Power Division to settle the issue, he said adding that Desco is not getting the due cooperation in using rooftops on rental basis.

“Desco sought BIBM management’s consent through Power Division about three months ago for using its building, but there has been no response yet,” he added.               

He said Desco has planned to produce 100 kilowatt power from BIBM Building rooftop, 50 kilowatt each from Indoor Stadium and National Institute of Eye Science & Hospital.

When contacted, member of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) and joint secretary of Power Division Siddique Zobair admitted that there is no guideline for power tariff fixation.

“But we’re waiting for appeals from the distribution entities in this regard. Whenever we receive any such appeal, we’ll sit with them to give them a policy guideline in this regard,” he said adding that Sreda has been working on the issue.

He said the gap between the tariff of conventional power and solar power could be addressed through ‘capital buy-down grants’, for which Sreda has been actively working.

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