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Prospects of Biomass as renewable energy source in Bangladesh

Author: Kishor Kumar Roy

Edited: Krista Grönlund


In both developing and industrialized countries of the world biomass is apparent as an alternative energy source, primarily because of its renewable character and potential for reducing net CO2 emissions in compare of fossil fuels. Bangladesh is one of those developing countries where biomass is used as most common and significant indigenous source of energy especially in rural areas. Bangladesh is located in the northeastern part of South Asia of which current population is about 160 million with 147,570 km2 of land area. A common characteristic of all developing nations around the world is the incompetence to match respective demand for energy supply. For instance, the use of traditional indigenous energy resources in Bangladesh is inadequate in ensuring energy sufficiency across the nation [1]. Cultivable agricultural land, forest land and urban area are the major land use type in Bangladesh. Agriculture and forestry plays an important role to alleviate the fuel need of rural people. Biomass residues such as firewood, crop and tree contributes almost 80% of energy consumption in rural areas [2].  Table 1 shows that 65% of the land area is utilized for agricultural purpose.


Table 1: Area distribution of different land use category [3]


Agricultural production as well as amount of biomass production of an area depends on different climatic factors such as temperature, rainfall, soil condition and availability of surplus land etc. In Bangladesh, the tropical monsoon climate is characterized by range of average 21.2 - 30.4°C ambient temperature with a relative humidity 78%. The average annual rain fall varies from 1200mm – 5800mm [4]. Therefore, Bangladesh has great prospects and suitable climate for biomass plants production throughout the year.


Appearance of biomass in Bangladesh

The most common biomass resources available in Bangladesh are crop residues, wood residues, animal and municipal solid waste etc. Depending on the period of collection, there are two agricultural crop residues: field residue and processing residue. Rice straw, rice husk, jute stick and sugarcane bagasse cover 46% of total biomass energy [5]. At present, countrywide there are 25,000 biogas plants and over 0.20 million ameliorate ovens have been installed to save biomass fuel. More than 900 briquetting machines have been operating in the country on commercial basis [6]. The energy content of rice chaff is approximated to be about 16 MJ/kg. The biomass plant has a heat rate of 13,648 btu/kWh. The potential results are shown in Table 2.


Table 2: Biomass Technical Potential [7]


Animal waste or manure are the mixture of organic material, moisture and ash. In rural and remote areas of Bangladesh biomass energy production and power generation using animal manure may become an effective energy and power demand solution. Organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) is another source of biomass energy. MSW is the composition of wastes which are organic and inorganic, rapidly and slowly biodegradable, fresh, hazardous and non-hazardous, generated from various sources in urban areas due to human activities [8]. MSW contains along with biomass also for example rubber, plastic, glass and metals which can not be used in this particular way of producing energy [11]. 

The government of Bangladesh has realized that Green Productivity (GP) measures such as reduction, recycling, reuse and recovery are essential elements in solid-waste management as a form of controlling the rapid growth rate of waste in the urban areas. The main sources of MSW in the country are households, commercial areas, industries and hospitals. Forest residues can also play a vital role to produce biomass energy [9]. As in terms of forest residues, using 100% recovery rate, the total amount of recoverable residues from forests and forestry industry in Bangladesh was 8.871 million tons in 2004 [10]. In a gross, the total estimated annual generation and recoverable amount of biomass in Bangladesh is about 182.22 and 108.208 million tons/year respectively. Among them agricultural residues supply 66.64% of the total recoverable biomass, which is followed by 17.53% from animal wastes and poultry droppings, 7.64% from municipal solid waste and 8.19% from forest residues [2].


Policy and Strategies to enhance the use of biomass in Bangladesh

The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has issued its Vision and Policy Statement in February 2000, to bring the entire country under electricity service by the year 2020 in phases, in line with the direction of the Article 16 of ‘The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,’ to remove the disparity in the standards of living between the urban and rural areas through rural electrification and development. In Bangladesh, electricity demand has been growing by 7.5% annually since 1990. Renewable energy sources contribute 2.97 % of the total electricity generation [7]. GoB has taken different steps to develop the renewable energy technologies. According to the Renewable Energy Policy-2009, the target is to meet the demand for 5% of total electricity using renewable energy technologies by the year 2015, 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2035 [2].

The government and private organizations are developing several projects on biomass with the support of domestic and international funds and technologies. An institution, Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Agency (SREDA), has established under the Companies Act, 1994, as a focal point for sustainable energy development and promotion, ‘sustainable energy’ comprising renewable energy and energy efficiency. To promote renewable energy in power sector, all related raw materials in producing renewable energy equipments will be exempted from charging 15% VAT. The GoB and private organizations have undertaken several activities to promote biomass technologies through using mass media, arranging training courses, organizing exhibitions and demonstrations etc. Besides these, in Bangladesh, several technical institutions and universities are engaged in research and development activities in the field of biomass energy. Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), GS, Bangladesh Agriculture University (BAU) and Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) etc. are major research institutes conducting research in the different fields of biomass energy [2].



By considering the geographic position, energy situation and environmental concern, biomass can be a potential source of electricity generation. It reduces the dependency on fossil fuel as well as environmental pollution. Crop residues, animal and poultry waste, organic fraction of municipal solid waste and forest residues are the major sources of biomass in the country. Although, a number of projects are being implemented by the government and private organizations to increase the potentiality of biomass energy development but at the same time, government should be more conscientious for overcoming technical and commercial barriers, monitoring and fast implementation of projects, providing funds, reducing cost, raising mass awareness and research activities in this sector.



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