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Adopting appropriate technology in energy sector

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16th-Mar-2017       
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Dr. Sakib Bin Amin and Muntasir Murshed
(From previous issue)
Although the per capita emission intensity is low, the amount of emission as a percentage of the national GDP is twice that of the global average. Thus, employment of smart grids in the energy sector can significantly bring down these figures making the nation less vulnerable to natural adversities.    
Finally, introduction of SGT in the remote areas can be exemplary in countering the poor rural electrification rate in Bangladesh. Currently, about 40 million people living in the rural areas in Bangladesh are yet to have regular access to electricity. As a result, the disparity between urban and rural standard of living is expressively high which is pretty much against the inclusive development strategies of any developing nation.
Lack of access to electricity has been a main barrier hampering rural development in the nation. Ensuring electricity availability in the rural regions can open up new job opportunities which can also reduce the urban-rural wage differences. Hence, setting up solar-based micro smart grids for renewable-electricity generation can contribute in the form of off-grid electricity supply which can commendably tackle the problem of low rural electrification rate. It is estimated that smart grids having a capacity of 10kW can easily illuminate as many as 140 rural households whereby rural electricity demand in the country can be met to some extent. Provided the government is successful in keeping its commitment to ensure electricity for all by 2020, immediate steps to implement SGT can certainly be a stepping stone towards attainment of that goal.   
Considering the immense benefits and potential of SGT, it is a recommended tool for Bangladesh's energy sector development. However, adoption of this technology can be a challenging task ahead of the government. Firstly, adoption of this cutting edge electricity generation technology is subject to costs and requires hefty investments. On average, the cost of setting up the smart grid system could equal the cost required to produce 3.1% of the total electricity produced in the nation.
This is not a small amount and as a result, decision to invest in such expensive projects often gives potential investors a second thought. In addition, electricity prices artificially fixed by the government also contributes to the avid reluctance of investors in investing money in the associated sector. On the other hand, investment in smart grids seems justified from the sense that the monetary value of the losses incurred due to transmission and distribution losses, in comparison to the cost of using SGT, are even higher. Apart from the cost issues, Bangladesh's weak energy infrastructure is also an issue that can hamper the success of the smart grids projects. Successful implementation of SGT requires a sound infrastructure to support the changes in the electricity sector, which unfortunately is a huge constraint for the nation. Following this limitation, it is advisable for Bangladesh to undertake pilot projects and gradually develop its infrastructure before going for large scale transformations. Finally, there lies a threat restricting the success of SGT from the cyber perspectives which makes the system vulnerable to some extent.
It is quite evident that incorporating SGT into the national energy policy of Bangladesh is a colloquial task, but for the greater benefits in the future such task is worth being undertaken through a trade-off between current costs and future profits. Bangladesh is a nation that has immense prospects in embracing socioeconomic development in the near future.
Thus, the opportunity cost of not having electricity is unimaginably high which furthermore advocates in favor of adopting smart grid systems all across the national boundary. According to a report by the World Bank, prolonged unscheduled electricity outages in Bangladesh account of a 5.5% fall in output levels of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which is not a good phenomenon with regards to the nation's growth rate of GDP. In terms of the overall vision behind smart gridding the electricity sector, smart grids are intelligent in the sense that peak loads can be identified in real time whereby system failure can be avoided. Smart grids are also efficient in managing electricity demand better than the conventional national grid.
In addition, the capability of smart grids in accommodating any type of fuel, especially renewables, makes it a technology of choice for developing countries like Bangladesh. Moreover, it invites greater participation from the beneficiaries as the benefits are inclusive in nature leading to social welfare. Most importantly, SGT is one of the important tools for the nation to raise its overall electrification rate through renewable-based off-grid electrification. It is crucial for all developing nations to boost their rural electrification rates since in the pursuit of rapid urbanization, the rural sector is often neglected which in turn holds back their development drives.
It is recommended that the government does invest in R&D programs directed at development of skills and infrastructure associated with the energy sector of the nation and leave no stones unturned in transforming the concept of a smart energy sector into reality.      
(Concluded)

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