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POWER
Twelve countries stood by Bangladesh`s Rampal power project in persuading UNESCO to lift its objection over the Rampal project while Dhaka earlier successfully convinced the UN organ in revising its stance, Prime Minister`s energy affairs adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said. "A total of 12 countries including Turkey and Finland voiced in favour of Bangladesh which finally convinced the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO to withdraw its objection from Rampal power plant," he told a press conference at Bidyut Bhaban on Sunday. He said Turkey moved the Bangladesh issue in UNESCO World Heritage Committee`s 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow of Poland earlier this week when all these countries stood by the coal-fired project under Bangladesh-India joint initiative. Bangladesh joined the session as an observer on the sidelines. "Through lifting of the UNESCO objection, the international debate over Rampal coal-fired power plant has been resolved," Choudhury said. The UNESCO committee, he said, however, requested Bangladesh to carry out Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of its south-west region, including the Sundarbans, before starting the project "to which we agreed". Chouhdury said Bangladesh earlier placed its arguments to UNESCO in a presentation detailing technological aspects of the project highlighting government`s special measures to check environmental impact on the Sundarbans. "Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s global image along with achievement of the UN`s highest environmental accolade - Champions of the Earth also helped Bangladesh to gain the confidence of UNESCO to carry on with the project," he said. State minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid, power division secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Bangladesh Power Development Board chairman Engineer Khaled Mahmood, Power Cell Director General Engineer Mohammad Hossain and director general of foreign ministry were present at the press conference. "We are not only concerned about the Sundarbans status as a World Heritage Site but also its overall conservation. The Sundarbans saves us from natural disasters; we will do nothing that affects it," Choudhury said replying to a question. He said that the government was set to use the ultra-supercritical technologies at the Rampal power plant to make it sure that the project could do little harm to the world`s largest mangrove forest. He also assured the Committee of Bangladesh`s full cooperation in ensuring conservation of the outstanding universal value of the Sundarbans, a prized possession of the nation. "UNESCO was concerned with the World Heritage Site but we have successfully convinced them about the use of latest and most sophisticated technology. Bangladesh will carry out the SEA shortly," the adviser said. Refuting environmental activists` concern with the dissemination of fly ash, he said the power plant will produce ash in solid form which would be used for other industrial purposes. Chowdhury said the government agreed to ensure necessary dredging along with adequate fresh water flow into the Sundarbans and preventing poaching and over extraction of its resources. The power division secretary told the newsmen that the first unit of the power plant will go into production in June 2019 while second unit in December the same year.
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COAL
State-owned Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd (BCMCL) signed a Tk 167 crore deal with a foreign consortium to conduct a feasibility study at Digipara coal mine to develop a mining area for extracting about three million tonnes coal a year. BCMCL secretary Md Abul Kasem Pradhania, German based MIBRAG Consulting International GmbH project manager Amir Khandaker, FUGRO Consult GmbH project director Rolf Baltes and Runge Pincook Minaroo Limited of Australia representative Simon Askey Doran signed the feasibility deal on behalf of their organizations on Tuesday. State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said the government is actively contemplates to explore local coal by protecting the nature with a view to making the country into a middle income one by the year 2021. “We will develop the Dhigipara coal field using underground mining method with more concentration on environment as well as welfare of local peoples,” said the state minister while addressing a deal signing programme on feasibility study of Dhigipara Coal Field at hotel Sonargaon.  As per the deal, the consortium will conduct feasibility study within 24 square kilometers to assess the economic viability of the coalfield between June 1, 2017 and September 30, 2019.    Petrobangla and the , Energy and Mineral Resources Division have already handed over exploration licence of 4,000 hectare of Dighipara coal mine area to the BCMCL. Addressing the programme the state minister pointed out that around 865 million metric tons of coals are reserved at various coal fields in the country. “The socio-economic condition of people will be changed tremendously once the exploration begins properly, he observed. The minister said latest technology will be adopted to develop the coal fields by protecting the nature and without occurring any damage to the agricultural land. Dighipara coal field was discovered by state-run Geological survey of Bangladesh (GSB) in 1995. Four boreholes were drilled to confirm the coal deposits at the depth of 324-455 metres. Coal deposits of Dighipara basin is the second largest among the discovered coal fields in Bangladesh, having more than double coal deposit than that of the Barapukuria basin. Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman, Energy and Mineral Resources Division secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury, German ambassador to Dhaka Dr. Thomas Priznz, Australian ambassador to Dhaka Julia Niblett, Petrobangla Chairman Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Managing Director Engr. Habib Uddin Ahmed and senior official concern attended at the signing function.  
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NUCLEAR
A high power delegation from Russia visited Bangladesh last week to discuss the main construction phase, including preparations for “first concrete” of Rooppur NPP. Headed by Nikolai Spasskiy, Deputy Director General of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation -ROSATOM, the delegation comprised Valery Limarenko, CEO of АSE Group of Companies (general contractor for the Rooppur project) and Alexei Ferapontov, Deputy Chairman of Rostechnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision. The Russian delegation had talks with Architect Yeafesh Osman, Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Coordinator for SDG affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office. Bilateral meetings focused on various practical issues related to the beginning of main construction phase of Rooppur NPP, said a press release. Senior officials of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) were also present at the meetings. The Russian delegation also visited the Rooppur NPP construction site where they held a technical meeting with the Bangladesh side, including the representatives of BAERA. It may be mentioned here that works for the preparatory phase of the Rooppur NPP is nearing completion and the main construction is expected to begin in the second half of the current year. First of two units is expected to go into operation in 2023, the second–in 2024. The design of the innovative Generation 3+ power unit, which will be installed on Rooppur NPP includes the most powerful type of VVER-1200 reactor, as well as a high-speed turbine specially designed for new-generation NPPs. It provides the highest level of operational safety and fully meets all post-Fukushima requirements strictly set by the IAEA.    
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RENEWABLE
State-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) on Sunday with local privately owned Intraco Solar Power Limited to buy electricity from its 30 MW grid-tied solar power plant. Secretary of BPDB Mina Masud-uz-Zaman and Managing Director of Intraco Solar Power Limited Mohammed Riyadh Ali signed the PPA on behalf of their respective sides. The company would supply electricity to the national grid within 13 months from the date of signing the agreement and start commercial operation of the plant in September 2018. The plant Rangpur Gangachara 30-MW (AC) Grid Tied Solar Power Plant will be set up about 17-km away from Rangpur city. Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) will fund the project and the tariff of per kilowatt electricity of the project was fixed at 16 US cents which is equivalent to Tk 12.80. However, the government will buy electricity from the plant on ‘No electricity, No Payment’ basis meaning that the company will only get payment once it sells electricity. Intraco also signed an implementation agreement (IA) with the Power Division for the project as part of government`s move to increase the ratio of renewable energy in the country. Speaking at the contract signing ceremony at Biduyt Bhaban in Dhaka, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said incentives to promote renewable energy would continue, as the government is trying to increase production and use of the green and clean energy comparatively at higher prices. The state minister expressed his frustration over the delay in implementation of some other solar power projects. Intraco managing director Riyadh Ali said his company has purchased 143.3 acres of land in Gangachara upazila of Rangpur for the project.          The function was addressed, among others, by Power Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus and BPDB chairman Khaled Mahmood.  
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EFFICIENCY & CONSERVATION
A record-breaking solar panel that can convert more than a quarter of the sunlight it receives into electricity has been developed by researchers in Japan. The silicon solar cell is so efficient that it turns 26.3 per cent of the energy from the sun into renewable power. In contrast, nature’s ‘solar panels’ – leaves – have a “photosynthetic efficiency” of between three and six per cent. The scientists behind the new panel also said they believed they had found a way to create a one with the maximum level of efficiency considered to be theoretically possible – 29.1 per cent. Writing in the journal Nature Energy, the team from the Kaneka Corporation in Osaka, said: “Improving the photo-conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells is crucial to further the deployment of renewable electricity. “Essential device properties such as lifetime, series resistance and optical properties must be improved simultaneously to reduce recombination, resistive and optical losses. “Here, we use industrially compatible processes to fabricate large-area silicon solar cells … the photo-conversion efficiency is over 26 per cent.” The previous record for solar cell efficiency was 25.6 per cent. Further analysis, the researchers, said “pinpoints a path to approach the theoretical conversion efficiency limit of Si solar cells, 29.1 per cent.” However a statement on the Nature website said the panels were not yet ready to be sold commercially. “Although the study represents a record-breaking efficiency for a silicon solar cell, further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel,” it said.
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TECHNOLOGY
High-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal-fired electricity generation technology will play a critical role in South-East Asia’s future economic prosperity and climate policies, according to a new report from ASEAN Centre for Energy and the World Coal Association (WCA). The new report confirms that HELE coal technology will provide affordable and reliable electricity to more than 600 million people in the region while dramatically reducing emissions. The report conducts a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of climate, energy and sustainable development policies in ASEAN nations, which are set to increase their electricity demand significantly in coming years. It finds that if ASEAN shifts its coal-fired power generation capacity to a modern, low emissions fleet by 2035, the region would reduce its cumulative emissions by 1.3 billion tonnes, equivalent to the annual emissions of the US, China and the European Union combined. The new report is consistent with other projections by leading energy analysts. A recent report from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies concluded that based on current national power plans, South East Asia’s coal capacity will reach 148 GW by 2025, a 139% increase on 2015. Coal will pass gas as South East Asia’s number one energy source before 2025, the OIES report concluded. ASEAN is one of the fastest growing regions in the world with economic growth forecast to increase by over 6% per year.  Growth has already lifted millions from poverty and seen the number of people in the region without access to electricity halved over the past 20 years. The International Energy Agency predicts ASEAN’s energy demand will increase by 80 per cent over the period to 2040. To meet this demand, secure reliable electricity is required and the report confirms that low emission coal will be the generation of choice.  With the IEA forecasting coal to provide 50% of electricity generation by 2040, ASEAN nations are looking to utilise low-emission coal technology to deliver growth while also reducing emissions. The report confirms that all forms of coal generation will be the lowest cost option for ASEAN nations in 2020 and 2035.  The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) figures show that even ultra-supercritical coal generation will cost less than all renewable options and gas-fired power generation options. The report notes that “HELE reconciles international commitments to reduce carbon with the economic priorities of generating affordable and reliable electricity.”
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REGIONAL
Solar power prices in India have hit rock bottom, but it is not all good news for the electricity-starved country as the phenomenon has hit investor confidence and threatens the country`s effort to push its green credentials. Cut-throat competition has driven prices down to unsustainable levels, undermining the booming sector`s viability, according to experts. After the United States withdrew from the Paris climate deal last week, India said it would stick to its huge renewable energy programme. India is the headquarters of an international solar energy alliance and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to reinforce the notoriously polluted country`s green credentials. But the price slump could hinder India`s efforts to meet its solar energy goals and limit temperature-raising emissions. Delays in generating more electricity also mean that nearly 250 million Indians without power will remain in darkness, analysts said. Indian authorities hold regular auctions for power supply companies and the most recent, in May, saw a bid of 2.44 rupees -- less than four US cents -- per kilowatt hour. That was a record low for India at a fifth of the price at the start of the decade and energy minister Piyush Goyal called it a step to a "green future". The price is cheaper than for coal-powered electricity, which overwhelmingly dominates the power grid. However, the effect of the falling cost of solar modules, cheaper financing, aggressive competition and a surplus power supply in some states has been to unleash chaos, with companies and state governments clamouring for suppliers to match the new, low prices. "Prices have come down too much, too soon and that doesn`t bode well for the overall health of the sector," said Vinay Rustagi, managing director of renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India. - Solar `curse` - "In the past 17 months, tariffs are down nearly 50 percent and this is leading to buyer`s remorse for projects already built and under development," he added. "There`s a reasonable chance that these projects will face some trouble in the future." Modi turned to renewable energy to meet the vast needs of an economy that grew by 7.1 percent last year. The government has set an ambitious target of harvesting 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022 -- but has installed just 12,500 MW so far. Of India`s 329,000 MW of installed capacity, 67 percent comes from coal and gas. The rest is a combination of nuclear and renewables including, hydro, wind and solar. India is the fastest growing of the world`s major economies and needs uninterrupted electricity to maintain its expansion. It also needs renewable energy to meet its 2015 Paris commitment to reduce emissions relative to gross domestic product by up to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. The state governments of Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have refused to sign purchase agreements to buy power at the rates of 4-5.50 rupees a unit reached at auction over the past year, hoping to secure a cheaper deal. This is "creating uncertainty," said Rustagi. "Ethically we shouldn`t do that," said Sanjay Sharma, general manager at the state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India which conducted the latest auctions. He warned that the government could "lose the confidence of the foreign bidder who is investing in India." Critics also question if the new contract winners can provide low price electricity and remain viable. A day after India saw its new cheap solar prices, Amplus Solar founder Sanjeev Aggarwal was bombarded by clients asking him to slash rates to match the new prices. "People are falling over each other to grab a piece of the pie, but the question is if they can ever deliver at these rates," Aggarwal told AFP. Sumant Sinha chief executive of ReNew Power, one of the largest Indian renewable power companies and a losing bidder in the latest auctions, predicted a "winners curse." "Extremely low tariffs don`t help anyone. Ultimately people have to raise debt financing, banks have to be brought on board, all of that looks very dicey at these levels," Sinha said.
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OTHER COUNTRIES
OPEC and non-member oil producers are gearing up to extend output cuts on Thursday, possibly by as long as 12 months, to help clear a global stocks overhang and prop up crude prices. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is to discuss in Vienna whether to prolong an accord reached in December in which it and 11 non-members agreed to cut oil output by about 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of 2017. Most OPEC ministers, delegates and the market see a nine-month extension - instead of the initially suggested six months - as the base-case scenario but some countries including Russia have suggested an unusually long duration of 12 months. "I think nine months is most likely," one OPEC delegate said. Four other delegates agreed it was the most probable outcome. OPEC`s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, and top non-OPEC producer Russia have said cuts need to be extended to speed up market rebalancing and prevent oil prices from sliding back below $50 per barrel. OPEC sources have said the Thursday meeting will also highlight the need for long-term cooperation with non-OPEC producers. The group could also send a message to the market that it will seek to curtail its oil exports, which have not declined as steeply as its production. However, a decision on deeper output cuts is unlikely on Thursday, sources have said. By 0725 GMT, Brent crude was trading up almost 1 percent, above $54.40 a barrel. OPEC`s cuts have helped push oil back above $50 a barrel this year, giving a fiscal boost to producers, many of which rely heavily on energy revenues and have had to burn through foreign-currency reserves to plug holes in their budgets. Oil`s earlier price decline, which started in 2014, forced Russia and Saudi Arabia to tighten their belts and led to unrest in some producing countries including Venezuela and Nigeria. "Russia has an upcoming election and Saudis have the Aramco share listing next year so they will indeed do whatever it takes to support oil prices," said Gary Ross, head of global oil at PIRA Energy, a unit of S&P Global Platts. The price rise this year has spurred growth in the U.S. shale industry, which is not participating in the output deal, thus slowing the market`s rebalancing with global stocks still near record highs. OPEC has a self-imposed goal of bringing stocks down from a record high of 3 billion barrels to their five-year average of 2.7 billion. Algerian Energy Minister Noureddine Boutarfa told Reuters on Wednesday he believed that inventories should normalise by the end of 2017.
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Twenty-sixteen saw a "dramatic" decline in the number of coal-fired power stations in pre-construction globally. The authors of a new study say there was a 48% fall in planned coal units, with a 62% drop in construction starts. The report, from several green campaign groups, claims changing policies and economic conditions in China and India were behind the decline. However, the coal industry argues the fuel will remain essential to economic growth in Asia for decades to come. Rapid swing Between 2006 and 2016, India and China together accounted for 85% of the coal plants built around the world. But according to the Boom and Bust 2017 report, put together by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, there has been a huge swing away from coal in these two countries in just 12 months. The main causes of the decline are the imposition of restrictive measures by China`s central government - with the equivalent of 600 coal-fired units being put on hold until at least 2020. The Indian go-slow was prompted, according to the authors, by the reluctance of banks to provide funds. Work at 13 locations is currently not going ahead. However, there have also been significant retirements of coal plants in Europe and the US over the past two years, with roughly 120 large units being taken out of commission. "This has been a messy year, and an unusual one," said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm. "It`s not normal to see construction frozen at scores of locations, but central authorities in China and bankers in India have come to recognize overbuilding of coal plants as a major waste of resources. "However abrupt, the shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security, and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable." The study comes as other groups analyse the potential for investments in coal to become stranded assets if governments continue to restrict CO2 emissions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that hundreds of billions of dollars could be at risk. "The decline in new coal plants in Asian countries is truly dramatic, and shows how a perfect storm of factors is simply making coal a bad investment," said Paul Massara, now of North Star Solar but a former CEO of RWE npower. "Growing awareness of the air pollution problems coal causes, the impact of policies to tackle climate change, and the rapid growth and cost-competitiveness of renewable sources of energy, along with emerging battery technologies, are making new coal plants redundant before they are even built," he said. However, the World Coal Association vehemently disagrees. It says the complexity of large infrastructure projects means that until they break ground, it`s no surprise if they don`t go ahead. "Yes, China, is reducing the number of coal-stations but not because it`s transitioning away from coal. Instead, the new dynamics is a signal of a more developed economy," said Benjamin Sporton. "Contrary to the picture being portrayed by certain quarters, China`s climate pledge suggests that coal will continue to be central to its energy solutions, albeit through efficiencies including the use of new coal technologies. "In India`s case, it`s simply not true that renewables are displacing coal. The International Energy Agency has said that India`s coal demand will see the biggest growth over next five years with an annual average growth rate of 5% by 2021. "For these countries, excluding coal from the energy mix is not an option; it is essential for economic growth and critical in securing energy access." According to the authors of the study, the slowdown brings the possibility of keeping global warming under 2 degrees C since pre-industrial times "within feasible reach." However, the study says that much more progress needs to be made to reduce the number of coal-fired plants under development in Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and elsewhere.
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BUSINESS
Bangladesh Bank (BB) has put forward three suggestions including a condition for government`s sovereign guarantee to mobilise Tk 20,000 crore (200 billion) for new investment in the power sector. The suggestions are floating Islamic bond with idle fund of the country`s Islamic banks, creating consortium of banks for large scale funding, and floating of bonds by the state-owned organizations in power sector. "We have submitted the suggestions to the government against the proposal of Tk 20,000 crore funding for new investment in the power sector," SK Sur Chowdhury said. He also mentioned the central bank has tagged a condition of providing sovereign guarantee from the government in financing the power sector by floating bonds and large bank loans. The suggestions as well as the condition of the central bank came against the backdrop of the government`s recent move to set up 18 new power plants having total capacity 2900 MW on a fast track basis within next one and a half year period. Of these, 7 plants having total 900 MW are planned to be set up on PDB`s own land while 4 plants having total 1000 MW would be set up in the private sponsors` lands and the 7 remaining plants having total 1000 MW in railway and sugar mills` unutilized lands. All these 18 plants of total 2,900 MW will be set up by private sector and the state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) will purchase electricity from these plants for a long term period of minimum 15 years. Official sources said the recent power crisis in the early summer prompted the government to take up these new projects to meet the power shortage before the next general election. They said initiating the move the Power Division invited a joint meeting of the prospective investors, banks, financial institutions, capital market representatives and other concerned ministries and government agencies to discuss their plan. The funding of the projects emerged as the big issue as implementation of the government`s new plan will require about Tk 20,000 crore. The existing banking law is also a barrier to the way of funding as any bank cannot provide a large loan to any client, which crosses the 25 percent limit of the bank`s total capital. Finally, the meeting formed a 10-member committee comprising Bangladesh Bank representatives and headed by an additional secretary of the Finance Ministry, to extensively examine the whole issue and find out solutions to resolve the funding problem. Officials said the Bangladesh Bank gave its suggestion during the meeting of the committee which held a number of meetings and now is in a process to finalise its recommendations. Sources said that the committee found that if banks and financial institutions go for large scale funding to any investor in power sector through creating consortium, in that case, there will be no need to amend the banking law. Bangladesh Bank officials also said that a big amount of fund could easily come from the idle money of Tk 5500 crore which remained unutilized with different Islamic banks of the country. The banks can float bonds to finance the projects. The state-owned PDB can float also bonds to raise a big fund through floating its own bond on the capital market. But in both cases, the central bank put a condition of providing government`s sovereign guarantee so that public or financial institutions can buy these bonds with trust and in risk-free manner. Power Division officials said they are still unaware of any suggestion of the central bank as they have not yet received the report of the additional secretary-led committee. They, however, said they have already completed the selection process of sponsors for a number of plants having total capacity of 1,800 MW. The proposals were sent to Prime Minister`s office for necessary approval, they added.       
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