Bangladesh leads South Asia in gas-fired capacity development

Originally posted in The Business Standard on 22 March 2022

Natural gas is currently the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions and the largest projected source of CO2 growth over the next decade

Photo: Collected

Bangladesh continues in pre-construction and construction phases of gas-fired capacity development although it is exceeding double its operating capacity, according to a latest survey by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

Bangladesh leads in South Asia with over 23.6 gigawatts (GW) of gas-fired capacity in development, which is more than double the current operating capacity of 10.8GW in the region, the report mentions.

South Asia has over 34GW of gas-fired capacity in development, at an estimated cost of $29 billion. If built, this will increase the 52.3GW of existing gas-fired capacity in South Asia by 65%.

According to the survey, a boom in gas power plant development is now larger on a capacity basis than the build-out of new coal capacity, a press release says.

Building all the gas plants currently in pre-construction or construction phases would add more than 615GW of gas-fired capacity into the world, at an estimated cost of nearly $509bn in capital expenditure and lock in decades of emissions. In comparison, there is 456GW of coal plant capacity in development globally.

Even as Bangladesh’s existing gas-fired power plants often sit largely idle, operating at 40% capacity between 2019 and 2020, there continues to be planned future gas expansion, the release adds.

A recent analysis from IEEFA, which looked at proposed LNG-to-power projects in seven countries, estimated that 61% of gas-fired capacity will not be built due to “unfavourable fundamental project and country-level factors.”

“Unlike coal, where China is the biggest culprit, the boom in gas plant construction is everywhere,” said Julie Joly, program director for Oil & Gas for Global Energy Monitor. “Asian countries moving away from coal are switching to gas instead, and locking in decades of GHG emissions. Europe and the United States are expanding their gas fleets despite policy pledges to reduce emissions.”

The IPCC’s latest report also warns that climate change is harming the earth faster than humans can adapt. A recent Climate Analytics study concluded: “Natural gas is currently the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions and the largest projected source of CO2 growth over the next decade.”

“A challenge with measuring the impact of gas plants can be that their immediate impact on surrounding communities may be harder to see than coal ash or coal smoke,” said Jenny Martos, a Researcher for GEM. “But these gas plants are a serious threat to our chances of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.”

As a result, the moment has come to shift the focus away from gas power generation and toward clean renewable energy.