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CPD urges political parties to ensure energy transition to renewables

Originally posted in Dhaka Tribune on 1 January 2024

The report said that political parties can contribute in shaping long-term energy and power policies, and plans targeting energy transition.

In a recently released report by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), it was observed that despite having a common understanding of energy transition, all political parties deviate from each other due to ideological differences and commitment issues.

The report, titled “Energy Transition for Addressing Energy Crisis in Bangladesh: Perception of Political Parties”, explores the perception of the major political parties including Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jatiya Party (JP), Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD)on Bangladesh’s energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable or clean energy.

The report said that political parties, through their proactive role both in the Parliament and outside, can best contribute in shaping the long-term energy and power policies and plans targeting energy transition in Bangladesh.

Achieving the commitment of 40% renewable energy by 2041 requires coherent policies, initiatives and actions.

However, most of the existing and upcoming energy and power-related policies are not in line with that commitment.

Hence, voice of the political parties is crucial within and outside the government, as well as within the Parliament and outside the Parliament in order to make coherent policies and plans for achieving just energy transition in the country highlighting major reforms in the areas of energy-mix, renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy pricing and energy security, etc.

The ruling party, Bangladesh Awami League, while in power for 15 years has recognized the challenges of overwhelming dependence on fossil fuel-based energy sources long ago.

Yet the party stands far behind in reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. The ruling party still finds it difficult to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and so continues to keep the newly built coal-based power plants for the next decade.

Despite the prevailing understanding, there is an overwhelming presence of fossil fuel in all the political party election manifestos with the expansion of power generation capacity.

Unfortunately, commitments and pledges on renewable or clean energy and the strengthening and upgradation of the transmission and distribution system towards that direction have been found insignificant.

Bangladesh Awami League accepts its weakness in modernizing the transmission and distribution system and expresses its willingness to establish the smart grid system immediately.

It has also expressed the inability to subsidize the power and energy sector with such a lion’s share, any further. As a result, electricity tariffs have gone up and are expected to rise further.

The ruling party argues that the country’s power tariffs are lower than those in many other developed countries, and subsidies are still provided to keep electricity more affordable.

However, opposition party representatives do not welcome the initiative to hike electricity prices and stated that the IMF mechanism to rationalize subsidies is faulty.

A number of challenges are hindering the energy transition in Bangladesh. They include the prominence of fossil fuel in the public discourse about energy, unclear trajectory towards energy transition, unwillingness to involve peoples’ representatives and national experts in the policy-making process, not fully functional National Parliament and a lack of political coalition and consensus on energy narratives.

It is important to have a comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation strategy to ensure a successful transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon energy system.

The report laid out three sets of recommendations for ruling party leaders, representatives in parliament both from ruling and opposition parties, as well as other opposition parties outside parliament.

These include- (a) The elected government should create a fully functional parliament where the policy, plan, and acts can be presented and passed and discontinue discriminatory, non-competitive policies and set up a committee with specialists and climate-responsive people to prepare a roadmap for attaining 40% renewable energy target by 2041; (b) The opposition should utilize the opportunity to put pressure on the government by creating consensus among fellow parliamentarians, promoting parliamentary debates and discussions for renewable energy roadmap to achieve the target, and making sure that the sectoral policies, rules and acts of this sector are presented and passed as bills in parliament; and (c) Political parties with a spirit of activism can mobilize the peoples’ movement through knowledge sharing and create a public mood in favour of renewable energy and just energy transition.