Bangladesh-KOICA Energy Partnership: Advancing Sustainable Solutions – OpEd


The collaboration between Bangladesh and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) represents a pivotal partnership aimed at transforming the nation’s energy landscape. With a shared commitment to sustainable development and energy security, this partnership has catalyzed significant strides in renewable energy adoption, infrastructure development, and capacity building. These initiatives not only address Bangladesh’s pressing energy needs but also pave the way for a greener, more resilient future.

The Bangladesh-KOICA partnership is crucial for enhancing energy cooperation as Bangladesh diversifies its energy sources and prioritizes sustainability. KOICA is a significant actor in promoting renewable energy projects and improving energy efficiency in Bangladesh. Its long-term support and reliable partnership have facilitated advancements in energy infrastructure, helping Bangladesh meet its growing energy demands sustainably. This collaboration aligns with Bangladesh’s Vision 2041, focusing on sustainable development and reducing carbon emissions. KOICA’s expertise and consistent support in the energy sector exemplify effective international cooperation, addressing critical energy challenges and contributing to a sustainable energy future for Bangladesh.

KOICA has been actively engaged in energy cooperation initiatives with Bangladesh, aiming to enhance rural electrification and sustainable development. One notable project is the Solar-Powered Irrigation Pump and Solar Home System, approved on March 23, 2010, with a commitment of 2.50 million USD. Implemented in partnership with the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (REB), this project installed 1,250 stand-alone solar home systems and 20 solar-powered irrigation pumps across seven districts. Its primary focus is on providing electricity to impoverished farmers and villagers in remote areas. Another significant endeavor is the Mid-term Strategy for Energy (2021-2025), launched in 2021 and scheduled until 2025.

While specific financial details are not disclosed, this initiative aims to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by integrating energy with other sectors like rural development and education. It emphasizes scaling up projects by leveraging additional development funds, promoting sustainability through independent program support, and mainstreaming initiatives such as the Green New Deal, digital transformation, and ICT. The strategy also addresses cross-cutting issues such as gender equality and environmental conservation, while enhancing project quality through evidence-based approaches and performance management. KOICA participates in the East Asia Climate Partnership Programme, focusing on renewable energy and climate change mitigation. This program provides technical assistance to bolster resilience against climate change impacts. It also mobilizes private sector resources to support sustainable development efforts in Bangladesh.

KOICA’s energy initiatives in Bangladesh are strategically designed to address critical development goals related to energy access, climate change resilience, and efficiency improvements. Under the first strategic objective, which aims to provide better access to modern energy for the energy-underprivileged (SDG 7.1), KOICA implements programs such as the distribution of clean cookstoves and solar home systems (SHS). These efforts aim to reduce indoor air pollution and provide electricity to rural households, particularly in remote areas where grid access is limited. KOICA supports the establishment of distributed micro-grid systems, enhancing energy reliability and linking these initiatives with broader rural development programs to maximize their impact across communities.

In response to climate change challenges (SDG 7.2), KOICA focuses on increasing renewable energy output through initiatives like solar and hydro power generation projects. These efforts not only contribute to sustainable energy production but also aim to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Furthermore, KOICA supports the implementation of grid-connected power generation systems, facilitating the integration of renewable energy into Bangladesh’s national energy grid. Pilot projects for renewable energy serve as crucial demonstrations of feasibility and benefits, paving the way for wider adoption of sustainable energy solutions in the country. Under the third strategic objective, KOICA collaborates on improving energy efficiency and power quality (SDG 7.3, 7.a, 7.b) through technological cooperation. This includes initiatives to automate energy transmission and distribution systems, enhancing efficiency and reliability across the grid. Technical assistance for passive housing constructions aims to optimize energy use and improve thermal comfort, while efforts to enhance heating and thermal efficiency in buildings and industrial settings contribute to overall energy conservation. KOICA invests in capacity building through human resource development (HRD) and supports research and development (R&D) infrastructure, fostering local expertise and innovation in the energy sector.

KOICA’s comprehensive approach in Bangladesh underscores its commitment to advancing sustainable development goals related to energy access, climate change mitigation, and energy efficiency. By integrating these initiatives with broader socio-economic development strategies, KOICA aims to enhance resilience, promote environmental sustainability, and contribute significantly to Bangladesh’s long-term energy security and socio-economic progress.

In addition to KOICA’s initiatives, the largest rooftop solar project in Bangladesh is led by Youngone Corporation. Approved on June 20, 2021, this project targets completion by 2023 and is located in the Korean Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Anwara Upazila, Chattogram. The project’s first phase involved installing solar panels on the roofs of 16 factories, achieving a capacity of 16MW. It was inaugurated by Youngone Corporation and aims to expand to 28MW by 2023 through multiple phases. The factories involved include Sungnum Apparels, Karnaphuli Shoes Industries Ltd, and Karnaphuli Polyester Products Ltd, showcasing a significant private sector contribution to renewable energy adoption and sustainability in Bangladesh’s industrial sector.

In Bangladesh, significant initiatives focus on renewable energy generation, water sustainability, environmental conservation, biodiversity enhancement, eco-friendly industrial development, support for the national power grid, and energy efficiency. One of the largest projects is the rooftop solar power initiative, with a capacity of 40 MW constructed in two phases. The first phase, completed and operational, contributes surplus energy back into Bangladesh’s national grid through a net metering system. The ongoing second phase aims to add 20 MW and is expected to finish within four months. Efforts in water sustainability include creating 25 water bodies capable of storing 500 million gallons of rainwater annually, with plans to double this capacity to 1 billion gallons, making it the largest artificial rainwater harvesting system in Bangladesh. In environmental conservation, 42 state-of-the-art green factories have been established, with plans to double this number.

These facilities incorporate eco-friendly technologies to minimize environmental impact. Tree-planting initiatives have seen over 2,500,000 trees planted since 1999, fostering a rich ecosystem with over 400 plant species and providing habitat for 137 bird species. The Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) exemplifies an eco-friendly industrial zone, with 52% of its land developed as green space and the remainder allocated for industry and infrastructure. This development prioritizes environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation. Projects contributing surplus solar power to the national grid help stabilize Bangladesh’s power supply, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Technological upgrades in energy efficiency involve advanced technologies and practices in industrial processes, including innovations in synthetic fabrics and insulation features to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.

Bangladesh has entered into a production-sharing agreement with South Korea’s Posco Daewoo Corporation for deep-sea mineral exploration. The contract, signed at Petrobangla’s headquarters in Dhaka, covers DS Block-12. Signatories included Begum Khadiza Naznin from the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, Ashfaquzzaman from Petrobangla, and Daewoo’s Senior Executive Vice-President Si Bo Joo. The tenders for Block-12, Block-16, and Block-21 were initially floated on February 5, 2016.

South Korean companies have expressed keen interest in Bangladesh’s nuclear energy sector. Korean Ambassador Lee Jang-keun noted that many Korean firms possess advanced technical capabilities across various fields, including nuclear power. He highlighted South Korea’s leadership in peaceful nuclear energy applications, from research to electricity generation. The Ambassador mentioned ongoing discussions regarding potential collaborations, drawing parallels with partnerships already established in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently articulated plans to establish an additional nuclear power plant in Bangladesh’s southern region, following the completion of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP). Ambassador Lee emphasized the importance of expanding bilateral commercial relations beyond the dominant ready-made garments (RMG) sector. He cited infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, and ICT as promising areas for future cooperation, noting efforts to diversify and deepen business collaborations. Ambassador Lee underscored infrastructure development as a particularly promising area for South Korean investment in Bangladesh. He mentioned the establishment of the Samsung R&D Institute in Dhaka, which has been operational since 2011 and employs 460 software developers. He highlighted recent advancements at the Korea Export Processing Zone (KEPZ), including the inauguration of a 100-acre Hi-tech Park. Looking ahead, Ambassador Lee expressed optimism about celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and South Korea through collaborative initiatives and strengthened bilateral ties across various sectors.

The Bangladesh-KOICA energy cooperation stands as a beacon of effective international collaboration in sustainable development. By leveraging KOICA’s expertise and resources, Bangladesh has accelerated its transition towards cleaner energy sources, enhanced infrastructure resilience, and strengthened institutional capacities. As both actors continue to innovate and expand their joint efforts, the partnership holds immense promise in shaping a sustainable energy future for Bangladesh, contributing to global climate objectives, and fostering inclusive socio-economic growth.

Syed Raiyan Amir

Syed Raiyan Amir is a Senior Research Associate at The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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