Bangladesh-EU Energy Cooperation: What Is the Impact of the Visit of Peteris Ustubs?

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Peteris Ustubs, the European Union (EU) director for Middle East, Asia, and Pacific at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (INTPA), embarked on a significant visit to Bangladesh from September 30 to October 2. The visit underscored the EU’s commitment to enhancing collaboration with Bangladesh, particularly in areas critical to sustainable development, such as climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energy, regional energy connectivity, and overall sustainable growth. This visit is particularly timely, aligning with Bangladesh’s aspirations for a greener energy transition, as the nation prepares for its LDC (Least Developed Country) graduation in 2026.

Elevating EU-Bangladesh Relations through the ‘Global Gateway Strategy’

During his visit, Peteris Ustubs emphasized the EU’s ‘Global Gateway Strategy’ and its role in reinforcing ties between the EU and Bangladesh. He stated, “The Global Gateway Strategy is the European Union’s response to boost cooperation with partners worldwide. We believe it marks a new era of the longstanding EU-Bangladesh cooperation; it will support the country in meeting its green energy transition ambitions in a sustainable and smart way that works for people and the planet.” This strategy aligns seamlessly with Bangladesh’s ambitions to transition to a sustainable energy landscape.

In May 2023, State Minister for Power and Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, initiated discussions with the EU, highlighting the potential for collaboration in Bangladesh’s clean energy sector. At a round-table discussion on “The Economic Dimension of the EU’s Global Footprint,” he emphasized the need for substantial investments in Bangladesh’s power and energy sector, estimated at approximately USD$ 65 billion over the next 15 years. These investments are essential to achieving Bangladesh’s renewable energy goals, LNG generation, the establishment of a smart grid, intelligent distribution systems, Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, and the strengthening of institutional capacity. Nasrul Hamid sought the EU’s collaboration in various aspects, including clean energy initiatives, the electric vehicle sector, technology transformation, academic experts exchange, and research funding, recognizing the EU as one of Bangladesh’s strongest economic partners.

Strategic Dialogues and Visionary Partnerships

Director Peteris Ustubs held productive meetings with key stakeholders during his visit, notably with State Minister Nasrul Hamid from the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources. In this meeting, he acknowledged Bangladesh’s strategic significance in South Asia, citing its impressive economic growth and dynamic society. He also shed light on the forthcoming flagship project, the “Bangladesh Renewable Energy Facility,” a pivotal EU initiative designed to invest in renewable energy projects within Bangladesh. Moreover, discussions revolved around bolstering regional energy connectivity, a crucial element of sustainable energy diplomacy.

Peteris Ustubs further explored collaboration opportunities during discussions with Salman Rahman, advisor on private industry and investment to the Prime Minister, Sharifa Khan, secretary of the Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, and Md Human Kabir, secretary of the Ministry of Railways. These interactions solidified the commitment of both the EU and Bangladesh to foster sustainable growth and connectivity.

EU Delegates on Ground: Witnessing Impactful Initiatives

The visit also included a tour of EU-funded ongoing projects in Bangladesh. Among them was the inspection of power factor and smart grid projects under the Dhaka Power Distribution Company, co-funded by the EU and AFD, showcasing their contribution to improving energy efficiency. Additionally, Peteris Ustubs visited the Korail Slum, a UNICEF-funded project dedicated to addressing social issues and poverty alleviation, highlighting the EU’s commitment to social development. The tour also extended to Dekko Readywears Limited, a garment factory, symbolizing the EU’s dedication to the decent work agenda.

Impact on EU-Bangladesh Energy Cooperation

Green Energy Transition and Sustainable Development

Collaboration with the European Union (EU) holds multifaceted implications for Bangladesh’s journey towards a sustainable and green energy transition. This partnership not only aligns Bangladesh with global sustainability goals but also opens doors to economic investments of significant magnitude in the country’s power and energy sector. As the EU serves as a robust economic partner, Bangladesh can harness the resources necessary for realizing its renewable energy ambitions, expanding LNG generation, implementing smart grid technologies, developing smart distribution systems, establishing Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, and enhancing institutional capacity. Moreover, this collaboration facilitates the transfer of advanced technologies, equipping Bangladesh with cutting-edge solutions to meet its energy demands efficiently.

In addition to technological advancements, the partnership fosters academic and research exchange. It promotes knowledge sharing, enabling academic cooperation between institutions and facilitating access to research funding opportunities. This aspect of the collaboration enhances Bangladesh’s research capabilities and innovation in the energy sector, paving the way for sustainable energy solutions and contributing to its long-term energy security.

Furthermore, the EU’s support extends beyond the national scale, enhancing Bangladesh’s role as a significant player in regional energy dynamics. With the EU’s backing, Bangladesh can strengthen its position as a regional energy hub, facilitating greater regional energy connectivity. This not only bolsters energy security but also promotes economic integration and cooperation within South Asia and beyond.

Lastly, EU initiatives encompass social aspects, addressing critical issues such as poverty alleviation and social development. By investing in projects that uplift marginalized communities and tackle pressing social challenges, the EU reinforces Bangladesh’s commitment to sustainable development.

In essence, the implications of collaboration with the EU are far-reaching, encompassing economic growth, technological advancement, research and innovation, regional cooperation, and social development. Bangladesh stands poised to capitalize on these opportunities, charting a course towards a more sustainable and prosperous future.

Bangladesh’s Potential in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)

In the broader context, Bangladesh has the potential to play a pivotal role in the newly proposed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), a significant achievement discussed during India’s G-20 Summit. This ambitious initiative aims to create a rail and shipping corridor linking India to Europe through the Middle East. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by leaders from various nations, including the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union, signifying their commitment to establishing the IMEC. Bangladesh’s strategic location and recent engagement with Peteris Ustubs could mark the beginning of its involvement in this transformative project, allowing it to connect with East Asia and contribute to a more robust energy transition.

In the conclusion, Peteris Ustubs’ recent visit to Bangladesh and the EU’s ‘Global Gateway Strategy’ offer a transformative opportunity for Bangladesh’s sustainable energy transition and economic growth. Nasrul Hamid’s proactive approach highlights the potential for significant investments in Bangladesh’s power and energy sector, a critical component of its renewable energy goals and modernization efforts. The partnership also facilitates technology transfer, academic collaboration, and research funding, enhancing Bangladesh’s research capabilities and energy innovation. Moreover, the EU’s support strengthens Bangladesh’s role in regional energy dynamics, promoting greater energy security and economic cooperation. These collaborative efforts reinforce Bangladesh’s commitment to sustainable development, positioning it for a prosperous and greener future.

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

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