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Published on December 30th, 2011 | by Andrew


Cheap Solar Home Systems Bringing Light, New Opportunities to Millions in Rural Bangladesh

December 30th, 2011 by  

Graphic courtesy Grameen Shakti

Solar home systems are bringing the benefits of electrical power to millions in rural Bangladesh, a testament to the numerous and varied benefits access to cheap, clean and renewable distributed solar PV can have in developing countries. Microfinance provider Grameen Shakti’s efforts to market and sell solar home systems (SHS) in rural areas across the country that lack grid access have proved extremely successful.

More than 500,000 SHS systems have been installed cumulatively as of year-end 2010, according to Grameen Shakti. The SHS home energy package includes one or more solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries, a power regulator, and a set of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and LED lights.

Best Investment I’ve Ever Made

It’s the best investment he’s ever made, Nizamuddin Sheikh, the owner of a small restaurant in rural Bangladesh, told Inter Press News Service’s (IPS) Naimul Haq. Sheikh’s doubled his income since signing up for a Grameen Shakti SHS plan that enables him to pay for the solar power system with a small down payment and affordable monthly installments.

Sheikh pad the Bangladeshi Taka equivalent of $24 up-front for an SHS system comprising a 20-Watt solar PV panel, battery, regulator, CFLs and LEDs. He’ll pay another $5 month over the next 36 months to pay off the total cost.

Grameen Shakti’s most popular SHS system provides about 10W of clean, renewable electric power for a total cost of $124. That ranges up to the most expensive system, which provides 135W of uninterrupted power for four four hours at a total cost of $925.

Grameen Shakti’s SHS systems are cheaper than the fossil fuels, such as kerosene, rural Bangladeshis have come to rely on, but the benefits extend far beyond that.

Solar Home Systems Delivering Myriad Benefits

“SHS units are in demand due to many advantages, but especially because it is far cheaper than conventional fuels like kerosene and diesel and has no maintenance expenses,” acting managing director Abser Kamal told IPS. “In the villages solar power provides extended working hours for students, shopkeepers and housewives. Now they can do things like conveniently charge mobile phones – which have already been changing lives.”

Adding to the benefits are zero CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly improved health and safety conditions as compared to traditional fossil fuel alternatives. Using the solar home systems is also yielding substantial social benefits. Besides enabling small business owners such as Sheikh to stay open longer, thereby significantly increasing their incomes, the artificial light they bring enables students to study in the evening with better quality light. It also lifts some of the burden of running a household carried by Bangladeshi women.

On top of all this, installation of the solar home energy systems is quick, safe and relatively simple. Just 41% of Bangladesh’s 142-million people have access to the national electricity grid. The solar home energy systems can be installed in a day.

“Without solar power many villagers would probably have had to wait years to get electricity from the national grid,” Kamal told IPS’s Haq. “Solar is transforming their lives – this is quick social and economical development.”

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About the Author

I’ve been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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  • Md. Nazmul Islam

    Firsat I like to thanks Mr. Andrew Burger, I read your report on Bangladesh Renewable (Sola Sysytem) energy system, since 1994 or 1995 Micro Elelctronics has started an initiative with Solar system energy in Bangladesh, and also successfully implemented some Government projects through LGRD deparment of northern and southern coastal belt of Bangladesh. As Grameen Shakti is a big NGO and getting huge amounts of foreign grants so, it has been very easy to them to spread the SHS system in Bangladesh by installment. Now the many organizatiions have come forward to spread this Renewable Energy sysytem sysytem in whole Bangladesh to meet the challange of power shortage of Bangladesh by very soon. All the initiatives of different organizations are run by own capital and that is why organizations like mine can’t reaching it to mass people in large quantity due to fun crisis and higher costs of additional accessories specially CFL /LED lights and Battery. The other backward problem is illeteracy of end users of SHS systems. We also thinking for Industrial use of SOLAR system in Bangladesh. But the expenditures are main obstacle to the industrial enterprenures, they are not interested to involve a large expenditure for SS system to run their industries by own power sysytem. If, the Solar system could be more cost effective to industrial enterprenures (specially for Medium) scale industriers I am very sure that, many of the industrial enterprenures would be interested to setup this Solar Sysytem to run their industry without depending on conventional power system for which they (enterprenures) have to wait for a long time and by resut they also could not count a big loss. My comapany also have installed some 4000 watt Solar System in some Industrial and private level and we are underway to negotiate with some customers to get some new orders to setup another 4 to 5KW system by next two to three months. Some individual customers also inquiring for SHS system to their rural village house, but can’t dareing for high cost involvement. We also facing some problems due for Government policies and lake of encouragement. But, bydint of all oppositions we have been trying our best to popularies SHS sysytem in rural and urban Bangladesh as wel as to expand/increase the numbers of end users of SHS systems.
    Note: If we could cut down the price of Solar panel and other main accessories prices. It is me is very sure that, users of SHS system, either individual or Industrial sector could risen drastically and Bangladesh Government could release the pressure of national power demand.
    Md. Nazmul Islam
    Cell: 880-1711-643408, 880-167-8092833
    Giga Power Corporation Ltd.
    Skype: liton.titas

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