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Bangladesh wants to be a Solar Nation

These are not empty words that Mr. Dipal C. Barua the 50-year-old economist blows into the ether. As a founding member of the nonprofit organization Grameen Shakti, he played a key role in ensuring that more than 1.5 million Bangladeshi households have been provided with so-called Solar Home Systems (SHS) since 1996. An SHS consists of a 250-watt solar panel, which is mounted on the roof and generates up to one kilowatt of electrical power per day.

In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the solar energy revolution is already in full swing.

For the more than 48 percent Bangladeshis whose households are not connected to the public grid, that’s a blessing. Because the SHS signify the end of the highly toxic and expensive kerosene lamps and provide cost-effective, clean light for private households and businesses. Especially in rural areas, climate-friendly electricity has given rise to thousands of new jobs and at the same time drastically reduced CO2 emissions.

The multi-award winning work of Grameen Shakti is funded by the IDCOL Solar Home Systems Project. The joint project between Bangladesh’s government and the World Bank awards low-cost loans to Shakti and 46 other partners, including NGOs and microcredit agencies, that allow people to purchase the several-hundred-dollar solar panels.

New jobs related to the sale, installation and maintenance of solar energy systems, as well as the increase in the number of potential working hours due to lack of light and electricity have already increased the income and living standards of many Bangladeshis, so that around 360,000 users have already paid their solar home systems in full.

In addition, Grameen Shakti has begun to drive forward the green revolution in the last few years in addition to the expansion of solar energy supply, installing around 14,000 modern kitchen stoves, 300 biogas plants and organic fertilizer systems in rural areas every month.

In order to be able to locally produce additional Solar Home Systems in the future, a total of 45 regional Grameen Technology Centers were set up. More than 40,000 people have been trained in dealing with renewable energy systems.

According to Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), there are currently 3.5 million households in Bangladesh that are powered by solar energy. The government’s plans envisage a total of 220 megawatts of electricity for around six million households using solar energy by the end of the term of the Solar Home Systems Project at the end of 2017.