Affordable solar home systems in Bangladesh and Rajasthan

In an earlier post we referred to the work of  Bunker Roy in Tilonia, Rajasthan, mainly because of the Barefoot College he set up. There were only side references to the extensive work on solar energy, which has even been developed by its college-trained solar engineers in Nepal. Microcredit has enabled this technology to be more widely used in Bangladesh.

Yunus solar4

Shafi Chowdhury recently sent news from the Daily Star‘s report that Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Shakti team have installed more than one million solar home systems across Bangladesh.

The systems are now 100% Bangladeshi and operated by the local people. Grameen Shakti is providing microcredits to help people buy solar home systems with a three-year monthly payment system costing is the same as a family spends on kerosene. By 2012, the company had also installed 595,516 improved cooking stoves and 24,206 biogas plants.

Ellen Goldstein, country director of the World Bank, which has given subsidies  for the project, said this is an impressive achievement: “When the programme was initiated, the target was only 500,000 solar home systems in five years. Now the partners are installing 60,000 systems per month”.

roof top solar bangladesh

Solar systems are helping reduce footprint by replacing polluting kerosene-fired lanterns and helping reduce deforestation. The scheme also creates local jobs and income opportunities. Some women have doubled their income and become energy distributors as a result of the electricity.

Bilkis Begum, who installed a solar home system at her home in Gazipur with the help of Grameen Shakti, described how the life of her family members has changed. “My sons are now able to study at night. I also prepare products from bamboo and canes at night with five women from the area.”

Every solar home system unit helps to cut 0.232 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Altogether, the solar home systems installed so far brought a CDM (clean development mechanism) benefit for Bangladesh at $2.32 million a year.

Microcredit is well-established in India (though some systems have posed problems):  would it be good if Ms Goldstein assisted in spreading such small but significant improvements more widely in India?

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