Solar Home Lighting Systems in Bangladesh
Life has been transformed for the people of Aharkandhi village in Bangladesh ever since they started installing solar panels on their rooftops. They can now watch television, use mobile phones and they enjoy more security at night. Entrepreneurs can keep their businesses open after dark and increase their revenues. School children can study for longer hours under electric lamps without hurting their eyes.
All this was made possible by Bangladesh’s highly successful rural electrification initiative, a program that has to date installed more than 3.5 million (!) small-scale solar home lighting systems around the country.
It has also created 70,000 direct jobs, including those in the installation and maintenance of the solar panels by locally trained individuals.
In 2015 the initiative – partly financed by the World Bank’s Rural Electrification Project – became Bangladesh’s first renewable energy program to be eligible for carbon credits for contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The program is projected to deliver 1.1 million carbon credits by 2016, which are issued under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). These credits are subsequently sold to the World Bank’s Community Development Carbon Fund, and the process generates revenue that is used to expand the program even further.
Subsidies for Solar Home Lighting Systems
For about $150, villagers can purchase a 20 Wp solar home system that is enough to power two energy efficient lights and a mobile charger. However, the cost – which would be out of reach for most villagers – is not paid upfront but covered through a credit scheme, which allows them to pay for the systems over a period of 3 years.
The credit is made available by the Infrastructure Development Company, Ltd. (IDCOL), a state-owned financial institution that is key to the success of the electrification program.
Lessons for India
Bangladesh has a lower GDP per capita than India, but ranks higher on various development indices. One of the key reasons is the success of it’s electrifitation scheme. India could replicate Bangladesh’s success: It has a blueprint right in front of its doorstep. With the Indian government having announced an ambitious target to electrify every village in the country before 2019, solar home lighting systems could, and should, play an important role.