Bangladesh: Grameen Shakti celebrates one-millionth installation

14. January 2013 | Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By:  Jonathan Gifford

In what has been claimed to be the largest offgrid electrification program in the world, Grameen Shakti has announced its millionth installation in Bangladesh. The company says the program demonstrates that the falling cost of solar photovoltaics is facilitating wider application in countries like Bangladesh.

A solar panel being transported on a canoe in Bangladesh.

"Dark villaves have woken up to a new life," through the installations, the company claims.

Solar photovoltaic’s power as a distributed and offgrid solution for the developing world has been demonstrated in Bangladesh, where a project to provide systems in rural parts of the country has exceeded initial expectations. The program, funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, amongst others, has announced that it has installed solar systems to a million homes.

A ceremony was held in Dhaka last week, Bangladesh’s The Daily Star reported late last week, to mark the occasion. At the event, the World Bank’s country director Ellen Goldstein said that the program is exceeding expectations. "When the program was initiated, the target was only 500,000 solar home systems in five years," said Goldstein. "Now the partners are installing 60,000 systems per month."

The company, in its statement announcing the milestone, highlighted the advantages of rural electrification through Grameen Shakti’s photovoltaic installations:

"Grammen Shakti has enabled as many as eight million people in Bangladesh to light their homes and businesses using solar power. Mosques and schools in the countryside get benefits with solar home systems. Businesses such as mobile phone shops, electronic repair shops, agricultural and livestock farms, rural hospitals, vaccination centers, etc. have grown up. Business hours have been extended - shops, bakeries and rural pharmacies can stay open late at night."

"It is as if sleepy, dark villages have woken up to new life - a life of activity, growth, which  is  healthy and clean," the statement reads.

Grameen Shakti’s local photovoltaic system assembly operations employ women engineers and technicians. The company says this has created thousands of jobs and new income streams for households in rural Bangladesh.

The solar program has reported milestones of 250,000 installations by April 2009, half a million by the end of 2010 and one million by November 2012.

The Daily Star reports that the World Bank has indicated that it has spent US$400 million globally on renewable energy programs and will spend another $150 million in 2013, including the Grameen Shakti program. Installation of mini grids and solar irrigation systems have been targeted by the World Bank in Bangladesh.

Speaking at the event recognizing the milestone, Grameen Shakti’s Chairman, the Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus indicated that falling photovoltaic module prices has been key to the program’s success. "We began 16 years back when panel price was high and kerosene price was low," he said. "Finally, we have made it."

Grameen Shakti targets a second million homes, for solar photovoltaic installations, by the end of 2016.

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