The programme for installing solar home systems in Bangladesh has the fastest penetration rate in the world, as the country installs more than 70,000 such units every month, World Bank said.
The Washington-based lender yesterday inked a deal with the Bangladesh government to lend a $78.4 million additional financing to further scale up support for the programme.
The country has installed more than 3.1 million solar home systems till May this year with support from the WB and other development partners, according to the Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Idcol), the implementing agency.
The total installed capacity of these solar home systems is around 140MW, sufficient to provide clean electricity to 14 million rural people, Idcol said.
Being implemented as a public-private partnership since 2003, the programme has contributed to more than 70,000 new jobs so far and reduction of carbon dioxide emission by more than 5.38 lakh tonnes a year, it said.
“This is a proven model that works. Investing in electricity in rural areas empowers both men and women, leading to increased income and growth opportunities and reducing poverty,” said Christine E Kimes, acting head of WB in Bangladesh.
The project will help install an additional 480,000 solar home systems that have emerged as a viable electrification option for areas without grid access to electricity.
The credit for the additional financing to the Bangladesh Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development II Project is from the International Development Association, the WB Group's soft loan arm.
Reliance on the grid alone will not achieve the government's vision of universal access by 2021 as only 42 percent of the people in rural Bangladesh have now access to electricity, the WB said in a statement.
The dispersed nature of rural settlements and the numerous rivers that crisscross the country make grid electrification in many areas difficult and expensive, the lender said.
Off-grid renewable energy, like solar home systems, has thus become the only option for electrification for millions living in the remote rural areas of Bangladesh.
“This project is building up on our efforts to support the government's vision of providing universal access to electricity,” said Arastoo Khan, additional secretary to Economic Relations Division.
The benefits of using solar home systems include increased study time for children, empowerment of women through knowledge from TV viewing, income generation from mobile phone recharging services, as well as contribution to carbon emissions reduction, he added.
The credit has 40 years to maturity, including a 10-year grace period, and carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.
As of March, the country's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources such as solar energy, biomass and wind-based plants, stands at 363.8 megawatt, which is 3.51 percent of the total power generation capacity, according to Bangladesh Economic Review 2014.
Bangladesh has been able to create 114,000 jobs, the sixth largest renewable energy-related workforce in the world in 2013, which is as large as that of Spain, according to a recent report of the International Renewable Energy Agency.