Solar is one area of electrification where Bangladesh has done very well. We are known globally for our solar projects, but it comes as a surprise when we see a private company take a chance when it sets up such a project in Jamalpur's Jamuna shoals to bring “light” to 100 households. The solar power project in question has, literally, transformed the lives of these people who could do very little after dusk.
Access to uninterrupted electricity now means that children are encouraged to go to schools because they can study at home. It means cost savings for poor families who previously would have to burn precious kerosene for the lamps at home. Now, there is news and entertainment available through television that brings the world to the communities living in these remote areas. There is an economic angle to having electricity as well. Local incomes get a boost as solar power allows for pumps to irrigate farmlands and local shops can light up their premises and hence keep their businesses open late for customers.
The project at Munnia Char was funded by UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and carried out by a Bangladeshi private company which used nearly a thousand panels producing about 250 kilowatts per hour of electricity. The community being benefitted by this endeavour is off the main electricity grid, but that is no longer a problem. Thanks to the advent of these mini grids, it is envisaged that such projects can help other communities or areas get access to electricity for socio-economic benefits. With pre-paid digital metres in use, there is hardly any possibility of misusing electricity and with consumers pre-paying bills for using the resource. Hence, there is every possibility that this is a model that can and should be replicated and scaled up, both at the project area and elsewhere.