Turmoil takes steam off solar power project | The Daily Star
01:19 AM, February 11, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:42 AM, March 18, 2015

Turmoil takes steam off solar power project

Suman Saha

The much-applauded solar power programme took a hit in January due to the ongoing political unrest, with the installation of solar home systems dropping by around 5 percent from the previous month.
Last month, some 44,302 units of solar home systems were installed across the country, down from 46,569 in December last year.  
The installation is now on a decreasing trend due to the disruption in supply chain brought about by the non-stop countrywide blockade from January 6, said Mahmood Malik, chief executive of Infrastructure Development Company Ltd.
Idcol provides grants and soft loans to villagers through its 47 partners to install the home systems in off-grid areas.

Most partner organisations cannot bring components of the units to remote areas amid fear of arson and vandalism of delivery vans, he said.   
Besides, people in rural areas are now less interested in buying such units as the prolonged political unrest has eroded their earnings, said Munawar Misbah Moin, managing director of Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd.
The company takes the solar home systems to rural areas under the Idcol programme through Rural Services Foundation, a non-profit organisation of Rahimafrooz Group.
“The worst thing is that the installment overdue is substantially increasing -- this will have a negative impact going forward.”
The ongoing political instability has already drained consumer confidence, said Ruhul Quddus, a renewable energy analyst.
“People, especially in rural areas, are struggling to meet their basic necessities. So, they are reluctant to spend money on non-basic items like solar power.”    
The import of low-quality and cheap Chinese products by traders in old Dhaka is another reason for the decline in installation of Idcol's home systems in recent times, he said.

“Many people are now buying solar home systems from Nawabpur-based traders in old Dhaka as they are offering much lower prices,” Quddus added.  
As of January, more than 3.49 million units have been installed with support from the World Bank and other development partners, according to Idcol, the implementing agency.
As a result, around 20 million people are benefitting from solar electricity for lighting, watching TV, charging mobile phones and using other low-load appliances.
The programme for installing solar home systems in Bangladesh has the fastest penetration rate in the world, according to WB.

Idcol started financing the home systems in January 2003 with support from WB and Global Environment Facility.
The initial target was to finance 50,000 units by June 2008, which was achieved three years ahead of schedule and with $2 million less than the projected cost, it said.
The next target too was met ahead of schedule, in June 2011, owing much to the easy credit facility, subsidies, technical support and quality equipment.
Idcol, the state-owned non-bank financial institution, has now set a target of financing six million such systems by 2017.
Presently, 68 percent of the total population (including renewable energy) has access to electricity.
The per capita electricity generation is 348 kilowatt per hour, which is very low compared to other developing countries, according to the website of the Power Division.
To make electricity available for all by 2021, the government wants to enhance electricity generation to 24,000MW, 10 percent of which would come from renewable energy.

suman.saha@thedailystar.net

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