For the people living on a Jamuna River shoal in Sirajganj, dusk meant darkness. Things have changed since 2017 when a local company clinched finance from the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) and set up a Tk 5.14 crore solar power mini-grid to supply the residents with electricity. It has boosted economic activity in Rupsha Bazar where small business operators previously had to rely on generators burning costly diesel. Their costs have practically halved as diesel has been replaced by the power of the sun. Today the mini-grid supplies power to nearly 500 connections to commercial and household users.
Mini-grid solar systems are now sprouting up in unlikely places to bring electricity to communities who live in remote areas of the country, far from the mainstream electricity grid. It is changing the way they live and work. Bangladesh remains one of the world's poorest electricity consumers but if such systems can be replicated on a nationwide scale, it will do much to boost economic activity and help improve the quality of living. Affordable and reliable electricity can and do act as game changers for business and act as a catalyst for employment. School and college-going students will greatly benefit from having adequate light when they study. The mini-grid is a scaled-up version of the standalone household solar system as it provides more electricity to power up energy-hungry appliances like refrigerators and water pumps. We hope the authorities will make the resources available to communities like the one living on Jamuna shoal so that lives can change for the better.