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REN21: Bangladesh 2nd in the world to provide off-grid solar energy to homes

  • Published at 11:21 pm June 16th, 2020
solar energy
File photo of a solar panel Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The report predicted that solar energy coverage to households in Bangladesh would increase to 10% by 2020 and 100% by 2050

Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) has placed Bangladesh in the second position in the list of countries providing off-grid solar solutions to households around the world.

Bangladesh shared the second spot in the “Renewables 2020: Global Status Report” with Mongolia, while Nepal and Rwanda secured the first and third places respectively.

A press release was issued by the Paris-based multi-stakeholder governance group, which is focused on renewable energy policy, in this regard recently.

“In 2017, the countries with the highest rates of electricity access from off-grid solar were Nepal (at around 11%), Mongolia (8%), Bangladesh (8%), and Rwanda (6%). 

“As of 2017, 8% of electricity access in Bangladesh is provided by off-grid solar, making it one of the top 6 countries with electricity access from off-grid solar solutions,” read the report.

The report also predicted that solar energy coverage to households in Bangladesh would increase to 10% by 2020 and 100% by 2050.

However, the report also noted concerns over the import of low-quality solar products in Bangladesh.

“To address some of these quality-related concerns, in Bangladesh, concerns about imports of sub-standard products that are threatening the sustainability of the domestic market led the national government to introduce minimum quality standards on solar modules, inverters, charge controllers and batteries,” it said.

According to REN21, the rate of electricity access in Bangladesh reached 95% in 2019, up from only 47% in 2010 and will reach 100% by 2021. But 81% of the country’s population still lacks widespread access to clean cooking facilities.

“The availability of off-grid solar and mini-grid technologies, coupled with new business models that make productive uses of energy affordable, have accelerated the demand for renewable applications in Bangladesh in recent years. For example, some 1,500 solar pumps were deployed between 2013 and 2019 under the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) Solar Irrigation Program.

“However, the country still lacks widespread access to clean cooking facilities, and in 2018, the number of people relying on the traditional use of biomass, coal or kerosene to meet household needs was 81%. And for this reason demand for biogas for cooking surged between 2014 and 2018,” added the report.

The report’s findings show that in 2018, around 135 million Bangladeshis were deprived of access to clean cooking.

Mentioning the introduction of peer-to-peer electricity trading or “swarm electrification” among rural homes in Bangladesh, the report said: “Through this initiative, households that have a solar home system can connect to a low-voltage distribution system and sell their excess electricity to neighbouring households that may or may not have their solar home system in place.”

“The government of Bangladesh, SOLshare (Bangladesh) and the national grid operator kicked off a pilot project in 2019 to trial this concept, which could enable more households to connect to electricity,” the report further noted.

It also said that the Dutch government had launched the SDG 7 Results Facility program to provide grants of up to $2.8 million for energy access projects in Bangladesh and other countries, adding that Schneider Electric collaborated with Amundi, EDFI and Norfund to create the Schneider Electric Energy Access Asia Impact Fund, which aims to provide energy access to millions of people in Bangladesh and other Asian countries.

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