Solar Home Systems have enabled two crore Bangladeshis to access clean electricity by harnessing solar power, said a World Bank publication released on Thursday.
The book titled "Living in the Light: The Bangladesh Solar Home System Story" stated that Bangladesh's largest off-grid solar power programme in the world offers experiences and lessons for other countries for expanding access to clean and affordable electricity.
It documents how off-grid solar electrification was mainstreamed to a large segment of the population living in rural areas.
Starting in 2003 as a 50,000-household pilot project, the programme at its peak provided electricity to approximately 16% of the rural population.
In the last 15 years till 2018, the programme sponsored 41 lakh Solar Home Systems (SHSs) with a capacity to generate 163 megawatts of electricity.
Over the period, the project reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 96 lakh tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The programme helped reduce indoor air pollution by avoiding the consumption of 404.72 crore litres of kerosene.
Successive financing through the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED) Project, the World Bank supported the Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), a state-owned non-banking financial institution, to implement the programme.
However, the share of renewable energy in the country's total electricity generation capacity is below 3% which is far behind the national expectation of 10% by 20120.
"Our government is committed to driving up renewable energy and has a host of incentives such as tax breaks on offer to drive net-metered solar rooftop installations," said State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid while addressing the book-launching ceremony as the chief guest.
He added, "The Solar Home Systems Programme has been critically important in achieving the 'electricity for all' vision. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, electrification of the grid area has already been completed and the whole country will be electrified within the 'Mujib-Year'."
"Bangladesh is known for its innovative development approaches. In remote and hard to reach areas, the government successfully introduced affordable off-grid renewable energy solutions through a public-private partnership. Clean electricity meant better health and living conditions for families and more study time for children," said Mercy Tembon, World Bank's country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
"Our partnership with the government for this programme spans nearly two decades, and now our support has expanded to include other renewable energy options," she added.
"The RERED I and II projects promoted a sustainable market-driven approach where clean energy solutions were provided by local entrepreneurs with financing from Idcol."
Building on the success of the programme, the World Bank extended support to scale up other clean renewable energy options including solar irrigation, solar mini-grids, rooftop solar, and solar farms. The World Bank financing in two consecutive RERED projects stands at $726 million.
The book was jointly written by Anil Cabraal, former lead energy specialist at the World Bank, William A Ward of Clemson University, V Susan Bogach of the World Bank, and Amit Jain, senior energy specialist at the World Bank.
The book analyses the SHS Programme's organisational effectiveness, how partners were mobilised, how quality was enforced, how risks were mitigated, and how financial resources were raised and deployed as Bangladesh scaled-up renewable energy use. It shares experiences and lessons that would be useful for other countries as they scale up solar off-grid electrification programmes.