Solar Energy Empowers Rural Bangladesh

A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) revealed that in the past decade the number of solar energy systems in Bangladesh climbed from around 25,000 to 2.8 million. This number is set to rise as the Bangladeshi government reportedly plans to install around 7,000 photovoltaic systems per month to convert sunlight into energy for rural households that are not on the national power grid. The World Bank has offered the government a loan of $78.4 million to finance a total of 480,000 home solar systems, so many households will soon have the benefit of electricity. Acting head of World Bank Bangladesh, Christine E. Kimes, noted that investing in electricity in rural areas serves to empower people by increasing growth opportunities, increasing income and thereby reducing poverty. Currently close to 60% of Bangladeshis do not have electricity, and the government has set a goal of ensuring all citizens have access to electricity by 2021.

In addition to benefiting the households that receive solar power, the industry has created up to 114,000 jobs in Bangladesh. These include the assembling, sales, installation and maintenance of solar panels. As the demand for solar energy increases, and is met, the number of jobs will increase too. Another positive aspect of solar generated electricity is that it allows households to rely less on kerosene, a widely used fuel oil which can have negative effects on health, including carbon monoxide poisoning.

Photovoltaic technology has been used effectively in some applications for more than fifty years, so this method of generating electrical power through the conversion of solar radiation is well tested. Currently, more than a hundred countries around the world use photovoltaic technology, which is the third most important renewable energy source after hydro power and wind power. With no moving parts and no emissions, photovoltaic solar energy production appears to be the solution for providing electricity to communities off the national power grid in Bangladesh.