Bangladesh's prospect to turn its vast dark areas with sunlight has been bright by meeting its future power demand as solar panel installation is becoming gradually affordable with the development of business models, experts said.
Thanks to the public and private initiatives, including supports of development partners, who carry the initial burden to popularize solar panels and made solar home system available in rural areas, they stated.
Apart from popular micro credit system, getting solar power through small and medium enterprise (SME) and private-public-partnership (PPP) have also been tried to popularize the initiative for home lighting, irrigation, street light etc.
The experts find the country's huge off-grid areas, inadequate government's fund to go for conventional power generation as well as socio-economic condition of its 150 million population have made the solar technology more business friendly in Bangladesh any other developing countries.
"I believe the country's total power crisis can be met through cost effective solar-based power generation," said Dr Sajid Kamal, a professor of Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA.
He said proper policy support and guidance can help the country to explore newer renewable energy opportunities to meet the growing power demand of the country.
Research find that the country's on an average 300 sunshine days and sunlight of 4.0 to 6.5 kilowatt per hour irradiance upheld the potential undoubtedly. And this made possible to achieve 80 per cent growth of SHS annually that enable people to lights, fans and televisions etc in a situation when they get nothing from the national grid.
"If a shop can keep open at night, it has huge implication in the rural Bangladesh," said Mirza Shawkat Ali, an official of Director of Environment (DOE) which deals renewable energy promotion from the sustainable point of view and climate change scenario.
Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL) with the help of 29 non-government organizations disseminated some 1.3 million SHS till June this year which was only 7,000 before the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development project launched in 2003.
Officials said an enthusiasm has also been visible to go for solar in school buildings, street, common space lights of office and apartment buildings etc.
They said the SHS expansion is the fastest in the world and it led to fix fresh target to bring 2.5 million homes under the solar system by 2014.
Still the government has to bring 10 million houses under SHS as the country's more than 60 per cent population remains beyond the conventional power system, they opined.
"It has been possible to install solar panel as its cost has gradually been come down," said ANM Tarique Abdullah of Directorate of Renewable Energy and Research and Development project of Power Development Board.
Utpal Bhattacharjee, manager of Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd (RREL), said both cost of traditional power generation and solar power has been almost in parity when compared with the government's subsidy which crossed over Tk 10 billion and millions of dollar investment needed for grid expansion.
"if the government would spend one-tenth of the total amount in solar, entire Bangladesh can be lighted up," he claimed.
People's affordability to purchase conventional electricity has been reduced with the hike of per unit cost by 40 to 50 per cent during the last three years.
The present government revised the price fith time to reduce the government's subsidy and even contemplating to revise one more time as its import cost has gone highest every due to price hike of fuel in the international markets.
The government has taken various progrrames to reduce the pressure on national grid including irrigation sector which consume over 1200 megawatt electricity during peak irrigation period, said the Power Development Board sources.
The researchers said establishing mini grid solar panel and solar park at suitable off grid location can improve the rate of immediate supply of electricity which can easily be marketed through SME or PPP.
They said due to steps like green banking and energy efficiency fund through commercial banks, a positive climate has already been created to make investors enthusiastic in the green technology.
"Like cable TV, entrepreneurs can supply solar to meet people's power needs," said Dr Sajid, adding that proper policy can also help investors get back their investment additionally through introducing a market mechanism as an incentive to give surplus solar power to the national grid.
"If an investment helps improve load shedding, or reduce pressure on national grid, its benefit can be returned to the investors," he added.
Rahimafrooz which dominates in solar panel business both by importing and locally producing and with diversified products said an investment of Tk 30 lakh ($37,000) can generate 8kilowatt per hour (kph). One kph can light 50 lights.
Utpal said per unit cost of solar power is average now Tk 20 which is almost same as the cost needed for gas and other fuel based power generation if subsidy is calculated with the international price.
RREL set up the 12 megawatt PV solar panel assembly plant in Savar availing the central bank's Tk 2.0 billion refinance scheme.
Dr Sajid said when many developed and developing countries, including Germany, Ireland and the Maldives have already taken policy to go for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, Bangladesh like sunlight resourceful country remain behind due to not taking proper policy.
Utpal said Rahimafrooz is now working on financial modeling by conducting survey on the market needs to produce different range products.
Apart from Rahimafrooz, five to six other are also engaged in importing and solar panel manufacturing. A handsome number of manpower including women have also been skilled up in installation and maintenance for the initiatives like Grameen Shakti and IDCOL, sector observers said.
"We have already got a skill people, including women, who are engaged in installing and maintaining solar panels in rural and urban areas," said Utpal,
Dr Sajid said whatever the efforts are being carried out needed to collaborate and centralized through a policy as the country still have to find location for mini grid or solar park and a mechanism to connect national grid.
"SHS is like stand alone system but we need grid connected system through utilizing unutilized space for examples, roof space, sheds of buses, foot over bridge etc which can be used for solar," he said.
Dr Sajib said energy is not a crisis for us and a proper policy can disseminate it properly to people.
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