Small Solar Systems Are Transforming Bangladesh

Bangladesh has become the site of an incredible but underreported solar boom. As of 2009, only 47 percent of Bangladeshi households had access to electricity, but major investments in solar energy have pushed installations of small photovoltaic (PV) systems to 80,000 per month, according to a May report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). 
Make no mistake, Bangladesh’s renewable development is still dwarfed by projects in Germany, India and the U.S., but of the 6.5 million jobs created by renewable energy, the tiny country ranks as the seventh largest employer in the world. 

114,000 jobs
In the last decade, IRENA reports that solar systems in Bangladesh have grown from 25,000 to 2.8 million. This has created 114,000 jobs in the industry, with the total solar-related jobs almost doubling between 2011 and 2013. IRENA forecasts even greater growth in the future. 
Bangladesh’s solar development has been supported by several philanthropic initiatives. Grameen Shakti, a nonprofit organization, has installed systems in 1.5 million Bangladeshi homes, which provides electricity to about 8.4 million people, according to Sustainnovate. Founded in 1996, Grameen Shakti has since funded 28,762 biogas plants and over one million solar energy systems nationwide. They’ve also provided over 800,000 clean cooking stoves to Bangladeshi homes. 
The World Bank is also investing heavily in the country’s renewable industry. In July, it provided $78.4 million in loans to the Bangladeshi government to go towards financing 480,000 solar home systems. This will also aid in the government’s ultimate goal of providing electricity to 100 percent of its citizens by 2021. 
The adoption of clean technologies is not only good for the environment, it also delivers significant societal impacts. In a paper, World Bank writes that “adoption of a solar home system improves children’s evening study time, lowers kerosene consumption, and provides health benefits for household members, in particular for women.  It is also found to increase women’s decision-making ability in certain household affairs.” 

Why isn’t Bangladesh getting more media play?
So with all of this solar development – and its accompanying benefits to rural Bangladeshi society – why isn’t Bangladesh getting more media play? Director and chief editor of CleanTechnica, Zachary Shahan, writes that there are three potential reasons: 
“1) these are very small systems, so they don’t as quickly add up to ‘a lot’ even though they are providing electricity to many more people than solar is in the US; 2) the small systems might not even be counted in many global assessments of solar power capacity and generation; 3) Bangladesh is an infrequently discussed country in global news, whether it’s cleantech news, massive flooding news, tragic global warming news, or otherwise. But without a doubt, a solar revolution is afoot in Bangladesh, and it’s a big deal.” – See more at:


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