Tuesday, August 4, 2009: The Daily Star Report
Sales of solar home systems in towns and rural areas in Rangpur and Dinajpur are soaring, driven by frequent power outages.
Fifteen organisations, including Grameen Shakti, BRAC Foundation, Rural Service Foundation (RSF), Padokkhep Manobik Unnayan Kendra and TMSS are expanding solar systems in the region.
About 65,000 families, 300 shops and 85 educational institutions have been brought under solar power over the last two decades.
BRAC was the first to roll out the service in the region in the early 1990s, but Grameen Shakti emerged in 2008 — better equipped.
“We are the largest solar power service provider in the region as well as other parts of the country. We meet 66 percent of the target, while 14 other organisations meet the remaining 34 percent,” said Kamrul Hoque, deputy general manager (DGM) of Grameen Shakti.
Grameen started marketing solar systems in April 2008 in Rangpur and Dinajpur, connecting 10,600 families, said Shawkat Hossain, the company’s divisional manager for Rangpur.
Grameen has sold the highest number of solar systems this year, at an average of 2,500 systems a month.
“We have sold 479 solar power home systems in four upazilas in Kurigram and four systems in Lalmonirhat since April,” said Amir Hosen, regional manager of RSF, a sister concern of Rahimafrooz.
The organisations are providing these services, promoted by Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), which is under the power and energy ministry.
World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Gtz and KfW have been funding IDCOL since 2003 in an effort to take the services to the underprivileged masses in remote areas.
Rabiul Islam, sales promotion officer of BRAC Foundation for Rangpur and Gaibandha, claimed children’s education and other household activities in rural areas have improved with the arrival of solar power.
The Grameen Shakti DGM said new business ventures such as radio/TV repairing shops and telephone services are available in the remotest villages in the north thanks to solar power.
With increasing power cuts, the service providers plan to supply solar power systems even in towns wired by electric lines of the Power Development Board and Polli Bidyut.
Dr Isahak, a medical officer of Rangpur Medical College Hospital, installed a 185-watt solar power system at his home. He said it is better than an IPS because it can supply power for four hours a day and can easily be maintained.
Khalilur Rahman of Palichara under Rangpur Sadar upazila, who installed a solar power home system at his home recently, said: “Though we have a Polli Bidyut power connection at our house, we are fed up with frequent outages. I was compelled to install the solar system.”
Saiful Islam of Ochingachh, Rajarhat upazila in Kurigram district, said: “As the Kurigram Polli Bidyut Samiti authorities have not agreed to extend their cables to my house, which is about 1,000 feet away from the pillar, we installed a solar power system.”
Solar power service providers are selling the system at different rates, depending on the watt it generates. A customer can choose to pay at a time or in instalments. A customer wishing to pay in instalments will have to make a 10 percent to 15 percent down payment first.
Service providers have made several recommendations to the government to boost sales of these systems.