ISIS Report 22/11/10
Grameen Shakti for Renewable Energies
not-for-profit social enterprise that empowers and enriches rural communities
in Bangladesh through providing renewable energies, setting an example for the
world Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
A fully referenced and illustrated version of this report is posted on ISIS members website and is available
for download here
Grameen Shakti for renewable energies collage by Mae-Wan Ho
Dipal Barua of
Bangladesh had won the 2009 Abu Dhabi government’s Zayed Future Energy Prize in
recognition of his work of bringing renewable energy technologies to rural
people. The prize included US$1.5 million, which Barua has used to start the
Bright Green Energy Foundation. He is intent on making his country one of the
world first “solar nations”. He wants to train 100 000 women entrepreneurs to
set up their own renewable energy businesses by 2015; and Bangladesh can become a role model for the 1.6 billion energy-starved people all over the
He has devoted most of his life to finding sustainable, market-based
solutions to the social and economic problems of rural people, and came to
realize that lack of access to efficient energy sources was one of the major
obstacles to their development. “More than 70
percent of my country’s rural population has to depend on primitive energy
sources. This limits people’s economic opportunities and damages their health.”
Bank to Grameen Shakti
Barua was one
of the founding members of the Grameen Bank, the Nobel price-winning
micro-finance and community development bank launched in his home village of Jobra in 1976.
In 1996, Barua founded Grameen Shakti (GS), a
non-profit organization with a mission to promote, develop and supply renewable
energy. As managing director, Barua turned GS into one of the world’s largest
and fastest growing renewable energy companies. But attempts to market
affordable solar homes initially faced numerous obstacles.
In a country where some 40 percent of the
population live on less than US$1.25 a day, the cost of even the most basic
solar home system – 15 000 Bangladeshi Taka (US$212) – was beyond the reach of
most rural households; even though for the cost of the kerosene people were
buying to light their homes, they could buy a solar home system that would last
for 20 years or more, with better, cleaner lighting thrown in along with
numerous other uses of the electricity generated.
GS received a big boost in 2002 when
low-interest loans from the World Bank and the Global Environment Fund enabled
the organization to begin scaling up its provision of micro-finance
agreements. The most popular option was a down-payment of 15 percent and
monthly repayments of the remainder over three years.
By the end of 2009, more than 300 000 solar
home systems had been installed, bringing electricity to more than 2 million
Women the key to success
The key to GS’ success was the deliberate involvement of
women in both the take-up of renewable energy, and the installation and
servicing of the energy systems.
are the main victims of the energy crisis. They are the ones who suffer most
from indoor air pollution, drudgery, and a lack of time because of the onerous
task of wood-gathering and cooking.” Barua said. He believes that women should
be transformed from passive victim into active forces of good to bring changes
in their lives and the communities in which they live.
At more than 40 technology centres based in rural areas, and managed
mostly by female engineers, women undergo an initial 15 day course to learn how
to assemble charge controllers and mobile phone chargers, and to install and
maintain solar home systems. With further training, they are able to repair the
systems. Thousands of women technician have come through the programme, and
they have been instrumental in the rapid take-up of the solar power systems.
For Barua, the success of the women technicians programme is one of his most
women now earn around US$150 a month. “These young women from this most
conservative of societies can leave home and operate independently as
technicians – this as unimaginable only a few years ago.”
Shakti for renewable energies
established as a not-for-profit company in 1996 with a mission to empower the
rural people with access to green energy and income. The Chairman from the
beginning was Professor Muhammed Yunus, and the Managing Director, Dipal Barua
60 percent of the Bangladesh population have no access to grid electricity and
rely on kerosene for lighting, while 97 percent of the population depend on
biomass for cooking.
The work of GS is mainly focussed on solar energy, biogas, organic
fertiliser, and improved cooking stove (ICS) . Apart from selling and
providing microcredit for installing solar systems, biogas plants and ICSs, GS
also organises technical training, maintenance, after sales service and
introduces these products at the mass level.
More than 315 000 units of solar energy system have been installed
in remote rural areas of Bangladesh by December 2009, with a combined power
generation capacity of 63 MW. Some 13 000 solar energy systems are installed
per month. People are saving money that they have had to spend on traditional
fuels, and at the same time cutting greenhouse emissions.
GS has been operating biogas plants in different areas of Bangladesh since 2005 . Approximately 8 000 biogas plants have been installed by
December 2009, and high quality organic fertiliser is being produced from the
slurry of biogas plants.
The ICSs are 50 to 60 percent more efficient than the traditional
stoves they replace; and over 45 000 have been constructed so far.
financing and marketing
Much of GS’s
success is put down to its innovative financing: a small down payment of 15 or
25 percent, and a payback period over 3 or 2 years . There is free
maintenance during the repayment period and low-cost warranty after that. The
people involved in providing these services are community-based social
engineers and entrepreneurs who understand rural people, and are committed to
creating jobs for local youth and women. Motivational programmes include
scholarship for school children of solar system owners. The financing also
includes consumer (and environment) friendly practices such as buy-back systems
and removal of dead batteries.
GS is  “blending market forces with adaptive technology”. It
enables households to share a solar home system to reduce cost and increase
income. Mobile phone centres are operated with solar powered mobile phones.
Solar powered computers have been installed in remote offices in Sandip and
Bagerhat; and solar powered computer training centres are opened in Tangail.
Solar home systems have been installed in schools.
training programmes throughout the country
GS’s mass training
programmes are absolutely essential for its success. GS has trained 3 000 local
women technical to maintain, repair and assemble the solar system. It focuses
on training poor disadvantages rural women as solar technicians so that they
can find decent jobs right in their villages. They can also set up small
businesses at their homes to assemble solar accessories. In its 45 Grameen
Technology Centres, green jobs are created for women to support GS’s services.
In these centres, solar accessories are assembled, repaired and installed. The
centres provide maintenance for solar home systems and ICSs. GS plans to
increase its technology centres to 100 by 2011.
GS is training families on the use and marketing of bio-slurry.
Training manuals are being developed on solar PV technology, and bio-slurry
organic fertilizers. In addition, more than 11 600 school children from rural
areas have learned about renewable energy technologies and more than 53 900
rural women have learned to take care of the system installed in their homes
financial rewards from renewable energies
energy generated by the GS systems save approx. Taka306 crore of foreign currency
(~US$43.3 million) every year. Reducing 232 000 tonnes of carbon emissions,
whose carbon trading value is approx. Taka16.28 crore per year (~US$2.3 million)
. With the expansion of ever-increasing programmes, GS carbon trading values
will double at the end of 2010, and this increasing trend will be sustained in
the years to come.
installed solar energy systems for BTS Grameen Phone. It has successfully
installed four solar systems for towers, each 6.5 KW capacity at different
locations as pilot projects. There are more than 22 000 mobile phone towers in Bangladesh, and there is a good possibility for GS to power those towers with solar energy
has installed a solar power system at a ‘high end’ restaurant, NANDO’s in
Gulshan, Khaka. A solar irrigation pump is being installed in Naogoan with
financial assistance of the Bangladesh government’s Infrastructure Development Company
Ltd (IDCOL). Another irrigation pump may be installed with financial assistance
of Denmark in the near future.
A programme has been taken to familiarize and launch solar thermal
water heater, which will decrease demand for electricity and gas in domestic
buildings, and eventually save energy demand from national grids.
August 2009, the Central Bank of Bangladesh has undertaken to guarantee small
scale loans provided by commercial banks for solar and biogas projects, and
industrial effluent treatment facilities . The Central Bank will charge a
five per cent interest rate to commercial banks, which will charge interest
rates of up to 9 percent to their clients. The refinancing scheme will give
preference to loans for effluent treatment plants, which were recently ruled as
mandatory for industrial sites by the country’s High Court. Tanneries and
factories without such a system in place by June 2010 will face closure.
future for GS and Bangladesh
GS operates its
huge programme nationally with the support of 12 divisional offices, 110
regional offices, 726 branch offices and 45 technology centres staffed by
approximately 5 000 .
2010, 200 ICSs and 50 biogas dedicated new branches will be launched to promote
activities; 14 ICS and 17 biogas branches has already been launched by January
GS plans to install and operate an additional 220 000 units of solar
home systems, 16 000 biogas plants and 276 000 units of ICS by the end of 2010.
For that, it hired 2 500 additional technical work force.
GS is going from strength to strength to secure a renewable future
GS has won numerous awards including the “European Solar Prize 2003”
Germany, “Best Organisation Award 2005” UK, “Ashden Award 2006” UK, “European Solar Prize
“Right Livelihood Award 2007”, and “Ashden Outstanding Achievement Award 2008” UK.
There are 6 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
|Francisca George Comment left 22nd November 2010 15:03:37|
This is a great development from a developing country and I think Nigeria should take a cue from this. The situation of women in Nigerian rural communities may even be worse than Bangladesh. With the Nigerian Government's strive for increased Sustainable Agricultural development, efficient and sustainable energy sources need to be researched and provided for the teeming poor rural communities who produce 0ver 70% of the food.
I'm interested in collaborative projects between GS and Nigeria, firstly to provide green energy for fishing and fish post harvest technologies (processing, preservation, storage, transportation e.t.c) for coastal fishing communities.
Francisca George (PhD)
Department of Aquaculture & Fisheries Management,
University of Agriculture, Abeokuta
P.M.B. 2240 Abeokuta
Ogun State, NIGERIA.
|Dr. Michael Godfrey Comment left 22nd November 2010 18:06:42|
This a wonderful example of altruistic humanitarianism directed at helping some the poorest people around. However, this work in progress also indicates what could be done in the richest nations where every marketable commodity has been taken over by profit-driven companies. Money is like manure that stinks when kept in a big heap but does a lot of good when spread around.
|frank ruymen Comment left 23rd November 2010 10:10:35|
if we want the so-called rich West to really herlp out on this I would suggest that we offer this kind of lightweighht technology also here (Europe/US/..)
centralized distribution of energy by big corporations holds us hostage too
just like "no" energy holds them hostage
we really need access to alternative technology for our transition to a new society
|Todd Millions Comment left 24th November 2010 14:02:33|
Further paybacks than these are readily possible.For instance-By placing the PV and heating panels directly on unskinned roof trusses,with water shedding plastic tarps shingle layed under them,the cost of the roof cadding can be eliminated from the total costs,for a quicker pay back on the constuction or reroofing.
Shingle solar components are nice,but costly and unnessary-with caveats.
The solar units protect the tarps from thier weak points-wind and sun,but care must be taken to prevent them from flapping and so wearing where they contact the trusses and the cadding solar units-best dealt eith by stripes of old tarp and/or carpet between truss and the fastening battens(vertical battens)in my experince.These can be arranged too allow enough space and/or insulation too prevent heat from the back of the solar components from melting the tarps.
Measurmnet has shown that on simple fixed arrays-latitue plus 20* is the proper year round fixed angle for the solar power units-though at high latituedes,I've found there are futher factors.Moreover,by adding verandahs to such roofs on the Roabath angle(108*-see;Heavens flame cookers.),I expect that passive amplifications of solar equipment output are possible,and may be compelling in marginal overcast conditions(monsoons).
|Mark Warren Comment left 2nd December 2010 21:09:24|
When dealing with Extreme Poverty or overcoming some of our world's largest challenges, we need to think creatively and out of the box. I am thankful for innovators in the non-profit sector who are willing to push the limits of what we call"Charity", realizing that charity must be sustainable and practical. www.globalbenefit.org
|Muhammad Waliullah Comment left 18th February 2013 08:08:11|
It's really great! The innovations of Grameen Shakti Regarding Renewable Energy Solutions wondered me.
The Training Program System for women & school boys in rural area, impels me to say that the Persons/Men/Leader behind the company are the great asset for Bangladesh as well for the world.
So,If I get any opportunity to work with GS Renewable Energy ltd.it would be pleasure for me.
Muhammad Waliullah,59,Hazi Mohsin Road, Chandpur-3600, Mobile;01723924300.