A million solar homes… in Bangladesh

At first I couldn’t possibly believe it, it had to be a sinister joke : there would be a million solar homes in Bangladesh…  I was wondering : How could such a poor country such as Bangladesh could afford to have a million houses with solar panels ?

Indeed, the country has a GDP per capita of $638 (when the USA has $47,000) and a HDI of 0.543 (the world’s highest score is Norway, with 0.98).  40 percent of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line

So, how did the inhabitants got so many solar houses ? Yale Environment 360 (often republished by Cleantechies) bring us the details behind this impressive success.

Here is an article published on June 16th :

The number of households powered by solar energy in Bangladesh has passed the one million mark — the fastest expansion of solar power in the world, according to Bangladeshi officials.

Aided by non-governmental organizations that provide low-cost loans to install solar panels, Bangladesh’s rural households — most of which are off the electricity grid — have driven a dizzying expansion of solar power in recent years.

In 2002, only 7,000 households were using solar panels. The country reached the 1 million-household milestone 18 months ahead of schedule, and by 2014 Bangladeshi officials are aiming to power 2.5 million homes with solar energy. “It’s the fastest expansion of solar energy anywhere in the world,” said Nazmul Haq, of Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company.

An estimated 60 percent of Bangladesh’s 150 million people have no access to reliable electricity, and a World Bank report last month said that solar panels had “changed the face of the remote, rural areas of Bangladesh.”

One published a little earlier, in May, brings us further details :

In 2009, the World Bank provided $130 million to support government initiatives to reach remote parts of Bangladesh that would otherwise not be connected to the national grid. Fewer than half the people in Bangladesh have access to electricity.

“With a small [solar] connection one can power four lamps and one black and white television set,” said Ruhul Quddus of Rural Services Foundation, a Bangladeshi charity that installs solar units.

For Bangladesh, which already faces 2,000 megawatts of electricity shortages, finding new sources of power will become increasingly critical as population growth, industrialization, and a rise in the use of electrical appliances adds another 500 megawatts of demand annually.

In another new report, the U.S.-based advisory firm KPMG LLP predicts that India, Asia’s third-largest energy consumer, may be able to produce electricity from solar power as cheaply as from coal by 2017.

To conclude more broadly on Bangladesh, the Goldman Sachs investment bank believes the country is part of the N11, a group of 11 countries that have promising outlooks for investment and future growth.

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