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07/27/2012 12:20 PM     print story email story         Page: 1  | 2  

Wow! 1 Million Solar Systems in Bangladesh

Page 1

We wrote about Grameen Shakti back in 2003 and its mission to bring electricity to the poorest of the developing world in the most reliable and sustainable way.

Founded in 1996, Grameen Shakti is an offshoot of Grameen Bank, the pioneering micro-finance institution, which was established in 1976.

By 2002, Grameen Shakti had installed 11,000 PV sytems in homes, schools and businesses in Bangladesh. By the end of this year, it will have 1 million solar systems under its belt, with a goal of 5 million by 2015.

The nonprofit installs 1000 systems a day!

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by Nancy Wimmer

In one of the poorest countries on the planet a renewable energy service company is installing one thousand solar home systems - a day. Not in its capital or busy urban centers, but where 80 percent of the population lives - in rural Bangladesh. The company, Grameen Shakti, literally translates as rural energy. By the end of the year it will have installed a total of one million solar systems and now has expansion plans to install five million systems by 2015. Shakti is succeeding where business as usual has failed, and in the year of Sustainable Energy for All, it's a success story we should all know by heart.

As in other developing countries, the rural market is incredibly tough to serve and villagers are very poor. So how is Grameen Shakti selling them 'expensive solar'?

Shakti solved part of the problem by tailoring a solar system to exactly what people like the traveling food vendor, Mr. Majid needed: a 25W solar system to light his grocery cart and power his cassette player.

They then coupled tailored solutions with finance providing him with a loan he could afford to repay because he doubled his monthly income by working after dusk and attracting more customers with popular Bangla music.

Bangladesh Solar

But the problems don't stop here.

Rural customers are hard to reach. In the Bangladesh delta of the mighty Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna Rivers it's even tougher. Its villages can become islands in the rainy season, when almost half the country is flooded. Other regions where the land lies lower than the plains turn into huge lakes, forcing villagers to travel by boat seven months of the year. Serving village customers on the delta means traveling bumpy mud paths and crossing rivers - on foot, by bike, boat and by rickshaw. It can take hours during the rainy season to reach a few customers.

Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers and make sure the solar systems are running. If there is a problem, Shakti is onsite to solve it - even in times of disaster.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Shakti branch staff members were out doing repairs within hours in areas it took days and weeks for emergency teams to reach. For Shakti, all business is rural. Its field managers run 1,500 branch offices in every district in Bangladesh. They guarantee complete service - from installation, maintenance, repair and financing to customer care and training.

This focus on rural service began when Grameen was founded back in 1996. It sent bright, young engineers into the hinterland to set up its first branches. They won the trust of the villagers, trained local technicians, managed all financing, solar installations and maintenance. This laid the groundwork for Shakti's quality service and steady growth, but it took years to develop.

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Reader Comments (4)

Author:
James

Date Posted:
07/27/12 06:42 PM

Great success story. Grameen has done amazing things. Hope this opens the eyes and ears of the critics. Nations around the world should take lesson from this model. Thank you for the article NANCY !

Author:
Sabina

Date Posted:
07/27/12 08:40 PM

Grameen Shakti is indeed inspiring. Technology and microfinance go very well together. I'd like to draw your attention, however, to the travesty that threatens to play out in Bangladesh today. Action by the Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh threatens the independence of Grameen Bank and the ownership shares of its women clients. We have a petition on Change.org that aims to show Prime Minister Hasina that the world will stand up against these attacks. Sign our petition and share it with your friends and family: http://mcs2015.org/GBpetition_en After having forced Professor Muhammad Yunus out of his position as managing director of the Bank last year (May 2011), Prime Minister Hasina’s government has now appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the operations and ownership of Grameen Bank and make recommendations as to its future leadership. This commission is widely seen as a way for the government to wrest control of Grameen Bank from its women borrower-owners. Learn more: * http://microcreditsummitcampaignblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/sign-our-petition-in-support-of-grameen.html * http://microcreditsummitcampaignblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/petition-endorsements.html Sincerely, Sabina Rogers Microcredit Summit Campaign http://www.microcreditsummit.org/

Author:
ziaush shams

Date Posted:
07/29/12 05:31 AM

Nancy's report is ok. No need to say 'Wow' about Grameem Shakti's feet for it has acheived these kinds of amazing results earlier as well. We are rather shocked to find that she has emphasized on the point that we are at present very very poor. But she has very conveniently forgottrn to mention that her forefathers illegally occupied Bengal for two hundred years and made us popper at the expense of making them filthy rich based on billions of looted pounds from our region; knowing very well that during that time the inhabitants of the motherlands of those colonial mercenaries were many times poorer than th people of the then Bengal and Assam.

Author:
sowhat

Date Posted:
07/31/12 08:11 PM

This country is still garbage. Still #1 corrupted nation in the world. Government has to be fixed. Solar or molar not going to change attitude of the people and government of this country. India is booming. What are they doing wrong that we are not?

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