Grameen Shakti – Providing electricity to the poor

March 20, 2011 | By More

Only 30% of the population in Bangladesh have access to electricity. However, with approximately 40% of the population living on less than USD$1.25 per day, the cost of even the most basic home solar system costing 15,000 Bangladeshi Taka (USD$212) is beyond the reach of most rural households.

In 1996, Grameen Shakti was founded to promote, develop and supply renewable energy in Bangladesh as a Social Business. Even manufacturing home solar energy systems in China, where most are made, will not make them affordable enough. An alternative solution had to be found.

Grameen Shakti solar installations

The plan was to have them assembled in the villages themselves, training the villagers (mostly women) to assemble and install them. This also has the added benefit of providing income for people in the rural community.


Women are the primary technicians and installers in the villages

Technology centers were set up to train women technicians who are responsible for installation and repair, as well as women to assemble the systems. They now are able to earn up to USD$150 per month, a huge improvement to the past. Some others were able to add to their income by becoming mini-franchise holders. To facilitate the purchase of the systems, Grameen Shakti provided several options of low-interest loans.

This was so successful that by the end of 2009, more than 300,000 solar home systems had been installed, bringing electricity to more than 2 million people. By 2010, they were installing 1,100 systems per day by over 1,000 women and expect by 2012 to have installed over 500,000 systems.

Exponential growth of solar installations

The company then saw a problem with cooking stoves used in the villages, and redesigned an improved smoke free cooking stove to be provided through the same sales and distribution channel they already have in place for the solar system.

In addition, the company also has been operating biogas plants in different areas of Bangladesh since 2005. Approximately 8 000 biogas plants have been installed by the end of 2009, and high quality organic fertiliser is being produced from the slurry of biogas plants.

A Grameen Shakti improved cooking stove

By 2015 Grameen Shakti aims to have installed a million solar-home-systems, 10 million improved stoves, and half a million biogas plants. This must make Grameen Shakti one of, if not the, largest solar installer in the world by system!

Grameen Shakti operates throughout Bangladesh providing renewable energy with the support of 12 divisional offices, 110 regional offices, 726 branch offices and 45 technology centres staffed by approximately 5,000.

For more details about Grameen Shakti, click here.

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Category: Companies, Social Responsibility

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

Comments (1)

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  1. Shafaat Ahmed says:

    It is that there is a growth of usage in RET, especially in Solar Home System. The same should be replicated to grow business micro-enterprises and income generation. The most important thing is to cut down the cost of Solar PV module which is still higher. There should a economization in production so that poor Bangladeshis enjoy the fruit.

    Thanks in deed!

    Shafaat Ahmed,
    Upgrade Abu Ali Plants,
    Jubail, Saudi Arabia.