UN awards US $1 million for Bangladesh solar entrepreneurship initiative to aid rural electrification
Two companies in Bangladesh received the UN DESA US $1 million 2017 UN Energy grant at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today in recognition of a novel project to spur solar entrepreneurship. The two companies, Grameen Shakti and ME SOLshare, received the grant for their joint project that will allow villagers to secure more solar power, save money through flexible energy access, and generate income from trading electricity.
The project will enable rural Bangladeshi villagers to become solar entrepreneurs by creating an interconnected platform where solar home system users and non-users can exchange electricity.
In today’s world, more than 1 billion people globally, mainly in rural areas, live without electricity. Providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is crucial to enable essential health services, gender equality, economic growth, quality education, and to avoid the suffering and death of millions from indoor air pollution resulting from lack of clean cooking technologies. Clean energy is vital to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and leaving no one behind requires providing energy access for all.
The project’s bottom-up mini grids seek to transform solar home systems into an income-generating asset. Its approach leverages existing resources to create a platform fueled by solar with numerous business opportunities for the villagers and with potential for replication throughout Bangladesh and under-electrified regions across the rest of the world.
The partnership estimates that the grant money will enable them to establish a minimum of 100 smart grids resulting in at least 15,000 beneficiaries. But the impact of the grant is going to be greater, as it is likely to inspire more such initiatives.
“Grameen Shakti and SOLshare are deeply honored that our innovative idea of creating a countrywide platform where villagers can share their solar electricity among each other and become smart entrepreneurs has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Powering the Future We Want Grant Challenge by UN DESA,” the winning partnership said in a statement.
“This not only recognizes our innovation and contribution to the path of sustainable Access to Energy for all Bangladeshis, but also entrusts us to excel it to the next level to create the platform for greater leaps of success. We believe this award also underlines the transformation the global energy sector is undergoing to a decentralized, decarbonized, democratized and digitalized one, where Bangladesh, through the great efforts taken by the Bangladesh Government through the Infrastructure Development Company Limited, has already set a great example.”
The grant money will be used to scale up and replicate peer-to-peer solar mini grids, and to leverage the electricity sharing grid infrastructure to power electric rickshaws, run solar water pumps, energy efficient fridges and other appliances, with the potential to strengthen village prosperity and encourage mutual benefits.
“Energy is the golden thread that connects all the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a written statement read out on her behalf during the ceremony. “Achieving SDG7 on energy and transition to sustainable energy can unlock vast economic growth in all regions and for all people, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she emphasized.
DESA Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative partnership that connects the intergovernmental work at UN Headquarters to action on the ground.” He added, “Over the past years, this Energy Grant has proved to be valuable in raising awareness, building capacity, and recognizing ingenuity in promoting sustainable energy.”