Home ›› 17 Sep 2022 ›› Front

Solar panels gaining ground in rural areas

Muhammad Ayub Ali
17 Sep 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 17 Sep 2022 00:06:50
Solar panels gaining ground in rural areas

Md Hasan Ali set up a solar panel with 150 watt capacity on the roof of his home at village Shamergaon in Senbagh of Noakhali in 2021 to get relief from the severe power crisis there.

The small solar panel provides him electricity for at least six to seven hours and Hasan Ali is happy for at least the studies of his children are continuing uninterrupted.   

Seeing him, the three brothers of Hasan Ali also set up solar panels in their homes.

Hasan Ali said two years ago, nobody in his village used solar panels but now more than a dozen of families are using solar panels there.

Like them, a good number of people across Senbagh are setting up solar panels to cope with the power shortage.

Zero-maintenance cost, renewable energy source, saving money on utility bills and as an alternative solution during acute load shedding, solar home systems are becoming popular across the country, said the service providers. 

Bangladesh is now one of the largest users of solar home systems in the world. According to the Sustainable And Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), more than 6 million solar home systems have been installed under IDCOL program in the off-grid rural areas of Bangladesh and about 13 million beneficiaries are getting solar electricity.

The agency said the average year to year of solar panel installation is 58 per cent more than 65,000 solar home systems are now being installed every month.

The agency said solar panels replaced 180,000 tonnes of kerosene having an estimated value of $225 million per year.

Once solar panels were popular in areas where no power grid was available but now solar home systems are becoming popular even in urban areas as an alternative measure during power cuts, said Zahidul Alam, proprietor of Engreen Engineering Limited.

Md Jahid Hossain, manager of Japan Solar and Electronic, said it is very positive for their business as people are showing their interest in solar panels for their domestic use.

Solar panels with 150-watt capacity are the highest-selling model for homes with batteries being charged by the solar inverters, he added.

Md Alamgir Hossain, Manager of the Ifad Solar Panel, said earlier they used to sell most of their solar panels to government projects and now their products are becoming popular in rural areas for use at home and also running irrigation pumps.

Md Nurul Akter, CEO and director of Energypac Electronics Ltd, said the use of rooftop solar panels can come up as a solution to the power crisis as the additional electricity produced by the panels can be supplied to the national grid.

He also thinks solar panels are much better for irrigation and industrial use rather than using those for only meeting homestead power demands.

Dipal Chandra Barua, president of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, said although Bangladesh achieved 100 per cent electricity coverage, the rural areas are suffering too much from load shedding. “That is why people are now encouraged to set up solar panels. Once people used to solar panels having no connection to the national grid but now people are using solar panels as an alternative source of electricity,” he added.

Future of the solar panel

Dipal Chandra Barua said investment in solar energy will meet Bangladesh’s power generation targets, reduce the volume of electricity import, and environmental protection by reducing carbon emissions while having no detrimental influence on the country’s development activities.

According to the Power System Master Plan-2016, the government aims to achieve 40,000MW power generation capacity by 2030. There are also plans to import electricity from neighbouring India, Bhutan and Nepal at affordable prices.

However, Bangladesh Power Development Board is currently importing 1,160MW of electricity from India which is 9 per cent of the country’s total capacity.

The expenditure for importing Indian electricity was Tk 4,712 crore in FY21, shows the BPDB annual.

Problems faced by the stakeholders

The government has imposed a 1 per cent import duty on solar panels, the main component of a solar home system, in the 2022-23 fiscal year whereas the sector enjoyed zero duty in the past. They said the duty made the solar home systems pricier.

When most governments across the globe are encouraging clean energy, imposing such a duty is not expected from the Bangladesh government, they said.