We went to meet Miss Rubiya Binta Mustafiz, the assistant director of Keystone Consulting Ltd. After a very interactive and engaging interview, we collected her views on Bangladesh power and renewable energy sector.
LCP: What is the current condition of the power and electric sector of the country?
RBM: Till date, the main grid line has reached 60% of the country. Thus, 60% of Bangladesh is known as electrified area. The remaining 40% is divided into un-electrified or off grid area.
LCP: What is an un-electrified area and off grid area?
RBM: The un-electrified areas are the locations where electricity will be supplied in the future. Here, some places have grid and others do not. As for the off grid area, there are no plans for providing electricity.
LCP: What is the current status of the Renewable Energy in this country?
RBM: The prospect of harnessing power from solar radiation is the highest since the country is exposed to a lot of sunlight. As for wind, the possibilities are minimal because the country has low plane. The only possible way of harnessing the energy is on adjoining islands. Another alternative is hydro which is providing 230MW of electricity by using the water force.
LCP: What are the available solar energy products in this country?
RBM: There are quite a number of products available that are serving the market. Among these, the Solar Home System (SHS) is the most successful one. Till date 3.1 million units are distributed throughout the country. The system stores the solar energy in a battery and converts it into DC current which are used in home appliances. The system provides minimum 10 Watts peak of electricity. However, the demand for this product is low as its target market,: who are the poorest households, finds it expensive.
LCP: Apart from the home system, what are the other products that are available?
RBM: Another product that has a great potential in the market is solar lanterns. However, till date the distribution is limited and only 5,000 units are distributed. The idea of this came from Lightning Africa and Lightning India which are initiatives by IFC. The basic topology of the product is the same as the home system. However, the price is an issue since it is relatively expensive when compared to conventional lanterns. This could be due to higher import duty.
LCP: Are these two the main products available, or there are some others that are worth mentioning?
RBM: Apart from these two, there is also the first mini grid installed in Sandwip Island. It is a stand alone grid of the island which is a meter based system and is a hybrid of solar and diesel. The major drawback is the price as the operational and installation cost is high for which the unit cost rises. However, total cost is comparatively low. As for the nano grid, it is a similar smaller system which is meter based. There is also Pico Grid, which can be used to provide electricity to 10 adjacent houses. Usually it provides electricity to two lights and 1 mobile socket. Overall it gives 130 Watt of electricity. Lastly, there is the micro-grid available in Dhola.
LCP: Who are the distributors or sellers?
RBM: The Solar Home System is distributed by the Partner Organizations (Grameen Shakti, RSF) of IDCOL. There are 47 to 48 partner organization that have their own offices throughout the country. One of the major distributors is Grameen Shakti. The partner organizations train their employees on how to sell and install the Home System. As for the solar lanterns, there are two foreign sellers, de light and Fosera. The distribution of lanterns is quite decentralized. Nano grid and Pico grid is distributed by Solaris and micro grid by Grameen Shakti.
LCP: Are the consumers satisfied with the products?
RBM: The acceptance rate of these products is quite high. The consumers feel that this is a better alternative to conventional lanterns as it reduces the emission of black smoke and provides more light. But the main bottleneck is the price.
The estimated demand for electricity is around 10,283 MW for the year 2015 with a shortage of 40%. However, there are possibilities of providing electricity to the deprived areas through renewable energy.
Interview conducted by Nazmus Shadat and Tausif Bari