Lighting up rural Bangladesh

Life comes to near standstill after sunset for the great majority of Bangladeshis living in the countryside. Only about 40% of rural households have access to grid electricity, and even these consumers suffer frequent and prolonged power cuts due to lack of supply. The Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED II) aims to increase access to electricity in off-grid rural areas through renewable energy sources.


At present, against a peak demand of about 8,500 megawatt (MW), current supply is only about 6,500 MW. The urban areas with large industrial loads are prioritized for power supply leaving the rural areas with a disproportionate share of the power cuts. Further, the dispersed nature of rural settlements and the numerous rivers that crisscross the country make grid electrification in many areas of Bangladesh both difficult and expensive. Though progress is being made by the government to counter the power generation shortages, it is clear that reliance on grid electricity alone will not allow Bangladesh to realize its vision of universal access to electricity by 2021.


Solar Light
Kusum Koli Roy, 10, can study in the evening now due to a solar home system. More than 50,000 solar homes systems are being installed every month, making it the fastest growing such program in the world.

RERED II is building on the success of the earlier project, which has supported more than 650,000 new connections to the power grid in Bangladesh and supported more than 1.2 million solar home systems in remote rural areas. Since RERED’s inception in 2003, the project contributed to increasing access to electricity in Bangladesh by 6%. A recent impact evaluation study on SHS have confirmed increased study time for children, increased mobility and sense of security for women, and increased use of contraceptives and fall in recent fertility in SHS households, thanks to awareness from watching TV.

The government of Bangladesh envisions a country with electricity for all. The World Bank has supported this vision of Bangladesh for 40 years.

The RERED II project continues to support the installation of solar power systems and other renewable energy options in remote rural areas where grid electricity is not economically viable. The project has already provided access to electricity to over 330,000 households. More than 50,000 solar homes systems are being installed every month, making it the fastest growing solar home systems program in the world. The implementing agency is a Government owned financing institution, IDCOL. Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) called Partner Organizations (POs) are installing SHS through a micro-credit scheme. Under the program, POs procure and install the systems in rural households as per technical standards set by IDCOL.

The RERED II project is piloting renewable energy based mini-grids in remote rural areas and is also supporting solar irrigation pumps. Targeting rural growth centers, the mini-grids are expected to contribute to increased economic activities in rural areas.  The solar irrigation pumps will reduce costs of irrigation to the farmers and will help to save foreign exchange for importing diesel. By providing a renewable source, the solar irrigation pumps will also contribute to reduced green-house gas emissions. A total 50 solar irrigation pumps with a capacity of 3.3-11kWp are under construction.

Expected Results by 2018

2.5 million people in the rural areas of Bangladesh reached with electricity through solar home systems.

Over 1 million rural households with clean cooking solutions.

Towards the Future

More than 28 million households in Bangladesh still rely on traditional biomass fuels burnt in inefficient stoves. The project also aims to provide clean cooking solutions to over 1 million rural households, which will benefit women and children in particular; 49 NGOs have been selected by IDCOL for implementing the cook stove program, and implementation is expected to start shortly. The project will also support the second phase deployment of energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) in exchange for incandescent lamps to help address the severe energy shortages in Bangladesh.

-WB Feature Story.