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Identification of Off-grid Electrification Projects in Bangladesh for Potential Investors

Info: 11415 words (46 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tagged: International StudiesInvestment

Identification of Off-grid Electrification Projects in Bangladesh for Potential Investors


The main purpose of this report is to identify a potential market for off-grid electrification in Bangladesh. A potential area in Bangladesh is to be identified for mini grid systems to provide electricity, either because they have no electricity or poor quality electricity. The lack of access to energy is considered a serious issue for the economic development of Bangladesh. The country has earned recognition for promoting solar home systems (SHS), but most of the rural areas in Bangladesh still remain non-electrified because of the high costs of solar home systems and low quality of electricity. Providing basic minimum energy services has become a real challenge for developing countries, particularly the rural and remote areas of the country. The areas in Bangladesh which do have electricity for example the cities, will still be low quality. The electricity will turn off, and then will have to be powered by generators. Most of the rural population are going for the Solar Home Systems (SHS), but there are other options and the main off-grid option is mini-grids.

1.0 Introduction

The rural and remote areas of Bangladesh are currently implementing Solar Home Systems (SHS) as a substitute to the national grid, the cost of this is too high for most of the population of these areas. Only around 40 percent of the rural population in Bangladesh have access to grid electricity [1]. For the people who are not connected to the grid, they will light up their households with candles and kerosene lamps. The households that are connected to the grid will suffer from a lot of power cuts due to lack of generation capacity and fluctuations in demand. In this populated, low-income developing country of 152 million people (in 2012), the overall rate of off-field electrification is reported at 56 percent in 2011, thereby forcing around 40 percent of the population to rely on kerosene lamps for lighting purposes. The national grid mostly covers the urban areas like the main cities with a large industrial and domestic loads leaving the rural areas with either very poor standard or no electricity. In 2002, only 7,000 Bangladeshi households were using solar panels. Today, about 2 million low-income rural households in Bangladesh have electricity delivered by solar power.

Electricity is one of the main aspects for the development of any country, and it is one of the crucial structures of socio-economic development of any nation. Bangladesh is a country which is developing but very slowly, with access to electricity around the whole country including the rural areas and remote islands it will benefit the country in many ways. Since 2009, more than 50,000 solar home systems have been installed every month in Bangladesh, making it the fastest growing solar home system program in the world. Initially starting as, a grid electrification project, about 650,000 new grid connections were also supported under the project [2]. The system this project is trying to attract investors with is the mini-grid system, the project is to set up the grids in areas so the system can provide many houses with the solar power, whereas the solar home systems only provides the one house. The national grid in the country either does not reach some of the rural population, some cannot afford it or even when connected the standard of the electricity is too low. Financing and technical knowledge are the main reasons Bangladesh is lacking in the electrification section. The country was concentrating on extending the national grid, but realised it was impossible to cover the whole country, that is when these projects started commencing in the country.

1.1  Aims and Objectives

The main target for this paper is to identify an off-field electrification project in Bangladesh, suitable for potential investors. The different types of off-field electrification are to be researched properly and described to see which is the better option for investment in rural Bangladesh. Other projects around the country which use SHS and mini-grids have to be researched to help investors have a better understanding of what these projects are about. A tool is to be used in a randomly chosen area in Bangladesh to see how much sun light the solar panels will be receiving during the day and night for the months of the year. The investment and costs have to be described so that the potential investors know how much they will have to invest before and during the project. The country was lacking in finance and technical knowledge, but as more projects are being invested in all around the country it is benefiting the country. Equipment needed for the project can be purchased from Bangladesh as the popularity is growing and companies are getting trained with projects like this to be delivered. The advantages and disadvantages of investing into off-field electrification in Bangladesh need to be researched properly so the potential investors understand what the benefits and possible downfalls of the project.

1.2 Methodology

To suggest the best possible off-grid renewable energy project for rural Bangladesh for potential investors. A literature review on the three off-field electrification options, SHS, mini-grids and tidal power system are to be looked into to see which one will be the best option for a project to be invested in. Different scenarios around the country are to be looked into to see how they started and progressed with their projects with graphs to show the progression. A tool called The Photovoltaic Geographical Information System (PVGIS) is used to provides a map-based inventory of solar energy. As a Photovoltaic Geographical Information System it proposes a google map application that makes it easy to use. An area can be selected that the investors or project co-ordinators are looking to project in and it will give them data such as how much sunlight will get attracted by the solar panels. the tool gives a graph and table with data for the whole year to see when it is attracting the most sunlight to generate into power and when it is receiving the least. With the literature review, the PVgis tool and research into other projects it will give the best idea for the investors to look into. This report will discuss the investments, costs, advantages and disadvantages for the off-grid projects. Recommendations will be made on what off-grid system to go with and information on how to receive extra support on how to start and progress with the project.

2.0 Background/Literature Research

The most popular system at the moment is the Solar Home System, there has been a lot of funding and investment towards that. The mini-grid option will be explained and looked into to see which the best possible option for investment in the rural areas have poor or no access to the national grid. Bangladesh is divided into eight major administrative divisions, each division is named after the major city within its jurisdiction in most cases that serves as the administrative capital of that division:

  • Barisal
  • Chittagong
  • Dhaka
  • Mymensingh
  • Khulna
  • Rajshahi
  • Rangpur
  • Sylhet

The divisions are divided into 64 districts, and in them 64 districts they have sub-districts. The sub-districts are where most of the rural areas are suffering from poor electricity or none at all. Both Solar Home Systems (SHS) and mini-grid option will be looked at for use in the rural areas. The SHS system is the more popular off-field electrification method at the moment in Bangladesh. The urban areas or the cities of all divisions have relatively high level of electricity access but the rural areas or the villages/ remote islands still struggle with the challenge. Dhaka and Chittagong divisions have reported better access to electricity comparatively while Barisal and Rangpur divisions have relatively low levels of electricity access [3].

More than 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity, and in many cases the conventional grid may not reach them in the near future due to high costs and the remoteness of the areas. Off-grid electrification through local grids has been suggested as an alternative and it is likely that the private sector will have to play an important role in enhancing electricity access. The country I have chosen for this project is Bangladesh, because millions of Bangladeshis have gained access to electricity over recent years. Around the country the population in rural areas or remote islands have started to use Solar Home Systems (SHS), because they do not reach the national grid or because the national grid is not reliable. There are constant blackouts and the cost is too high for some of the population of the rural areas. On average the number of households in rural Bangladesh is around 200 houses per village, which is suitable for mini-grid operations. Most of the urban areas in Bangladesh are electrified but still get blackouts because on the non-reliability of the national grid. The rural areas have the problem, a high number of the population of the villages will not be able to afford electricity or they are in a remote area and the national grid will not reach them anytime soon.

The BPDB Bangladesh Power Development Board is responsible for major portion of generation and distribution of electricity mainly in urban areas except Dhaka and West Zone of the country. So this still leaves out all the remote islands and the rural areas of the country to still suffer from the lack of/or no electricity. BPDB has taken a massive capacity expansion plan to add about 11600 MW Generation capacity in the next five years to achieve 24000MW capacity according to Power System Master Plan (PSMP)-2010 by 2021 with the aim to provide quality and reliable electricity to all the people of the country for desired economic and social development. The power system has been expanded to keep pace with the fast growing demand [3]. This is still leaving out the rural areas, from which the national grid does not reach at all or has poor quality of electricity.


2.1 Solar Home Systems (SHS)

Bangladesh has achieved a large success in installing and using Solar Home Systems (SHS) in recent times as part of its initiative to use renewable sources to offer more access to electricity. On June 30th 2014, the government of Bangladesh signed a $78.4 million additional financing for additional support for the successful Solar Home Systems programme of Bangladesh [4]. The credit and recognition for the additional financing to the Bangladesh Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy development project is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s soft loan arm. The project will try to help install 480,000 solar home systems that had become a viable electrification option for areas without grid access to electricity. Over the years more of the rural population are opting to go for an off-field electrification system, as the grid does not reach them or they have low quality electricity and a lot of black outs.

IDCOL started the SHS programme in January 2003 to fulfil basic electricity requirements of the off-grid rural people of Bangladesh as well as supplement the Governments vision of ensuring access to electricity for all citizens of Bangladesh by 2021. Up to October 2016, about 8.25 million SHSs have been installed under the programme in the remote areas where electrification through grid expansion is challenging and costly [5]. Now is a good time to introduce and provide the rural areas of Bangladesh with an off-field electrification system. It is cheaper for the rural population to have a solar system and they are provided with better quality electricity than they would from the National grid.

Image result for shs in bangladesh
Bangladesh has succeeded in using standalone solar home systems (SHS) as part of its aim to use renewable sources to offer more and better access to electricity. Two million SHS have been installed so far to serve more than 8 million people in the off-grid areas [11] and the average diffusion rate of SHS is around 50,000 units per month, this is why it is considered the fastest SHS growth rate in the world [12]. However, in recent times, local grid-based electricity has received global attention and studies by the International Energy Agency (IEA) [13] and World Bank suggest that mini-grids like this can provide and cater for 60% of electrification demand in the future. Despite having various renewable energy projects available and on-going, Bangladesh has no adopted mini-grids to a substantial level.

Figure 1 Solar panel on the roof of a house in rural Bangladesh (SHS)


2.2 Mini-grid system

Mini-grids are designed for use in remote area or islands, it manages the storage, generation, and usage of solar power, composed of solar modules, a hybrid inverter, and battery bank. The mini-grid system can offer solar power as the main power source and switch to alternative power sources when solar power is not enough for meeting the demand. A mini-grid system reduces dependence on diesel, public energy grids and creates an eco-friendly energy replacement that can be utilised for housing use or as an emergency support system [6].


Renewable energy has significant potential to reduce the cost of electricity in rural areas and island. In areas far from the main power grids, regional secluded grids often referred to as mini-grids operating on expensive diesel fuel are often the main source of electricity to households and industries. The costs can be reduced by using hybrid mini-grids with renewable photovoltaic (PV) power.

A growing number of isolated grids is operated by independent power producers (IPP) under concession, and it is expected that hybridisation projects, which are categorised by a higher capital intensity than diesel-only plants, require further private sector involvement, in particular to ensure access to financing. The financial capability, i.e. the attractiveness of a hybridisation project from the perception of equity investors and commercial lenders, rely on the terms and conditions of the existing or new power purchase agreement (PPA). Most cases, no such framework exists and IPPs cannot change the generation technology under the existing PPA [7].

The average number of households in rural Bangladesh is around 200 houses per village [8], which is suitable for micro/mini grid operations [9]. Bangladesh can take inspiration from India where densely populated remote areas are served by decentralised renewable energy systems providing electricity to households through micro-grids which have been considered one of the most economically feasible options [10]. With the support from existing renewable energy policy, the population of the off-grid areas of the coastal belt can be provided with consistent electricity using the renewable mini-grid options. However, there are some huge challenges in the application of decentralised renewable hybrid mini-grids in most areas of Bangladesh include restricted consumption pattern (time and load) by the end users, uncertainty of seasonal demand, different operation-management arrangements for individual mini-grids, lack of expertise in manpower, expensive storage, security of the distribution network and restricting loss and theft.

2.3 Tidal Power System

Another form of off-field electrification is Tidal Power, it is a form of hydropower that converts energy from tides to forms of power mainly electricity. It is not widely used at the moment but tidal power has potential to be the most used off-field electrification in the future Tides are more unsurprising than wind vitality and sun oriented power. Among all the different renewable energy tidal power has suffered from high costs and limited availability of sites with high tidal changes and flow velocities thus its availability is low at the moment. If tidal power was used in Bangladesh the location of the site should not be a problem, as the country is surrounded by water and is constantly flooding. The high costs will be a major issue as it is a poor country, but that is where the investment can help and it could be successful in the long wrong. The use of tidal power goes back to 900 AD when early civilisations constructed tide mils. These mills used the force of the tide to turn a waterwheel, which was used to grind grain into flour [14]. Tidal power is a renewable power source which does not cause pollution, it is more efficient than wind power because of the density of the water, and it is predictable.

From figure 2 we can see that gas dependant power plant was installed 66.82% of the total installed capacity, but in actual case some of the other fuel dependant plants were abandoned. Sustainable energy sources use only 3.56% of electricity production, fossil fuel use 96.44% of total generation which pollutes the air, land, and water and emitting CO2. The pollution and emanation guide to environmental dilapidation which results a bigger climate hazard and natural disasters [15]. Fossil fuels are diminishing at a high rate, so other sources have to be thought about mainly renewable sources. Bangladesh will be facing a severe energy crisis after the fossil fuels are finished. The country has no energy security in this respect, this is why sustainable energy is the only solution to get rid of this problem. As years go by the energy problem is getting worse, as more fossil fuels are running out. To be able to fully use renewable energy sources requires a lot of time, so in between the transaction fossil fuels can play a vital role. When the moving toward sustainable energy sources, tidal power can assist to play a role in this regard.

In Bangladesh different rural areas have very different income, electricity is a major factor in this. Without the income distribution information for specific villages, this work depends on the national wage conveyance profile for rural areas to catch the distribution of households by salary categories. Households with less than 6000 taka a month income are classed as poor, households with income above 6000 taka but less than 15,000 taka are considered medium and any household with more than 15,000-taka income are month are considered as rich. It was found that 46% of the households are poor, 39% are medium and 15% are rich [16]. It is estimated that the poor are likely to spend over 400 taka a month on lighting and fuel, while the middle income and rich households are likely to spend over around 550 taka and 750 taka per month respectively. The government has a vision to electrify the whole of Bangladesh by 2021, this is the right opportunity for investors to be bought in and help electrify Bangladesh and also profit from it. The unit cost of solar panel systems has decreased considerably in recent years. This is a study that looked at the tidal power system, a 1 kWPV system is assumed to require $2800 and the replacement cost is $2000 per kW. A low operating and maintenance cost of $10/year/kW is considered. The cost is based on assumption that no tracking device is used. The life of solar panels is assumed to be 20 years, the simulation is carried out for various quantity- capacity combinations to facilitate optimal sizing of the system [17]. That is brief idea of what power and cost of what a tidal power system will have, so anyone who was interested in this kid of project.

3.0 Investment/cost

Access to financing is a key requirement for maintainable private sector development in the sustainable off-grid energy segment in developing nations, for example, Bangladesh. The challenge is apparent in clean small rural electrification projects in remote areas, where the direct capital investment particularly for advanced sustainable power source advances can be generally high practically identical to accessible funds to nearby households and enterprises. A rising and better supply custom-made to local and investors conditions and easier access to funding and financing schemes are vital for successful business schemes in the sector, and therefore for striving towards universal clean energy access [18].

Grameen Shakti (meaning village power in Bengali) was established by Grameen Bank executives to help promote and provide affordable, clean, modern and sustainable renewable energy technologies for the rural population of Bangladesh. Grameen Shakti began in 1996, and at that time approximately 80 percent of rural households lacked access to electricity. The majority pf the people relied on kerosene for their lighting needs, so the potential rural market for off-field electrification was a big investment opportunity for investors who could electrify rural Bangladesh and make profit out of it. Despite the large potential market, Grameen Shakti only sold around an estimated 500 solar home systems from the years 1996 to 1998. The main reason for this is because no one in rural Bangladesh had ever seen a SHS and the price for a system was out of an affordable reach for most of the rural population. The first systems cost approximately 22,000Tk, almost four times the average monthly rural income of 6,096Tk in 2005 [19].

The sales rate increased when Grameen Shakti extended the repayment time from one year to three years once it received an International Finance Corporation Enterprise loan in July 1998. The Government’s decision to lift the import duty and value added tax on solar photovoltaic panels in 1998 made SHS more affordable, because they could be sold for a bit cheaper as it would cost investors less to bring the equipment and products into the country. These favourable changes from the government allowed Grameen Shakti to sell double the amount of SHS as they did previously.

The mini-grid option is considered a viable investment project (from the investors perspective), the value of costs should be less than the net present value of benefits. In the case of the mini-grid option the costs include initial investment, fuel-related costs, operating and maintenance related costs and the costs of replacing assets. On the other hand, a benefit is the sale of electricity and for the financial analysis, this only considers the revenue generated from sale of electricity. For the different types of stakeholders (investor, consumer, and the government), different aspects are considered. For example, an investor will be looking for an adequate return on the investment and has to ensure that the debts are paid on time and the asset is replaced on schedule so the business can run smoothly. Consumers will be able to buy different tariffs for the mini-grid connected supply. The government will be profiting both ways as the country is being invested in, the country is getting electrified, and it will create jobs for the people of Bangladesh, which can boost the economic growth of Bangladesh. For potential investors this can be approached in different ways, the first way could be a 50% soft loan with 5% interest rate and 50% investor equity. The second way is 40% capital subsidy delivered by IDCOL, 30% soft loan with 5% interest and a 30% investor equity. Fixed capital cost of $25,000 has been estimated for the larger 30kW + peak package, and $15,000 for the smaller project 4kW + peak to cover the cost of power station buildings, equipment fitting, supply network and consumer metering [20]. As Bangladesh is a developing country and has recently taken huge steps towards renewable energy, solar panels, batteries and most of the equipment can be bought from Bangladesh.

The levelled costs of mini-grids using only renewable energy is expected to drop to between $0.30 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $0.57/kWh by 2025, and to range of $0.19/kWh to $0.35kWh by the year 2035. Currents costs are between $0.47/kWh and $0.92/kWh. The drive for this lower cost are expected to be lower storage costs and more intelligent controls. By 2025, renewable mini-grids will be able to provide both basic and high tiers of service at competitive prices, leading to massive commercialisation and deployment to remote areas globally. As the overall costs of mini-grids decline, it will make more economic sense and will increasingly compete with the extension of the main national grid. By 2035, renewable mini-grids will be a cost competitive option even in areas close to the main-grid with a good supply [21].

The 100,000 SHS that were to be implemented with the help of KfW’s contribution were to be financed as shown below:

Contribution Euros (millions) Percentage of overall contribution (including loans)
Grant from KfW 4.6 14
Loan from KfW 9.7 30
Loan from IDCOL 8.9 28
Loan from POs 4.8 15
Users own contribution 4.1 13
Total 32.1 100

KfW is a German development cooperation, who have invested in SHS in Bangladesh. This organisation has invested a total of 32.1 million Euros for the access of energy for the rural population of Bangladesh through SHS. They had a time plan to invest 2,500 SHS per month, it soon became clear that actually more than 6,000 SHS were being installed per month. The aim total of 100,000 SHS in rural Bangladesh was reached after just one and a half years, because of the growing need for rural Bangladesh to be electrified. Other donors such as World Bank were providing considerable loan resources, but only KfW’s finances were needed for the 100,000 SHS. Since there was a shortfall of grant support from other development partners, in 2009 KfW’s refinancing facility was transformed into investment grants as well. By giving investments grants they managed to install 440,000 SHS rather than the original target of 100,000.

3.1 Delivery mechanism

One of the main challenges for delivery was the lack of financing, funds were needed for the purchase and installation of SHS, and credit financing would have to be arranged for customers to purchase the systems. With investment looking to be found and with some help from the government this should not be a roadblock. The limited technical knowledge was also a huge problem, specifications for SHS would have to be written and the sources of supply would have to be found. When the country first started to install solar panels, companies and their employees would have to be trained in the installation and maintenance. As years went by and the country kept developing in the renewable energy sector, people of the country learnt more and supplies were available for purchase in the country. Solar panels, batteries and most of the equipment can be bought from within the country now.

Bangladesh’s energy policy was primarily focused on grid extension, but it was estimated that only 70 percent of the rural population can be electrified through grid extension at a reasonable cost. This was clear that the rural and remote island population far away from the grid will be left out, that’s when stringer financial and technical support for off-grid electrification was required. This delivery challenge that prevented the government of Bangladesh from quick and sustainable results could be described as a performance gap.


4.0 Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-field Electrification (Renewable Energy)

4.1 Advantages of off-field electrification (renewable energy)

Solar energy is a rightly renewable energy source, it can be connected in all areas of the world and is available every day. Solar energy cannot run out like some other sources of energy. Solar energy is accessible as long as there is a sun, that is where the power is generated from. SHS and mini-grids are both powered by solar panels and inherit energy from the sun, this is good because it means both options will not run out as long as there is a sun.

Using solar panels is cheaper than using the electricity from the national grid, as the energy is from the sun. in Bangladesh some of the population of the rural areas cannot afford to pay for the connection to the national grid, or the grid doesn’t reach them at all [22]. Using solar panels, it will make sure they have some form of electrification and it will be affordable to most. In some countries if you generate more electricity than you use, you can sell it to the national grid. If a deal like this can materialise in Bangladesh, it will be profitable to the rural population as they can receive a payment for the extra energy. It will also be profitable for the government as they can transfer the energy to the national grid, mini-grids elsewhere or any other solar energy systems [23]. Using solar power decreases reliance on fossil fuels, increases clean renewable energy entering the grid and reduces energy-related pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Using energy from a solar panel is also kind on water resources, because its much less water-intensive to produce energy from the sun rather than common power sources [24]. Two benefits of SHS which are somewhat indirect but no less potent to it, one of those are matching electricity production with electrical demand which can help reduce the cost of electricity on the market for everyone round. The other benefit is from installing SHS its boosting the local economy by creating jobs, and studies have shown the money invested in solar power can create three times the jobs than the same amount of money invested in coal or natural gas [25].

Rural micro-grids deliver benefits by replacing low-quality energy sources or non-existents in some areas of Bangladesh with higher quality energy fuels and technologies providing the same energy services. Electric light is a vital replacement to kerosene-based lighting, and when it is supplemented with other services enabled by electricity access it can improve productivity on the local scale. On the national scale, per capita electricity service is highly correlated with improvements to the Human Development Index (HDI) showing strong diminishing benefits [26]. As solar energy is renewable energy, it means it cannot run out like fossil fuels, coal and nuclear. As long as the sun is alive solar energy will also be alive, the surface of the earth received 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight)- 20,000 times more power which is needed to supply the whole earth. Renewable energy sources ae also sustainable, the energy sources meet the needs of the current times without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Solar energy is sustainable because there is no way it can be over consumed. Solar energy is available all over the world, but as Bangladesh is close to the equator it has better access to more sunlight so more power [27].

Diesel generators are very loud, it can be heard all around a village when one is on. With solar energy there are no moving parts so there is no noise associated with photovoltaics.

4.2 Disadvantages of off-field electrification (renewable energy)

The main disadvantage of solar power is that energy cannot be created during the night, the power generated is also reduced during times of cloud cover (energy is still produced). Solar power energy is at its maximum when he panel is directly facing the sun, this means panels in a fixed location will see reduced energy production when the sun is not at an optimal angle. To get maximum energy production when the sun is out it to put it on top of a tower and it will track the sun like in the Image shown below [28].


Even with today’s most efficient solar cells only 20% of the sun’s rays gets converted to electricity from solar panels. With increased advances in solar cells in the rural areas of Bangladesh the percentage is very likely to increase. The initial cos of purchasing solar panels becomes the first disadvantage when solar energy is mentioned, after that the cost of installing it is another road block. Considering the financial position of the rural population of Bangladesh, these are major negative factors in promoting solar energy to them. As mentioned earlier, solar panels are pretty much useless at night. Separate batteries can be bought to store extra energy for the night. The monsoon season will be another problem as it will be difficult to draw power during those days [29].

The Bangladesh government might have a problem with supporting and financing areas for renewable energy that are already connected to the national grid. The areas which are connected to the national grid will suffer from a lot of black-outs, because of the poor systems. If the off-grid electricity works better for the population, they might choose not to be connected to the national grid and the government will lose out. The government aim to electrify the areas which cannot be reached by the national grid [30]. Areas which are electrified can use the off-grid solar panels as a back-up in case of black-outs. So there are a few road blocks for providing off-grid electricity to Bangladesh, but it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

5.0 Discussion

In Bangladesh, daily power cuts are simply expected. Cities such as Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong experience around 2 to 3 hours of load shedding every day when residents are deliberately cut off from electricity in a bid to save power, this happens more in the rural areas. This in not counting the normal black outs experienced because of the changes in weather. In the hot summers when the temperature rises, power consumption also rises as people are using more fans and air conditioning. The demand of power needed often out-weighs the limited supply of electricity. The hot weather also makes the rivers run dry, which hinders electricity generation, fuel extraction, emissions control and transportation. Bangladesh has many rivers passing through it, the two most powerful rivers are the Ganges and Brahmaputra. About half of the land area in the country is at an elevation of less than eight meters above sea level. The rain in the monsoon season and the low elevation near these rivers causes the country flood a lot, up to 30% of the country has been covered with flood water. Some of the causes of the floods are:

  • Snowmelt from the Himalayas takes place in the late spring and summer.
  • 10% of the land area consists of rivers and lakes.
  • Bangladesh experiences heavy monsoon rains in the months May, June and July, the highlands especially.
  • Tropical storms can possibly bring heavy rains and coastal flooding.
  • The main cause was the more than expected and long stretch of overwhelming rain which makes every one of the three rivers have their pinnacle flow at the same time [31].

The floods and hot sun cause problems for the population electrified from the national grid, but these exact same negatives can become positives when dealing with off-grid electrification. The flooding and the heavy rain can help if Tidal power systems were being invested in, as it all works on water and waves. The glaring sun will provide energy which can be captured by solar panels, which is used in SHS and mini-grids. The energy captured can be used immediately, saved for later or even sold on. At the moment most households bear the burden of sustaining itself, local companies and other investors are looking to make it a combined thing between communities and villages [32].

5.1 Photovoltaic Geographical Information System (PVGIS) Tool

The Photovoltaic Geographical Information System (PVGIS) tool, provides a map-based inventory of solar energy. An online PV project can be created instantly, and the performance calculator can be used to estimate the PV system output. An area called Nabigonj from the Sylhet district was chosen at random to get an estimate to what the tool can do and what data can be gathered from it. This is a map-driven user interface which enables the users (the potential investors) to select the location of interest. When the user has selected the location, various system specifications can be modelled using drop-down menus and tick boxes.

The installed peak PV power was chosen at en estimate of 80 kWp, also with an average of a 14 percent estimated system loss. The solar PV’s were at an estimated 35-degree tilt so it is at an angle so the panel is not facing all the way up where the sun may only be visible to part of the panel. If the panel is an angle of around 35 degrees it will most likely hit the whole panel.

The table and graphs show that in the months May, June and July the figures for irradiation on an optimally inclined plane, irradiation on a plane at an angle and the optimal inclination are always lower than the rest of the year. It is lower in them months because that is the rainy season in Bangladesh so the solar powered mini-grids will not attract or store much power. The slope of the solar panels is tilted to a minus, that is why the inclination is giving negative figures. http://sunmetrix.com/pvgis-a-comprehensive-solar-panel-calculator-for-photovoltaic-systems/

May, June and July are showing negative figures because it is the rainy season.

PVgis is an online tool that estimates the solar electricity production of any PV system. It will give information like the yearly output power of solar photovoltaic panels. As a Photovoltaic Geographical Information System it proposes a google map application that makes it easy to use. This application calculates the monthly and yearly potential electricity generation (kWh) of a PV system with defined modules tilt and orientation.  http://photovoltaic-software.com/pvgis.php

A big advantage of PVGIS it that it’s web-based architecture, without installing any sort of software and other interactive features. The information/data is easily accessed, so not much research has to go into it. Potential investors could possibly use this on different locations within the country to get an estimate on what kind power they are dealing with throughout the months in the year. Another advantage is that the information on the integration of insolation with a PV model, enabling the estimation of electrical output. http://sunmetrix.com/what-north-america-can-learn-from-pvgis/

5.2 Similar Scenario

In Bangladesh off-grid electrification is growing, most of that population is currently using SHS. However, mini-grids are getting invested in and its popularity within the country is growing. There are funds available for mini-grid projects, which is a very good advantage for potential investors. Below are 3 graphs of a similar project in the Rajshahi district, the graphs show on an average of how many households it covers and how much power the mini-grids capture. Using other examples where they have been similar projects installed would give an insight of what to do the same as the project or what to do different. The advantages from other projects can be useful and the disadvantages can be avoided. There has been mini-grids installed in Rajshahi as shown in figures 6,7 and 8 which can be useful, the island of sandwip is also installed with mini-grids which can be helpful to the investors. The sandwip project is the largest off-grid installation of its kind in the nation using state of the art technology [33].




Calculating and working out the rates the electricity is being used and how to work out the prices to charge will be very important, because it has to be reasonable for both investor and consumer. How much energy is saved and produces from the solar panels also has to be known, so it is known how it will be able to provide. Figures 6,7, and 8 above show examples of a mini-grid system installed in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh.

Figure 6 shows the energy mix of a 141 kWp solar diesel hybrid mini-grid in rural Bangladesh. The system shown is for around 998 households and 45 shops in the Rajshahi district. It shows the energy consumption throughout the months of the year in kWh. It also shows how much solar PV’s supply, the supply from the diesel generator and all the unused solar energy.

Figure 7 shows the simulated energy mix diagram of a mini-grid where the productive day load (irrigation pumps) is added, the system is designed to resource electricity to rural homes and small businesses around a village or a village market. This mini-grid distributes power to 14 intelligently incorporated irrigation pumps. The irrigation pumps can only draw power during the day, so any leftover energy is then stored. The RE fraction for this mini-grid is 94.55% and the unused or waste of energy produced from the solar PV’s is 2.6%, so daytime loads should be encouraged and promoted when designing mini-grids.

Figure 8 shows the annual energy requirement of the 14 irrigation pumps for the mini-grid at 148.5 kWp in Godgari Union of Rajshahi District. As shown in the graph from July to October there is no irrigation demand, because that is the rainy season for Bangladesh. The solar radiation rates slumps to a minimum during that same period.  November, December and January is where the irrigation demand is high even though the temperatures cools down there is no rain during that season.

6.0 Recommendations

One of the major fest steps will be to locate an area to install a mini-grid system in, for example this can be small village with around 200 households. Many villages are not covered by the national grid, so it will be good to start off in one. From all the off-field electrification options it has to be recommended that the mini-grid is the best option. SHS is being installed all around the country and a lot has been invested in too as well. The market for mini-grids is more open, it will electrify rural Bangladesh and it will be profitable for all involved. Consumers in the mini-grid boundary could be categorised depending on how much electricity they need and their financial capabilities. For the people who have a very limited budget, they can be put on a system where they have a fixes weekly/monthly charge. By creating a system like this it is made very simple, the consumer knows how much they have to pay and how much electricity they will get and the investors/company know how much income is coming in. The more financially steady users can be connected with a pre-pay or post-pay meters depending on their financial income. For commercial usage for example shops or mini factories, they could pay a fixed cost or install a meter and have a pay as you go system.

To have smart pricing is essential, because there is a different price for different hours of the day and night depending on the cost of production. During some hours the solar panels will capture a lot of power from the sun, but during the night it will capture less. This should not be a major problem because the power can be stored from the day time. A time varying pricing scheme [35] can be a very good tool for an idea of the price responsive and end users. Setting up seasonal tariffs can be another option to be looked at, to recover the cost of production with different availability of resources in specific project locations. A subsidized tariff can potentially be included with agricultural activities. This is due to farmers utilising subsidized diesel for irrigation. Extended tariff subsidy may be applied for by private electricity suppliers in relation to these activities and to gain government support.

Interactions with someone from the local village will allow a better perception of the needs of that particular village’s needs. Training can be indulged into the population of that village to a level where skilled labour will be available for future projects. Although, the public and private sector will need to educate the pool of consumers in order to be as efficient and effective with the electricity usage. This will all eventually lead to assisting towards the mass diffusion of renewable mini grids which will then allow social empowerment to be in place. An important factor is to have a strict timely maintenance of the equipment and replacement in order for the service to come across as reliable allowing a loyal customer base to be created; this should all be following the regulations of the policy guidelines. This can be enforced with a remote data monitoring system. Both the private investor and policy makers will benefit towards their objectives of mass penetrating the market, when the usage of resources and data on operations is all kept and maintained correctly. To help with working out tariffs and prices to charge, examples from other projects can be used. Sandwip in Bangladesh is a remote are where mini-grids have been used in Bangladesh, examples from here can be used to help organise a reasonable price for both investor and consumer.

6.1 Policy Support

The renewable energy policy (2002) of Bangladesh [36] and the current policy [37] have developed an Investment and Fiscal Incentive standard, where Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) creates fiscal incentives and considers subsidies for investment in energy renewable projects in Bangladesh. SEDA will help investors locating the project and acquiring the right location and type of land needed. Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) will look after the techno-economic matters for the remote areas in these projects.  IDCOL has created a subsidy fund to be invested in mini-grid projects and up to a maximum of 60% capital subsidies can be offered in the field. IDCOL provide a lot help financially and generally with projects like this all over the country, this is beneficial to the potential investors as they are provided with support. This is also a benefit for IDCOL as they make their fair share of money from it and the projects electrify Bangladesh with solar energy so it is most beneficial to the population of Bangladesh.

6.2 Clean Development Mechanism

World Bank supported IDCOL’s SHS program to be registered as eligible under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This reduces emissions of greenhouse gases by using renewable solar power for electrification cam be sold as Certified Emission Reductions (CER). World Bank and IDCOL are both looking to support any potential investors into off-field electrification, so some deals can be materialised with the organisations for the support. It was expected that by 2016 around 400,000 CER’s will be generated which are being sold at a current price of $9 per CER from the total amounts, 75 percent goes to the project co-ordinators and 25 percent goes back to IDCOL as a fee [38]. The investors should have a co-ordinator for the smooth running of the day to day progress and distribution of the project. The additional income may be less, but it still represents an incentive to the co-ordinator and contributes to further success of the program.

6.3 Consideration towards selection of location

When selecting a location there are many things to be considered, first a district needs to be selected. When a district is selected, a city/town has to be recognised and then a village within it. The big cities like Dhaka and Sylhet will have a better electrification rate than the others. Ranking villages from within a division will make it easier to select one, the cities close to the town centres would be more appealing to potential investors. The areas with a higher profile will be more appealing as it would attract more business and the financial power will be higher [39]. The lower ranked areas will have weak institutional arrangements, and poor renewable energy resource potentials, poor socio-economic profiles. They will need support from the government and more money will have to be invested in the lower ranked areas.

Figure 10-Distribution of rural households in terms of lighting energy use in Bangladesh [40]


Limited access to electricity in rural areas encouraged the reliance on kerosene for lighting, the total almost averages around 50 percent for kerosene usage (fig-8). The urban areas of the divisions are very different to the rural areas, they are connected to the national grid and will have a back-up generator for when they have black-outs. The average of using kerosene in the urban areas is around 10-12 percent as it is not needed as much (fig-9). As you can see in figure- 8 the rural areas are starting to use solar powered energy for lighting (shown in red), whereas in figure- 9 solar usage has minimal usage in the urban areas. Solar power is not used much in urban areas because they are covered by the national grid and the quality of electricity is a lot better than the rural areas. If they do suffer from blackouts because of the heat they will have a back-up generator to electrify their households. As shown in the graphs above bio-gas is hardly used, if introduced to the country properly that can also be a useful source of electrification. As shown in the rural graph the Barisal division, they have seen a higher level of solar usage than any other division. The Rangpur division has seen the least has not seen much growth in solar systems, these factors need to be considered when selecting the location. No one solution will fit all conditions given the resource potential, income distribution, size of village and opportunities for productive applications [40]. When the location is chosen the problems and the steps to be taken need to be identified as different areas will have different requirements.

6.4 Scale and scope of the study

A collated set of criteria which analyses the feasibility of scaling-up in relation to mini-grids (district level in Bangladesh) is accounted of with the current study. The studies in the past showed that these particular criteria are essential, this is all reviewed from the literature which includes consultations from experts. The criteria mentioned are levelled unit delivered cost of electricity (LUCE), percentage of household electrification, presence/ absence of technology support systems and renewable energy resource potential and organisational strength.  Scholars also emphasise on the importance of LUCE when it comes to assessment of the feasibility of decentralised energy interventions [41].  A key challenge is to decide the scale of analysis, because practicality of mini-grids is contingent with different factors at numerous scales. The scale of analysis will be different for all the different types of projects, due to mainly the size. Even when doing projects at village level, no village is the same as another, they all have different number of households and the population varies. Some villages will have more financial power than the others, so selecting a village before scaling up the analysis will be important and it will make the process a lot simpler.

The scope of the study is an important methodological issue, the areas that are being covered need to be researched. It is the range of view of the location selected, how many households will be covered by the mini-grid, will the whole village be covered or will it be electrifying more than one village. The scale and scope analysis of the project will be the first step for the investors to take before or during selection of the location for their mini-grid project.

6.5 Technical Monitoring and Quality Assurance

When solar panels were first getting installed into Bangladesh, IDCOL started carrying out strict monitoring and quality assurance program. They have 12 regional offices across the country, from where they carry out inspections of the technical quality of solar installations. This will be a be an advantage to the investors as the quality checking for the solar panels is facilitated. It is a compulsory requirement that IDCOL inspects and verifies the quality of 50 percent of the installed systems before extending the grants to the projects co-ordinators. With IDCOL providing the service of technical monitoring and quality assurance along with the extra funding, it is a major attraction for investors as it is hugely beneficial to them. Help will be provided with the funding and when the project is set, the quality and the ability of the solar panels will be tested and made sure it is ideally working. IDCOL has been increasing the number of inspection staff from the start, as more off-field electrification projects are being injected into the country [38]. There are more solar systems to be looked at so the need for more staff becomes important, this will also create jobs in the country.

6.6 Multi-stakeholder Approaches and Partnerships

For the potential investors it may be a good idea to reach out and have stakeholders or partners in this project, this way the responsibility will be shared. Reaching out to one of the project co-ordinators or a person with a high authority within the village for a stake or partnership could be beneficial for the project. They will be there the whole time and if they have a share/stake in the project a lot more responsibility will lay with them and more effort from their side would be inputted. Manufacturers of the mini-grid equipment or even companies for used batteries would be good to have as stakeholders as they will be vital to the project, and it would be beneficial to all parties for the project to succeed. As Bangladesh is developing country and is still far from the whole country being electrified, international donors could possibly contribute a lot to the project.


This report has analysed the options of the mini-grid system, SHS and Tidal power system in the rural areas and remote islands of Bangladesh. After research, although SHS is the most popular, the recommendation is the mini-grid system because there is a market in Bangladesh for it with a vast audience. As the SHS system is used a lot throughout the country, the equipment for the mini-grid will be available locally for example, solar PVs, Batteries and most of the other frequently used equipment. Options such as SHS, mini-grids and tidal power systems have been considered and explained and the chosen option to look for a project in to is the mini-grid system. There is a huge potential market in Bangladesh for the mini-grid system as it can cover a whole area or village, and the rural population as well as investors can profit from this. Other projects like this have been researched and explained to give an idea of what it might be like. The other projects were in different locations from around the country, every different project in different areas will give you different results and information.


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