By James Noble
October 30, 2014
In what may be the world’s largest off-grid electrification program in the world, Grameen Shakti a non-profit organization based in Bangladesh, has brought solar power systems to almost 1.5 million Bangladeshi homes, or roughly 8.4 million people.
Dipal Barua and Muhammed Yunus were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their work in microfinance with the Grameen Bank and founded Grameen Shakti in 1996. It is their work with Grameen Shakti that made their work with Grameen Bank so meaningful and enabled the deployment of solar, biomass and other clean technologies throughout Bangladesh.
Grameen Shakti’s solar home systems are replacing kerosene lamps, avoiding the fumes and fire risk of such lamps. Each solar home system saves about 375 kg of CO2 per year and owners save about Tk 400 to Tk 500 (USD 6.00 to 7.50) per month on kerosene, which in many cases covers the loan repayment.
Grameen Shakti has developed different credit schemes to make solar home systems affordable. Customers pay different proportions of down-payment and monthly instalments according to their circumstances, supported by low-interest loans from The Dutch Stichting Giles Foundation and from the World Bank through the Bangladesh Ministry of Finance’s Infrastructure Development Company Limited.
While the goal of Grameen Shakti has been to promote and supply renewable energy technology at an affordable rate to rural households in Bangladesh, their work has also focused on involving local communities. All of the solar home systems are built in Bangladesh at technology centres managed mainly by women, who train as solar technicians. The women are equipped with tools to service and repair the systems in their areas, and to manufacture solar home system accessories.
Although small, microfinance opportunities exist in Canada. The Government of Canada has partnered with the Canada Microcredit Educators Group to provide internationally trained individuals in Prince Edward Island with loans to help them pay for the costs associated with obtaining Canadian accreditation.