For a country where only 40 percent of the population can accesselectricity from the grid, the possibilities offered by solar power aremany. And perhaps Grameen Shakti,a non-profit organization tied to the micro-credit agency Grameen Bank,followed that same train of thought when it spearheaded a solar paneladoption program in rural Bangladesh that allows villagers to purchase subsidized solar panel systems on micro-credit.Shifting their reliance from an overburdened, unpredictable nationalgrid to a decentralized solar system has opened up to 2.5 millionBangladeshis the ability to keep shops open later, adopt formerlyunattainable communications methods (especially mobile phone) andcreate countless job opportunities, just to name a few.
The solar panel program started in the late 1990’s,though it didn’t take off until the 2003 mark. Subsidized by the WorldBank and following an installation scheme run by the state-ownedInfrastructure and Development Company Limited, the solar systems cancost anywhere from 9,500 taka ($135) to 68,000 taka ($970)—with pricespoised to fall, following the lifting of a Bangladeshi ban on solarpanel imports last month—and 250,000 have already been installed,according to Reuters.
Here’s an old video (circa 2008) about the Grameen Shakti Solar Home Systems (SHSs) project:
Like the Solar Electric Light Fund, whom we’ve profiled before,Grameen Shakti is one of those inspirational organizations whoseproject model isn’t necessarily feasible in the U.S. (imagine getting thatfight through the Senate) but serves as a great reminder—especially inthese penny-pinching times—that business and doing good aren’t alwaysmutually exclusive.