Community power for rural Bangladesh
The project "Community Power for rural Bangladesh" is live. Approximately 140 households are now getting light from 5 pm to 12 am every day, and the system provides power for running PCs during daytime. One PC is equiped with HISP software running DHIS (District Helath Information System) based on data collected using mobile phones. The system is based on solar power, and a smart grid is under construction so that base stations and mobile communication is prioritized e.g. before lighting of houses. Watch the movie - Community Power Project! (1:39 min.)
This project at the Department of informatics is conducted together with Grameenphone (Telenor), and thanks to Kristin Braa (Department of informatics) and Ariful Alam (Grameenphone Ltd) for providing me with neccessary information. The following is a short outline of the project.
Background and concept
Around 1.6 billion people in the world are without access to electricity, and a sizable portion of them live in Bangladesh. A large number of these households are situated in remote rural regions that are unlikely to get connected to the national electricity grid. This limits socio-economic development and has direct consequences at the individual level.
In the exact same off-grid regions, network operators are to an increasing extent installing renewable energy equipment , such as wind turbines and solar panels, to power their base stations. The opportunity now exists for mobile network operators to provide excess electricity beyond the base station and into local communities through partnering.
Outline and objectives
The mobile operator will be the key driver of this model, having a consistent power requirement for the mobile base station. By providing a stable “anchor” demand, it can open the way for a bigger investment in a village energy system, powering the base station as well as homes and businesses.
The decentralized mini-grid based on renewable energy will, in addition to village electrification, be used to power mobile-based health information systems in rural areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The project will determine how to successfully implement and socially organize such power mini-grids to facilitate social and economic development in rural areas of Bangladesh, with a particular emphasis on establishing models that are replicable on a very large scale.
For the pilot phase, a very remote village at Hobigonj, Sylhet has been identified. The village has no grid connection and it is only accessible by boat. Currently, there are around 20 000 inhabitants in the village. There is furthermore a primary school and a local college present in the community, and Grameenphone already has a network base station running on solar energy.
In the very first stage of the pilot, the existing power installation will be expanded somewhat, and the excess power will be distributed to light up a limited number of nearby households and market stalls. The aim being to test and further develop the current concept.
Extension and scaling up
The second stage of the pilot will obviously build on all the findings from the initial phase. A major aim will be to extend the capacity of the energy system significantly to cover the whole market, the school and the college, a future health facility and preferably all households that would like electricity. This will require a more advanced and flexible energy system. Additionally it will require a significant investment for which potential sources must be found.
We are confident that the two-stage pilot will identify the major challenges and success factors for large-scale implementation of decentralized electrification in Bangladesh centered around off-grid mobile base stations.