Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Bangladesh has developed an economically viable solution for providing electricity in villages where the national grid is difficult or expensive to extend. 
Currently, more than 1.2 million solar home systems have been installed in rural areas of Bangladesh. The solar home system meets the basic electricity needs of rural people who otherwise would be dependent on kerosene lamps for lighting.  
The World Bank is supporting the solar homes system program through the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project.  With World Bank support, the program began in 2003 with an initial target of installing 50,000 systems within 5 years, a World Bank information note said in the capital Dhaka on Wednesday.   
That target was achieved within 2 years, and the World Bank continued to provide and the support by mobilizing additional funds.  
Later, other development partners joined in supporting the program.  Now more than 35,000 solar home systems are being installed each month.
The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) implements the program through a network of 29 non-government organizations (NGOs).  
Rural families buy solar home systems from partner NGOs under a micro-credit scheme.  
The average total cost of a 50 Watt-peak system (which supports 3-4 lights, a television and a mobile charger) is about BDT 28,000.  Households typically pay around BDT 2,800 or 10 percent of the cost as down payment, and the rest is repaid in two to three years.
The solar home systems consist of a solar panel, a battery and a charge controller.  The battery is charged from solar energy, which in turn provides electricity to the households.  
The systems are improving the quality of life for millions of people. Electricity provided from the solar home systems has helped children spend more time studying improved rural connectivity and spurred village enterprises.  Rural markets can remain open longer after dark and have brisk businesses, thanks to solar lighting.
Considering the continuing funding needs of this successful program, the World Bank has recently made available an additional US$172 million with a target to install another 630,000 systems by December 2012 and is preparing for additional funding in 2013 and beyond.  
BBN/SSR/AD-23Feb12-7:50 am (BST)