The Bangladeshi clean energy company Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has won the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) award in the “Multilateral/International Organisation” category for its solar mini-grids projects. These include the Monpura Island project, which is implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
As the COVID-19 crisis and Cyclone Amphan continue to lay bare the pressures that many people face across Bangladesh, this award is a timely recognition that clean energy projects can help these communities build resilience.
The award highlights in particular the important role mini-grids can play in Bangladesh’s national strategy of universal access to electricity by 2021. UNDP has long been promoting clean energy in the country, and is supporting renewable energy projects that bring life-changing access to electricity in rural areas.
IDCOL was selected for implementing solar mini-grid projects in Bangladesh through the development of a sustainable business model which ensures productive access to electricity for the last mile population living in off-grid areas, while facilitating local industries by creating jobs and supporting local businesses.
Its Monpura Island project was implemented under UNDP’s “Sustainable Renewable Energy Power Generation Project" in partnership with the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) at the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resource. It provides uninterrupted supply of grid quality electricity to 1,199 households, 684 shops, and 41 institutions on the island.
Since 2015 ARE, a Brussels based non-profit global business association in the rural electrification sector, has played a leading role in recognizing clean energy access initiatives by the most passionate and innovative actors in the field. ARE received 77 applications this year and unveiled the six winners on May 18.
IDCOL is the first organization from Bangladesh to receive this prestigious award. Winners from previous years in this category include GIZ, UN Capital Development Fund, European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility.
“We are delighted that ARE recognized IDCOL’s mini-grids projects as key to expanding energy access in Bangladesh and elsewhere too” said UNDP Bangladesh Resident Representative Sudipto Mukerjee. “As we have seen on the ground, innovative solar mini-grids projects are relatively easy to install, perate and maintain, and bring multiple benefits to local communities. The Monpura Island project is a great showcase for it.”
The island’s only source of electricity used to be the Bangladesh Power Development Board’s generators at Monpura Sadar, which ran for only six hours a day. Expanding the national grid to the remote island located in the estuary of the Meghna river in the northern Bay of Bengal would have been exceptionally challenging and expensive.
Monpura’s local communities now have access to a regular supply of electricity through the project’s two mini-grids -- one of 279.5 kWp, and the other of 218.4 kWp capacity.
“Access to electricity has truly changed our lives,” said Md Faruk, a local resident. “It’s been particularly beneficial for businesses, which can now rely on a steady supply of electricity to use technology for their activities.”
Access to energy helped Tara Akhter, a mother of two, start a small tailoring business. She sews clothes in the evening and night, while her children study. “I took out a loan to buy this sewing machine and I’ve been taking orders from neighbours,” she said. “I sew children’s clothes, kameez, petty coat and more. It’s good to have this source of income, which would not have been possible without power supply.”
In addition to UNDP and the GEF, IDCOL partners with numerous development actors across the country, including the World Bank, JICA, UKAID, KfW, USAID, GPOBA and ADB. The award will be handed over to IDCOL at the 6th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum to be held in September 2020 in Lusaka, Zambia.
UNDP’s commitment to realizing Sustainable Development Goal 7 by bringing affordable, clean energy to communities across the country is strengthened by ARE’s recognition of IDCOL.