“We Target To Finance 300 MW Industrial Rooftop Solar Installations By 2021” Miss. Farzana Rahman, Senior Vice President & Unit Head Renewable Energy, IDCOL

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In Conversation with Miss. Farzana Rahman, Senior Vice President & Unit Head Renewable Energy,
Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL)

Miss Farzana Rahman talks about IDCOL efforts in development of Bangladesh solar sector, how cooperation between India – Bangladesh will help to realize the potential, opportunities and the objectives of the respective countries

Kindly brief our readers about IDOCL efforts in accelerating solar sector in Bangladesh?  

Majority of the population of Bangladesh lives in rural off-grid areas. Given the nature of dispersed rural settlements and limited ability to pay of rural people, providing them access to electricity was a great challenge.

On this backdrop, IDCOL started its Solar Home System (SHS) Program in 2003 which is currently providing electricity to 12% population of the country living in off-grid areas of rural Bangladesh. Building on the success and implementation experience of the program, IDCOL later ventured into mini-grid program in 2009 and financed 26 solar mini grid projects with a cumulative capacity of 5 MWp  in off-grid areas where there was no possibilities of grid expansion in next 15-20 years. IDCOL financed 1,473 solar irrigation pumps with a cumulative capacity of 37 MWp. IDCOL financed solar irrigation pumps supplying affordable irrigation water to more than 75,000 rural farmers.

Recently, IDCOL has started financing industrial rooftop solar and so far, IDCOL has approved financing of 16 rooftop solar projects with a cumulative capacity of 15 MWp. We target to finance 300 MW industrial rooftop solar installations by 2021.

IDCOL started the SHS program in January 2003, please tell us more about the benchmarks set by the said program and the current status of the programme?

IDCOL Solar Home System (SHS) program commenced in January 2003 with a vision to meet basic energy demand of rural households by replacing unhealthy kerosene consumption.  IDCOL financed installation of more than 4.14 million SHS. Through this program, more than 18 million beneficiaries have accessed better quality electricity for enjoying lighting loads and other smaller loads such as charging of cell phone, operating energy efficient television, fans etc.  SHS has ensured income-generating activities and productive work-hours at households after dark. The program is replacing about 300,000 tons of kerosene use every year through 4.14 million SHS with capacity of 180 MWp.

IDCOL played an important role in creating enabling environment where NGOs/MFIs and private sector entities could operate through sustainable business model. IDCOL provided innovative financing packages to these organizations and created technical standards for the products to be sold to the end beneficiaries. Extensive field level monitoring and quality control mechanisms ensured households receive the intended benefits.

Currently, SHSs are being distributed free of cost under safety net program of the Government. Also, with the advent of rapid grid expansion by Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board, the market for SHS is almost saturated. At this moment, IDCOL is overseeing the monitoring and quality control aspects of renewable energy components of the government safety net program.

How can rooftop sector in Bangladesh be further strengthened, What’s are the efforts taken by IDCOL for the same?

Bangladesh has huge potential for rooftop solar installations. The government has already taken necessary policy initiatives to promote the sector. Net metering policy has been approved and SREDA is frequently arranging awareness as well as training sessions to capacitate the national utilities about the integration of rooftop solar with the grid through net metering arrangements.

IDCOL being the state-owned financial institution has huge plans to develop the sector. IDCOL targets to finance at least 300 MW industrial rooftop solar installations by 2021 through various business models. We have already received funding from KfW and the World Bank to extend financing to the private sector for implementing industrial rooftop solar projects.

IDCOL is now encouraging both local and foreign EPC players to work intensively in Bangladesh rooftop solar markets which will very much needed to realize the full potential of this sector. We are also conducting various promotional activities to create greater awareness among the industries. IDCOL has many more activities planned that you will see happening in coming days.

What are the other RE projects taken by IDCOL?

Among other, IDCOL has Improved Cook Stove as well as solar irrigation programs. Both these programs have great potential in Bangladesh. Also, we are keen to explore floating solar, solar cold storage, solar charging stations, and waste to energy, etc. project financing.

How can India and Bangladesh work together and use respective strengths for the faster progress in the countries solar space?

Both India and Bangladesh have great aspirations about renewable energy, and particularly about solar energy deployment. There are various scopes of cooperating with each other to realize the potential, opportunities and the objectives the respective countries have in this regard. Bangladesh has been able to create great footprints in off-grid solar electrification and India may explore if there are any opportunities to learn from these success stories of Bangladesh. On the other hand, Bangladesh is relatively new in utility scale solar grid-tied as well as rooftop solar sectors. Bangladesh would be benefitted from the sharing of lessons learned and experiences gathered by India in all these years. As said earlier, we are also trying to encourage prominent EPC players of India to work in Bangladesh rooftop solar market

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