Life comes to near standstill after sunset for the great majority of Bangladeshis living in the countryside. Only about 40% of rural households have access to grid electricity, and even these consumers suffer frequent and prolonged power cuts due to lack of supply. The Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED II) aims to increase access to electricity in off-grid rural areas through renewable energy sources.
At present, against a peak demand of about 8,500 megawatt (MW), current supply is only about 6,500 MW. The urban areas with large industrial loads are prioritized for power supply leaving the rural areas with a disproportionate share of the power cuts. Further, the dispersed nature of rural settlements and the numerous rivers that crisscross the country make grid electrification in many areas of Bangladesh both difficult and expensive. Though progress is being made by the government to counter the power generation shortages, it is clear that reliance on grid electricity alone will not allow Bangladesh to realize its vision of universal access to electricity by 2021.
RERED II is building on the success of the earlier project, which has supported more than 650,000 new connections to the power grid in Bangladesh and supported more than 1.2 million solar home systems in remote rural areas. Since RERED’s inception in 2003, the project contributed to increasing access to electricity in Bangladesh by 6%. A recent impact evaluation study on SHS have confirmed increased study time for children, increased mobility and sense of security for women, and increased use of contraceptives and fall in recent fertility in SHS households, thanks to awareness from watching TV.