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Grameen Shakti and ME SOLshare Receive $1Million UN Energy Grant To Aid Rural Electrification In Bangladesh

A joint project of Grameen Shakti and ME SOLshare, two companies based in Bangladesh promoting solar energy, received the UN DESA US $1 million 2017 UN Energy grant at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, said statement issued by the United Nation. The project will allow villagers to secure more solar power, save money through flexible energy access, and generate income from trading electricity

Award and project details:

  • UN DESA offers the grant through a challenge titled "Powering the Future We Want - Recognizing Leadership and Innovative Practices in Energy for Sustainable Development" which takes place annually. The winners receive one million US dollars to fund future capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The Grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements, with the objective of promoting leadership and innovative practices in meeting the global energy challenge.
  • This year's winner, a joint project by Grameen Shakti and ME SOLshare titled Bangladesh solar entrepreneurship initiative, will enable rural Bangladeshi villagers to become solar entrepreneurs by creating an interconnected platform where solar home system users and non-users can exchange electricity.
  • The project’s bottom-up mini-grids seek to transform solar home systems into an income-generating asset. Its approach leverages existing resources to create a platform fueled by solar with numerous business opportunities for the villagers and with potential for replication throughout Bangladesh and under-electrified regions across the rest of the world.
  • The partnership estimates that the grant money will enable them to establish a minimum of 100 smart grids resulting in at least 15,000 beneficiaries. But the impact of the grant is going to be greater, as it is likely to inspire more such initiatives.
  • The grant money will be used to scale up and replicate peer-to-peer solar mini-grids, and to leverage the electricity sharing grid infrastructure to power electric rickshaws, run solar water pumps, energy efficient fridges and other appliances, with the potential to strengthen village prosperity and encourage mutual benefits.
  • In today’s world, more than 1 billion people globally, mainly in rural areas, live without electricity. Providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is crucial to enable essential health services, gender equality, economic growth, quality education, and to avoid the suffering and death of millions from indoor air pollution resulting from lack of clean cooking technologies. Clean energy is vital to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and leaving no one behind requires providing energy access for all.

“Energy is the golden thread that connects all the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a written statement read out on her behalf during the ceremony. “Achieving SDG7 on energy and transition to sustainable energy can unlock vast economic growth in all regions and for all people, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she emphasized.

“Grameen Shakti and SOLshare are deeply honored that our innovative idea of creating a countrywide platform where villagers can share their solar electricity among each other and become smart entrepreneurs has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Powering the Future We Want Grant Challenge by UN DESA,” the winning partnership said in a statement.

DESA Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative partnership that connects the intergovernmental work at UN Headquarters to action on the ground.” He added, “Over the past years, this Energy Grant has proved to be valuable in raising awareness, building capacity, and recognizing ingenuity in promoting sustainable energy.”

Grameen Shakti is one of the largest and fastest growing rural based renewable energy companies in the world, as mentioned on its website. According to 2012 data, it has installed more than 1 million SHSs in rural areas with more than 22,250 SHSs installed per month.

ME SOLshare Ltd. a Dhaka-based social enterprise, was founded in 2014. As stated on its website, it provides peer-to-peer solar energy trading platforms and pay-as-you-go solutions to low-income households seeking rural electrification and empowerment.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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