Solar energy brightens lives and strengthens the resilience of geographically challenged communities in Bangladesh

Md Lokman Hossain*, Khusnur Jahan Shapna, Jianfeng Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In a country of over 166 million people, the unstable coal-, gas-, and oil-driven on-grid electricity network in Bangladesh hardly connects every remote area and island. In rural areas where grid extension is too expensive, solar home systems (SHS) provide an appealing electrification option. Despite SHS becoming popular in Bangladesh, the understanding of the uses, impacts and challenges of SHS in rural communities, particularly in the remote coastal regions is largely unknown. In this study, using a semi-structured questionnaire survey at the household (HH) level and multiple participatory rural appraisal tools (Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and Key Informant Interview (KII)), we evaluated the (i) usage of solar energy for various activities, (ii) impact of SHS on lives and livelihoods of HHs, and (iii) challenges in SHS usage in two sub-districts (Dacope and Monpura) in Bangladesh. Regardless of the studied sub-districts, lighting, charging, and studying were the top home uses of solar energy. Since most HHs have school-aged children, a large percentage of HHs (83 % in Dacope and 71 % in Monpura) used solar energy for their children's education. Almost half of the responding HHs used solar energy for recreation, followed by 24 % (41 %) for shop keeping, and 15 % (24 %) for tailoring in Dacope (Monpura) sub-districts. Social security was the most widely mentioned influence on their life. Nearly three-quarters respondents in Dacope and 58 % in Monpura reported that their children's school attendance increased. Since both sub-districts are the worst-affected by natural disasters, nearly three-quarters of households acknowledged that solar power had a huge impact on emergency preparedness. The success stories of the influence of SHS in strengthening the livelihoods of SHS users have inspired neighborhoods, particularly young entrepreneurs, to start new businesses like tailoring, poultry farming, and charging stations for electric vehicles. Despite the far-reaching effects of SHS on their livelihoods, the respondents have encountered numerous obstacles (e.g., foggy weather). Although SHS users are ignorant of the correct procedures for disposing of defective equipment, one-fifth of households expressed worry about the impact of disposing equipment on the environment. The findings in the qualitative analysis (FGD and KII) extracted by summative content analysis also supported the findings of HH survey. That is, the frequency of identified words: ‘lighting’, ‘charging’, ‘disaster response, preparedness, foggy weather’ were higher compared to other recognized words. This study concludes that despite some challenges in its usages, SHS greatly influenced the lives and livelihoods of these geographically challenged locations by introducing income generating activities, boosting social security, women empowerment and responding to natural calamities. The evidence of the success stories of SHS users in introducing new business and strengthening their livelihood opportunities provides positive impacts among the communities in these disaster vulnerable regions. This study findings are of practical importance to (i) the decision makers for the movement of green energy and policy implementation and (ii) the SHS companies and NGOs to providing subsidized SHSs to the marginalized communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-90
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Volume74
Early online date24 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • Coastal communities
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar home systems
  • Solar power
  • Solar-driven irrigation

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