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98.8pc solar power users report reduced energy expenses

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It was a life for them without electricity until recently. But, things have changed fast when they got access to off-grid solar home system. They are happy as it generates enough power for lights, televisions, radios, mobile phone charging and small appliances, reducing their spending on electricity use.
About 98.8 percent of the solar home system users under a project have been able to reduce their expenses significantly on use of kerosene, candle and torchlight while 89.0 percent of the users found its more environment-friendly one and less hazardous to health.
This was revealed from an impact evaluation survey on 'Rural Electrification through Solar Energy - Revised' project conducted by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Ministry of Planning.
The evaluation survey also found that the expense for using kerosene, candles and charge light have reduced from TK. 310 to TK 60 due to connection of solar lighting while extra income due to lesser use of kerosene and candles and change in occupation increased from TK 1,500 to TK 2,100 annually.
Those conducted the study visited all the six Palli Bidyut Samities (PBSs) (Sirajganj, Pabna, Natore, Sunamganj, Barisal and Cox's Bazar) under this project and four villages from each PBS were selected through random sampling procedure and from each one of the villages - 20 users of solar home system (SHS) were selected through systematic random sampling procedure.
Besides, (24 villages X 20 solar users= 480)- for some impressionistic view, 50 users of SHS from Grameen Shakti and IDCOL + 50 users from Grid electricity and 50 non-users of power were ) were selected and interviewed.
The solar energy project titled 'Rural Electrification Through Solar Energy - Revised' was implemented by Rural Electrification Board (REB) under Power Division, Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources spending Tk. 4803.47 Lakh from 2002 to 2008.
The project targeted to connect a total of 11,000 potential consumers by providing 16,000 solar home photo voltaic modules to remote and isolated rural areas of Sirajganj Palli Biddyut Samity (PBS), Natore PBS-2, Pabna PBS-2, Sunamganj PBS, Cox's Bazar PBS and Barisal PBS-1 where grid electricity has no access.
The survey findings also showed that with the implementation of the project, the mean hours of study by children increased from 1.5 hours to 2.8 hours, the mean hours of working by housewives increased from 1.5 hours to 2.4 hours, the number of housewives involved in handicraft increased from 04 to 15 at the present while the number of persons working as solar technicians increased from 4 to 24.
The project evaluation also found that 64.6 percent of the users of solar panels from PBSs are using 40 watt and rest of 35.4 percent users are using 50+ watt of electricity.
On average each household is using 3 bulbs, 18.7 percent of the users had electric fan, followed by 20.0 percent of the users have TV connection and majority of the users (67.7percent) are using solar for charging of their mobiles.
The mean monthly bill paid for use solar is tk. 190/= and mean monthly maintenance cost is around TK. 160.
About the problems and difficulties in the use of solar, some 59.3 percent and 26.0 percent have expressed their dissatisfaction for its very limited uses of appliances and time duration respectively, 50.0 percent of them said that the maintenance cost was high, 43.7 percent stated about lack of prompt and needed support from PBS. Some 15 percent of the users also felt that rate of bills for use of solar is quite high in proportionate to its services or utility.
The evaluation also put forwarded a set of recommendations that include for rural poor clients, the government may adopt a policy for handing over the solar panels to the users who are willing to get the ownership of solar panel through small amount of installments after the deduction of previous paid-up bills which is compatible with REB's previous policy. The ownership of solar panel may be transferred within 10 years rather than 20/25 years of its longevity.
Contacted, a project evaluation team member, preferring anonymity, said the study findings revealed that solar electricity has brought benefits and satisfaction despite its limited uses in terms of appliances and small duration of time of lighting.

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