Imagine no electricity. No light to flick on, no power points, no appliances. That's how it is for more than half of Bangladesh's people. Smoky kerosene lamps or candles light their homes.
Hafez, who lives in a village near the Bangladesh town of Nilphamari, has been working with the MPIL company Dimensions Ltd, to trial the new solar lighting systems that Dimensions have been developing with help from Banzaid and the New Zealand Aid Programme.
It's a project with a difference. We won't be giving away or even subsidising the units. This is a business venture. Bangladesh has been actively promoting solar power but most of the available systems have been designed for wealthier households running TVs or other appliances. They are expensive. The basic lighting system we are providing will be affordable for all but the very poorest people.
In Bangladesh 53% of the population are still not connected to the national grid and receive no electricity. The majority of those not connected are rural families and poor families who can't afford the connection. This isn't going to change in the near future and even when it does it will be at such a cost that the poorest will be unable to manage. Clearly one answer for the problem lies in solar energy. However existing solar power systems available in Bangladesh are too expensive for the poorer people to afford.
Banzaid is partnering with Dimensions Ltd in an innovative and exciting project to set up the production and sale of an affordable solar units for use in rural Bangladesh. Dimensions is a local engineering company established by Kiwi entrepreneurs. They have experience in backup and alternative power generation systems. They have experimented with solar power for small households, and have a product that is both cheap enough to be widely affordable and which will also provide income through the establishment of assembly and sale centres in selected village areas.
The project has received support from the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) of the New Zealand Aid Programme, and has already attracted the attention of other groups who see wider potential for solar power units of this size.