There are nearly 6 million solar home systems in Bangladesh, but up to a third of the electricity they generate, worth $1 billion, goes to waste as people’s usage patterns vary day to day and season to season.
Globally, Bangladesh is considered the market leader of solar home systems. However, these systems remain prohibitively expensive for a large portion of people from the river islands. Most of still rely on polluting and expensive fuels like kerosene or diesel generators. At the same time, there are currently around 50 million people with no electricity, or an unreliable supply.
‘The poorest could previously never afford even the smallest solar home system. They can now buy the meter and use the electricity when their child has to study for an exam or someone in the household is sick and they need a light or a fan. They pay just what they use. It might only be 7 or 8 days a month, but those 7 or 8 days could make all the difference.’
Sohel Ahmed, Managing Director, Grameen Shakti
SOLshare has found a way to tackle these challenges at the same time, developing a peer-to-peer solar energy exchange platform, called the ‘SOLbazaar’ which allows households and small businesses to trade electricity with their neighbours. Their technology interconnects households’ existing solar home systems into a network, so they can sell what they don’t need and buy additional electricity when they need more. Those who don’t have a solar home system can plug into the network, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing one, and run appliances, without needing their own batteries or solar panels.
SOLshare has partnered with Grameen Shakti, the largest solar home system distributor in the world, as well as other solar companies. Working closely with the SOLshare team, these distributors make SOLshare's products available to their customers, taking responsibility for sales, marketing, installation, and maintenance, and earning a margin on each trade.
SOLshare’s technology consists of the SOLbox, a two-way smart meter, installed in customers’ homes, the SOLcloud, a data collection and analysis platform that integrates with mobile money platforms, allowing people to pay for their electricity using their mobile phone, and the SOLapp, which field agents use to support customers.
What’s the impact on customers/beneficiaries?
SOLshare’s work is enabling some of the most marginalised communities in the world to take control of their electricity supply. 84% of their end-users live on less than $5 per day This is reducing energy poverty; around 40% of customers are first time electricity users, for whom solar was previously out of reach. SOLshare’s technology enables solar home system users to earn additional income and meet their growing energy needs in a low-carbon way. The ‘social return on investment’ as calculated by IIX Global estimates that $4.85 of impact is created for every $1 invested.
SOLshare is designing their offering with Bangladesh’s changing energy landscape - and expanding national grid - in mind. Their platform gives solar home system customers important flexibility in this time of change and opens up new revenue streams and market segments for solar distributors. SOLshare is exploring the potential for integrating networks of solar home systems with the national grid in the future to provide a flexible, renewable resource.