Though solar panels can reduce the load on the grid electricity and help ease load shedding, most of these solar systems installed in residential buildings and streets in the capital and other parts of the country are out of order.
Many solar panels were installed on different busy roads and thoroughfares to power traffic lights to save electricity. But during a visit to Matsya Bhaban (Fishery Building) area in the city, most of these solar systems installed were found inactive.
The number of SHS installations reached 6.8 million in 2018, providing the much-needed electricity in remote areas through off-grid power service.
According to a World Bank study, SHS can have immediate impacts: it enables households to have light after nightfall, makes study easier in the evenings and allows people to watch TV which inspires them to take part in different activities.
Furthermore, it can lower the levels of household air pollution through reduced use of kerosene and may even generate extra income by renting chargers for mobile phones.
SHS prices have fallen within the reach of low-income people in rural areas in the last several years due to the availability of products and government subsidies.
People can install a 120-watt SHS at their homes at a cost of Tk 20,000 to Tk 35,000. Even the customers can pay in monthly instalments.
Now Rahimafrooz offers a solar irrigation pump at Tk 6 lakh, which will be able to lift 3 lakh litres of water every day.
About 20 per cent of solar home systems installed in urban areas of Dhaka, Chattogram, Mymensingh and Sylhet divisions were found inoperative though people had invested a lot of money in SHS.
Dhaka Power Distribution Company, Dhaka Electric Supply Company and Power Development Board had provided power connections to 1,26,789 consumers, most households with connections of more than 2-kilowatt load, on condition of installing the SHSs, the report shows.
The situation, however, is much better in rural areas.
Lack of maintenance was the main reason for the SHSs becoming inoperative.
‘Solar panels are required to be cleaned at least twice a week for getting optimum output, but we found many panels covered in a thick layer of dust,’ experts said.
Some owners of residential buildings said the government had forced them to install the SHSs, which they thought was a violation of consumers’ rights.
When asked if the government could compel consumers to install SHSs for obtaining new power connections, sources in Power Division said the government had not forced but encouraged the consumers to do so.
The government would soon introduce the net metering system for the consumers with SHSs, offering them to adjust the worth of electricity they produced from the SHSs with the worth of electricity they consumed from the distribution utilities.
Besides, the users would be allowed to sell their surplus electricity produced from the SHSs to the utility companies, sources said, adding that it would motivate more power consumers to install and maintain SHSs on their rooftops.
The use of rooftop solar panels has been increasing in the country in the last few years.
United International University’s Centre for Energy Research Director Md. Shahriar Ahmed Chowdhury said renewable energy including solar systems is more cost-effective than other models.
“If we look at the global economic crisis, the price hike of oil and gas hit the foreign currency reserve of countries which depends on fossil fuel-based power generation. If the inclusion of solar energy will increase, there is no risk of dollar expense. And it is sustainable,” Shahriar Chowdhury told the Daily Sun.
The researcher mentioned that a solar system can serve at least 20 to 25 years after complete installation.
The government aims to generate 40 percent of total electricity from renewable sources by 2041 even though it now produces only 3 percent from renewables, such as solar, wind and hydropower.
Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Association (BSRA) Joint Secretary General Mohammad Irfan said the solar roof-top system is available in off-grid and on-grid modes in our country.
“In off grid system, the users can preserve power in IPS while the on-grid supports connections directly. An industry can consume around 40 percent of electricity from the solar panels,” Mohammad Irfan told Daily Sun.
For installing the on-grid system, the production cost per megawatt is around Tk 70 million while the price is higher for the off-grid system.
The industry leader urged the government to reduce the tax on solar panels and required equipment to flourish renewable energy.
Now solar panels produce around 300 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources, according to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA).
Some 1,703 firms and factories have installed rooftop solar systems under the net metering model since 2018 to minimise energy costs and reduce carbon emissions, according to official data.
Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) is now trying to make use of rooftop solar systems to increase the contribution of renewable energy to the total energy mix.