Solar energy and climate

ACCORDING TO the news, a villager in Keti Bundar town of Thatta district got installed a small solar panel system in his one-room hut, under a donor-funded programme. He is now using two energy savers to light up his room.

The use of clean energy in the off-grid rural areas of Sindh has many benefits. In addition to the better quality of life due to the availability of electricity, the use of solar-powered cookers (solar energy-electricity-heat) for cooking can provide major tangible benefits. These include prevention of indoor smoke-related air pollution, which not only impacts women who cook meals, but also the infants who are in the lap of their mothers.

Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) due to cooking smoke are a major lethal killer in rural Sindh, after water and sanitation-related diseases. ARIs, according to the World Health Organizsation, cause 1.6 million deaths each year in developing countries.

Villagers in Sindh can save time and money on buying wood, biomass, coal or kerosene for cooking. A picture in this regard shows a poor woman climbing a tree to collect wood. Deforestation will decrease and, the time saved in collecting wood can be put to some income-generating activities. Rural households can also use solar-powered pumps for their water supply requirements.

Clean energy can offset emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. On the international scale, this can serve as the credit points for the carbon markets. This may attract donor-funded programmes, as climate change is a hot topic these days.

If solar power use is to be organised in a proper manner in rural Sindh, the small-scale enterprises need to be established, which can offer standard products and services. The supply chain has to be reliable, efficient and dependable if the programe is to succeed. This can lift rural people from poverty and can lead to their empowerment.

In order for the programme to succeed, rural people may avail themselves of the facility of microfinance. Microfinance in the country is becoming popular. The Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, said recently that the International Strengthening Fund had so far approved Rs632 million for 13 microfinance providers, including top and middle tier microfinance banks and microfinance institutions.

As a case study, in Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti reached the first milestone of installing one million solar home systems on Nov 30 last. This year marks a significant milestone in Grameen Shakti service to the renewable energy industry in Bangladesh.

Grameen Shakti began its operation in 1996 and is now one of the largest and fastest-growing rural-based renewable energy companies in the world.

The company has developed market-based programmes to cater to the needs of villagers in Bangladesh. They use green energy solutions such as solar PV, biogas, and improved cook stove to meet household energy needs To make the system more affordable, Grameen Shakti provides solar home systems through micro-credits based on energy needs and capacity to pay off their access and climate goals beneficiaries.

F. H. Mughal @Karachi

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