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Bangladeshs Solar Home program in big trouble

Lack of coordination among government entities in rural electrification has put state-owned Infrastructure Develo-pment Company Ltd (IDCOL) and its partner organizations (POs) into a great trouble as their investment of about Tk 2,000 crore in solar home system (HSH) has got stuck at consumer level.

According to sources at renewable energy sector, t hese POs are now desperately pursuing the government's top-level policymakers to find out a mechanism to realize  their stuck-up money, but getting li ttle response.As a result, once world-acclaimed SHS program is now facing serious setback as its monthly installation came down to average 2,000 in recent months from 60,000 in 3-4 years back, the IDCOL officials admitted.

The sources said about 4.1 million SHSs have been installed across the country with IDCOL's financing of Tk 4,000 crore in the last 10-12 years, with its P Os investing more than 1,500 crore, reports UNB.In a solar home system, the IDCOL finances up to 70 percent of the cost while the POs, which are mainly from private sector and NGOs, invest 30-40 percent.

According to the sources, the IDCOL's fund mainly came from donor agencies as grant, but it was distributed as loan among the POs with 6-9 percent interest. Both were happy with the program until the government's rural electrification program started in 2015, they added.

In the IDCOL program, the PO installed solar panel at consumers' houses on a hire-purchase basis, where a consumer pays the price of the panel in three years' time through monthly installment.But when the  solar consumers started receiving REB electricity, they simply started pulling out the solar equipment and stopped paying the monthly installments which put both the IDCOL and POs in trouble.

In such a way, about Tk 2,000 crore have been stuck up in the market, said an official of a partner organization adding that in many areas the expansion of solar e lectricity program came to a halt.He said the free distribution of solar panel under the government's TR-Kabikha project and sale of substandard panel in local market also made the situation worse.

Many PO Forum officials said they have been going through tremendous financial hardship and many of the POs are not being able to pay back the loans they received from the IDCOL.Describing all the problems facing at the field level, IDCOL Partner Organization (PO) For um-a representative body of the POs-wrote to the chairman and CEO of the IDCOL on a number of occasions to take necessary measures so that their stuck-up money could be realized.

But in the last six months, there was no progress in this regard, said a top official of the PO Forum.He mentioned that the PO Forum has submitted a number of suggestions to the IDCOL, including making an arrangement with REB, s o that no consumer gets REB electricity connection until the solar home systems' full payment is made.

Contacted, IDCOL's CEO Mahmud Malik admitted about the situation and said his organization  has been trying to overcome the situation.He also emphasized co ordination among the state-entities in rural electrification programs.REB Chairman Major General Moinul Islam said his organization is ready to help IDCOL and POs in this regard so that their stuck-up money could be realized.

Power Division joint secretary Md Alauddin said he was also informed about the problems in solar home system program.