Solar Energy in Urban Bangladesh: An Untapped Potential

Nazmul Hasan Shiblee

Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Email Address:

Research Notes: Received 26 December 2010; received in revised form 06 January 2011; accepted 13 January 2011


Bangladesh experiences unmanageable gap between supply and demand of electricity especially in summer. As a major consumer of electricity, Urban Households can use solar energy as an alternative source not only to get rid of everyday load shedding miseries but also to reduce the power shortage.  But the use of solar energy in urban area is yet not very popular. Solar energy is best known for lighting rural households of Bangladesh where electricity has not yet reached.

Electricity Crisis in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the serious demand-supply gap of electricity is one of the largest bottlenecks for economic growth. As the capacity of power supply facilities is only around 4,000 MW compared to the peak electricity demand of 6,100 MW, they have no choice but to have scheduled load-shedding of electricity supply during the peak time (JICA, 2010). Bangladesh is losing at least 3.5% of Gross Domestic product (GDP) due to the shortage of Power supply according to a research report of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) (Ahmed, R., 2010)

In summary the present power scenario of Bangladesh is (Source: Rahman, M. M., 2009):

Key Facts:
  • 80 Million People do not have access to electricity
  • Rest 60 Million are getting unreliable power
  • Load shed up to 1500 MW during hot summer days
  • Installed Capacity:
  • 5450 MW (Jan 01, 2009)
  • BPDB: 3809 MW
  • IPP: 1641 MW
  • Demand and Supply:

Peak Demand : 6000 MW (Summer 2009) Generation Capacity : 4500 MW (Summer 2009) Load Shedding : 1000-1500 MW (Summer 2009) Per Capita Consumption of Electricity : 149 kWh / annum (FY 2008) Access to Electricity : 45% (FY 2008).

A Possible Strategy for Reducing Urban Power Crisis of Bangladesh

According to PDB “The Rural Electrification Board (REB) needs 2500 MW, but is given less than half of that. Dhaka Electricity Supply Authority (DESA) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) need more than 2000 MW power and the PDB needs another 2000 MW” (Saifullah, K., 2009). From the above statistics, we can see Dhaka and other urban areas need around 4000 MW of electricity. So the urban areas are the major consumer of electricity. Use of alternative sources of power supply in urban areas will definitely reduce the demand and the gap between demand and supply.

Solar Energy: The Most Feasible form of Renewable energy for Urban Bangladesh

Solar Energy is the best renewable energy source other than the primary non renewable sources in urban area. Other form of renewable energies generated from wind, bio gas, ocean tide, hydro etc have very little feasibility in urban areas of Bangladesh. Most of the cities are few meters up from the sea level. So there is not that much feasibility for hydropower except Chittagong Hill Tracts and few other places. Bangladesh has very few potential locations for hydro electric project. Wind and Ocean tide energy can be the sources, but the exact potential is not clearly known due to lack of study and relevant information. So the solar energy is the ultimate suitable form of renewable energy for urban region because of availability of plenty of sunshine.

Potential of Solar Energy in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located between 200 30’ and 260 45’ north latitude and the climate is tropical, the very location makes Bangladesh good recipient of solar energy (Zaman M., Islam M.A., and Sarkar M.A.R, 2006). Bangladesh has a total area of 1.49E+ 11 m2 and an average of 5 kWh / m2 solar radiation falls on this land over 300 days per annum (Huque, S. and Mazumder, R. K., 2006). Figure 1 (Loster, M., 2010) clearly shows that Bangladesh got on average around 200-250 W/m² of sunlight.

Figure 1: Average Insolation showing land area. Insolation for most people is from 150 to 300 W/m² or 3.5 to 7.0 kWh/m²/day. (Source: Loster, M., 2010)

Maximum amount of radiation is available on the month of March-April and minimum on December-January (Mondal M. A. H., 2005, p.27). The total solar energy reaching Bangladesh is 180×109 Mwhr/year which is 105 times the energy generated as electricity (Zaman M., Islam M.A., and Sarkar M.A.R, 2006). The monthly solar insolation at different locations of Bangladesh is given in Table 1.

Table 1: Monthly Solar Insolation at Different Locations of Bangladesh

(In kWh/, Recorded for 12 months from 1988 to 1998; Source: Mondal, M. A. H., 2005, p.29)

Month Dhaka Rajshahi Sylhet Bogra Barishal Jessore
January 4.03 3.96 4.00 4.01 4.17 4.25
February 4.78 4.47 4.63 4.69 4.81 4.85
March 5.33 5.88 5.20 5.68 5.30 4.50
April 5.71 6.24 5.24 5.87 5.94 6.23
May 5.71 6.17 5.37 6.02 5.75 6.09
June 4.80 5.25 4.53 5.26 4.39 5.12
July 4.41 4.79 4.14 4.34 4.20 4.81
August 4.82 5.16 4.56 4.84 4.42 4.93
September 4.41 4.96 4.07 4.67 4.48 4.57
October 4.61 4.88 4.61 4.65 4.71 4.68
November 4.27 4.42 4.32 4.35 4.35 4.24
December 3.92 3.82 3.85 3.87 3.95 3.97
Average 4.73 5.00 4.54 4.85 4.71 4.85


A 2002 study by R. Khan of BUET found the daily sunlight hours in Bangladesh to range from 10 to 7 hours; they further reduced this by 54% (to 4.6 hours) to account for rainfall, cloud, fog and dust over the solar panels (Bashar, S. A., 2009). Daily average of bright sunshine hours at Dhaka city is given in Table 2.

Table 2: Daily Average of Bright Sunshine Hours at Dhaka City

(Average period: 1961 to 1980; Source: REEIN, 2010a)

Month Daily Mean Maximum Minimum
January 8.7 9.9 7.5
February 9.1 10.7 7.7
March 8.8 10.1 7.5
April 8.9 10.2 7.8
May 8.2 9.7 5.7
June 4.9 7.3 3.8
July 5.1 6.7 2.6
August 5.8 7.1 4.1
September 6.0 8.5 4.8
October 7.6 9.2 6.5
November 8.6 9.9 7.0
December 8.9 10.2 7.4
Average 7.55 9.13 6.03


Present Scenario of Solar Energy in Bangladesh

The applications of small-scale photovoltaic systems have been a very recent phenomenon in rural areas of Bangladesh. Most of the small applications in rural areas are in the households to meet the basic purposes of lighting and entertainment by operating TV and Radio (Mondal M. A. H., 2005, p.35).

Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL), a Bangladesh-Government-owned financing company, under Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (REREDP) through 15 partner organizations (POs). Among those partner organizations Grameen Shakti is in the leading position. Staring its operation in 1996, Grameen Shakti has sold a whopping 230,000 solar systems all in the heart of rural Bangladesh (Rahman N., 2009). So far in Bangladesh approximately 25 MW power (until July, 2009) being produced form Solar PV panels (REEIN, 2010b).  By the 2012 one million households will be powered form solar PV panel and targeted to produce 50MW power (REEIN, 2010b). So it is clear that majority of solar power utilization is done in rural areas. Its potential in the urban area is less addressed issue.

Solar Energy can be used in diverse ways:

Uses of solar energy are limited only by human ingenuity. A partial list of solar applications includes space heating and cooling through solar architecture, potable water via distillation and disinfection, day lighting, solar hot water, solar cooking, and high temperature process heat for industrial purposes. To harvest the solar energy, the most common way is to use solar panels (Wikipedia, 2010). In Bangladesh by using Solar PV Panels solar energy is harvested as solar home system, centralized (AC) system, centralized (AC) market electrification, water pumping, rural clinic, roof top PV mini-grid system, telecommunications, railway signaling, refrigeration, cyclone shelters etc, ICT training centers, community places etc. (REEIN, 2010b). Solar energy is also used to charge IPS batteries as single or dual source.

Various problems hinder the growth of Solar Energy:

In most of the cases, the solar energy sector is facing problems with sub standard solar panels and battery. There are complains that the battery quality is not up to mark to achieve satisfying performance. Insufficient warranty period of battery & inverter is another problem. Bangladesh is currently importing almost all the solar panels; low cost sub standard panels are inundating the market. Instead of using high quality premium priced solar panels, most of the people are using cheap sub standard brands and facing numerous troubles. In that process they are losing their interest in using solar energy. Moreover, Information regarding use of solar energy is not readily available in the market.


There is serious lack of proper campaign and branding to popularize the solar energy in Urban Bangladesh. Solar energy can be a complimentary environment friendly source of power and can play a significant role in reducing current urban power crisis. Government and Private sector should work hand in hand to harness the immense potential of solar energy of Bangladesh.


The author would like to express his gratitude to Dr. Saiful Huque, Professor and Technical Advisor, RERC (Renewable Energy Research Centre), University of Dhaka and Secretary Bangladesh Solar Energy Society; Professor Dr. M Kamal Hossain, Director (Head), Institute of Appropriate Technology, BUET; for providing valuable insights and relevant information about solar energy in Bangladesh.


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To cite this article, please use following information:

(use the given format or any standard citation format)

Shiblee, N.H., Solar Energy in Urban Bangladesh: An Untapped Potential, ChE Thoughts 2 (1), 8-12, 2011.


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