Grameen Shakti and the Solar Revolution
Grameen Shakti is a renewable energy resources company based out of Bangladesh. They are a part of the Grameen family of companies, which has been working for decades to alleviate the burdens of poverty in developing countries. The Grameen Bank, one of their founding companies, has become world-renowned for their charitable work and for helping to establish groundbreaking programs focused on the needs of people.
In recent years, the Grameen Bank has financed and supported a number of projects aimed at removing social and financial barriers and creating opportunities for those less fortunate. Grameen Telecom is one such example. The central aim of this company is to provide collateral-free loans to rural villagers for use in establishing local communications networks. This model has become known as the Village Phone.
They have now committed significant resources to sustainable energy development. The cornerstone of this effort is the Photovoltaic Program. In Bangladesh, only 30% of the population is receiving energy from the electrical power grid. In this developing nation, the infrastructure to provide energy to every household simply doesn’t exist. In an effort to address this problem, Grameen Shakti has financed the installation of thousands of solar energy systems in rural communities.
This has created immense opportunities for people in rural villages. Children now have the ability to pursue their studies long after the sun has gone down. Businesses now have the ability to operate beyond their traditional work hours, thus increasing productivity and sales. A world of opportunity has opened up for an entire generation of rural villagers. As a consequence, they are no longer rural villagers. They are now members of our global village.
One of the most amazing consequences of this program has been the level of technological engagement that has occurred among the youth in Bangladesh. For young people in rural communities, the future is bright. Due to the advancement in technological knowledge and understanding, the demand for skilled workers has increased at a phenomenal pace. To address this concern, Grameen Shakti has also established training programs that educate young people in the principles of electronics and engineering.
It is both exciting and encouraging to witness the immediate and tangible effects of an enlightened business model that measures its true profitability by its social impact. It is an idea that is completely foreign to the western capitalist mindset, and one that serves as a shining example of the power of an idea. Western corporations take heed; there are lessons to be learned in rural Bangladesh.