Bangladesh's national electricity grid is permanently overloaded. There are daily power cuts, some of which last for several hours. Diesel generators and kerosene lamps are often used as an alternative, but these are both expensive and damaging to people's health. And many millions of people - more than half of the population - are still not even connected to the central power grid. Because they live in remote, rural areas or because they simply cannot afford it.
But Bangladesh - one of the least developed countries in the world - is in fact way out in front when it comes to the switchover to renewable energies and decentralised energy supplies: around five million households have their own small solar energy system, which they obtain electricity from. The social startup SOLshare uses this to supply even more people with power. Using their Internet of Things technology, so-called SOLboxes (bidirectional smart energy meters) the organisation is able to connect households to each other - those that already have a solar power system and those that still have no power source.
Clean Electricity to Buy and Sell
This creates a peer-to-peer marketplace: households can sell their excess, unused energy within the microgrids to households thtat have no access to electricity. Or when demand is high - for example, if they're running a shop - they can buy electricity from their neighbours for an accessible price.
Payment happens via mobile phone: a mobile app is connected to the system and measures automatically and in real time when the excess energy is flowing into the system - i.e. when you're earning money. The credit is loaded onto the telephone as a form of direct income.
SOLshare is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and was founded in 2014 as a project of the German MicroEnergy International GmbH. In March 2017 the social enterprise was among the winners of the Startup Energy Transition Award.
Check out the short video below to see the team at work.
This article is a translation by Marisa Pettit of the original article that appeared on our German-language site.