IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: Population Training & Service Center
GRANT AMOUNT: $155,760
The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED II) is a publicly funded project aimed at increasing access to electricity through Solar Home System (SHS) in “off-grid” rural areas of Bangladesh. Although it has been recognized as one of the largest and fastest growing off-grid renewable energy programs in the world, policy and operational challenges remain common. For example, the program includes grants and soft loans to partner organizations who provide capacity building and technical assistance to local communities (ex: training, logistics and promotional support). However, these organizations were prioritizing market expansion over customer satisfaction, limiting the impact of the program.
CARTA contracted the Population Services Training Center (PSTC) to both assess and help improve the delivery of solar home systems (SHS) and strengthen citizen engagement in ensuring their effective operation. The sub-project was designed to carry out independent third party monitoring (TPM) and to provide capacity building for user groups. The sub-project objectives were to:
- Make SHS users become more knowledgeable to participate with partner organizations and ensure accountability
- Enable SHS users to provide systematic feedback throughout the project implementation process
- Provide suggestions for improving the service delivery of the SHS program
The sub-project used two surveys techniques: focus group discussion (FGDs), and key informant interviews (KIIs) to gather data. To enhance the knowledge and capacity of users, the CSO formed 14 union level SHS user groups who were trained in the operation and maintenance of SHS.
The project report compared data from the baseline and endline surveys which offered recommendations to improve the effectiveness of solar home system (SHS) delivery and functioning. Likewise, the surveys provided direct feedback from service users to service providers. The sub-project also trained 350 users for the first time on SHS equipment maintenance. The sub-project outcomes include:
- Percentage of households experiencing problems with their SHS unit decreased from 28% to 5% and from 16% to 1% for business users
- Percentage of users briefed by a technician before or during the installation of their SHS increased form 46% to 68% for household users and from 57% to 70% for business users.
- Time taken to resolve problems related to SHS equipment decreased from “31-60” days to “1-15” days.
The baseline survey revealed that the partner organizations charged with capacity building and training were not allocating enough resources for such activities. On the contrary, the CARTA sub-project demonstrated the benefits of proper equipment maintenance training to the life of SHS units and sustainability of the program. Implementing agencies have already begun to organize additional trainings in response as it was found to not only be cost effective to train users, but these users are the primary source of SHS knowledge and reviews for potential new clients.