Irrigation consumes about 4.58% of the total electricity generation in the South Asian country. Credit: Flickr: Helena Wright

Irrigation consumes about 4.58% of the total electricity generation in the South Asian country. Credit: Flickr: Helena Wright

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a US$20 million loan and a US$25.44 million grant to support off-grid solar PV pumping for agricultural irrigation in Bangladesh to replace expensive diesel-based systems.

The funding will support the installation of at least 2,000 solar pumping systems in off-grid areas with an estimated 19.3MW of solar capacity.

Irrigation consumes about 4.58% of the total electricity generation in the South Asian country, but farmers with electric pumps face persistent power outages, forcing them to operate at night when grid electricity demand is lower and power outages are less likely. In off-grid rural areas, reliance on expensive diesel for pumping is the only option. An estimated 11.06 million farmers are using diesel to operate their pumps.

The grant will be used to lower the high upfront cost of using solar pumping systems for agricultural irrigation, making them more affordable to low-income farmers. Technical and skills training will be provided to support jobs and livelihood opportunities with a focus on women.

The loan comes from an ADB Power System Efficiency Improvement Project and the grant financing from the Scaling up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program under the Strategic Climate Fund, and the Clean Energy Fund for Output-based Aid under the ADB-administered Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility.

ADB senior energy specialist Aiming Zhou said: “High diesel costs for irrigation are not sustainable and affordable for small farmers in rural Bangladesh. In an area where grid electricity is not available, using solar energy for irrigation is a promising alternative to diesel-based pumping systems. The project will help meet diverse energy demands, improve livelihoods because of less pollution, and result in savings from the reduction in diesel use for irrigation and other agricultural activities.”

Proinso UK and Joules Power are due to complete Bangladesh's first utility-scale PV plant this month.

Tags: adb, irrigation, bangladesh

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