Partnership for power
About 40 years ago famine gripped Bangladesh after a war for independence. There was virtually no electricity in the rural areas, and the government struggled to rebuild. In response to these needs and with support from NRECA International and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government drafted a 1978 ordinance that created the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB). This led to a plan that included adopting the electric co-op model which eventually improved the quality of life for millions.
In 1980 about 13,000 people living in the rural areas had access to electricity. By the end of that year, the BREB and 13 local co-ops or PBS (Palli Bidyut Samities ) were established. Today, 80 PBSes serve more than 100 million people across the country. Since NRECA International’s involvement, the average annual income for Bangladeshi homes with electricity increased by 250%.
“Electric co-ops were a natural fit,” said Dan Waddle, senior vice president for NRECA International. “Today Bangladesh is a global model for rural electrification plan.”
The government aims to connect its entire population of 160 million by 2021. Mostafa Kamal, BREB’s manager of power distribution and operations said they’re on track. A strong foundation and solid guidance from NRECA International are key to achieving that goal.
“To eliminate poverty, we have to provide electricity for all,” said Mr. Kamal. “NRECA taught us at the very root level on how to design and construct the system.”
The secret for success
Mr. Obaidur Rahman is the general manager for the Manikganj PBS, one of the original 13 PBSes formed 40 years ago. He has served his community for more than 30 years, and offered his perspective.
“NRECA is the secret for our success. Your concept used in the USA, our people accepted it gladly,” said Rahman. “Without people participation, any program will not have success. And with the help of our government, NRECA, and our people, we hope that by 2041, we become a developed country. Without electricity, it’s not possible. Electricity is the main blood for this country’s economy.”
Major General (Rtd) Moin Uddin, chairman of BREB said that commitment from the government and strong partnerships is key for success.
“The social economic development of people living in rural areas is important to make our country developed one,” said Uddin. “In 2008, 28 percent of the rural areas had access to electricity. Now it’s at 90 percent. And this is because we have strong commitment from the government, support from our developing partners and consultants like NRECA.”
Today NRECA International oversees a World Bank project in Bangladesh that includes the construction of 110 new substations, to ensure that the electric co-ops can meet the increasing electricity demand in the rural areas.
The co-op family
America’s electric cooperatives know the long-lasting impact that comes as a result of building trust and confidence with their consumer-members. It’s no different in Bangladesh.
“No difference. Our PBS all are family members. It’s a very good relationship,” said Rahman. “I always feel proud to serve the people with electricity in our country. It is a very proud job for me.”