Service Test: Remote Monitoring and Mobile Payment (RMMP) in Bangladesh
Background - The showcase Bangladesh
Despite considerable efforts by the Government of Bangladesh to augment the electricity generating capacity and promote rural electrification, the economic development of the country is still challenged by capacity shortfalls that result from a lack of investment in energy generation, distribution and storage facilities coupled with inefficient management, operations and maintenance. This is especially true for remote rural areas, where the lack of (affordable) electricity access keeps economic development below potential.
One decisive tool to increase electricity access has been the dissemination of Solar Home Systems (SHS). In 2013, the installation of over 2.5 million SHS was celebrated in Bangladesh, and the market continues to grow at over 75,000 systems per month . The business and operation model applied by the Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL) partner organisations (POs) for the SHS program has proven to be one of the most successful approaches of decentralized rural electricity programs worldwide.
Despite the success of IDCOL’s solar home system program, this reaches its economical limit when it comes to (1) serving very remote areas and (2) securing technical quality and monitoring standards. The standard business model in Bangladesh is based around microfinance institutions that deliver end-user finance through 3-year microloans, installations of the systems, after-sale services and payment collections. While proven successful, the service provision is heavily labour intensive and a reduction in associate costs could lead to significant increase in competitive advantage and ability to provide higher quality to harder-to-reach areas.
The project - The smart Charge Controller
Through Remote Monitoring the PO is able to access performance and usage data of the SHS in the field online via a database and remotely control the charge controller while Mobile Payment allows the end users to pay the monthly instalments via their mobile phone.
On a long term, RMMP features in an SHS could increase the number of beneficiaries at the rural household level, especially by extending outreach to those previously prevented access because of extreme remoteness or isolation. Furthermore, this innovative technology has not yet entered the Bangladeshi market, and POs and renewable energy technology service providers who are able to integrate such features into their business processes could experience a significant improvement and cost reduction by increasing their flexibility, quality of service, and assurance of equipment warranty policies as well as a significant reduction of maintenance cost.
In order to address this issue, MicroEnergy International is conducting a service test of remote monitoring and mobile payment in collaboration with the technology provider mobisol, the battery supplier Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd., the IDCOL PO Rural Services Foundation (RSF) and the United International University (UIU) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In a pilot project, the basic charge controllers of a test group of SHS are replaced by charge controllers with RMMP features in order to investigate the potential savings in the transaction cost for the PO.
 IDCOL: www.idcol.org/energyProject.php [last visited: 04/06/2014]