The Solar Home System (SHS) dissemination programme in Bangladesh is considered to be one of the most successful of its kind in the world, bringing power to rural areas where grid electricity supply is neither available nor expected in the medium term.The program started in January 2005 and nearly 350,000 SHSs were installed by last summer, most of which had a rated power output of 50W. Systems came with 3-4 compact flourescent light bulbs. Owners benefit from lighting, especially in their kitchens and courtyards, and also use the systems to charge batteries, power radios, and even run 12V televisions. While statistics are lacking, it appears that some owners are using the power in their small stores and restaurants, boosting their income.
This is a great program beautifully suited to regions without existing electrical grid infrastructure, and has the potential to have a lasting and powerfully positive impact on the energy poverty that afflicts much of the developing world. Even small amounts of electricity can change lives for the better by providing lighting for reading, heating and cooking that doesn't burn nasty fuels with toxic byproducts, and the ability to create a business, boosting the local economy.
Such an approach could work with micro hydropower too.