Saturday, January 29, 2005

Alternate Energy Philippines: MicroHydro Power

The Philippine Daily Inquirier has a number of special reports on the country's "preventable crisis" of energy supply including this one on the use of micro-hydro electricity.

While there is talk of a coming energy crisis in some areas of the Philippines, including Mindanao and the Visayas, in the remote communities in the Cordilleras, microhydroelectricity is being put to use.

Microhydro power plants (those with 7.5 to 35 kW capacity) don't need big, controversial dams to operate.

In fact, a small spring in Barangay Buneg, Conner town, Apayao province and in Barangay Lon-oy, San Gabriel town, La Union province - has enough power to run a generator for household electricity.

Hardly accessible, Buneg and Lon-oy are among 10,000 villages not covered by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) grid. Under the Philippine Energy Plan, Buneg and Lon-oy are among the villages due to be electrified 2010. But this is only on paper.

Remote communities and non-government and Church organizations advocating micro-hydro power say they cannot wait for the government to bring electricity to them.

So, on their own, representatives of the 300 Mabaka people of Buneg got in touch with the Catholic Church and the Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, or Sibat, a Metro Manila-based non-government organization helping install environment-friendly and community-run alternative energy facilities.

From 1996 to 2002, the Mabaka folk had provided labor and Sibat, through its engineer, the project supervision. Sibat also sourced funds from the United Nations Development Programme.

Inaugurated in January 2003, the Buneg 7.5-kW micro-hydro power plant has since been providing electricity to 36 families.

Under bright fluorescent lamps, children can now study their lessons and read books while Rosalina Dangli, the community's lone public teacher, can prepare her lesson plans.

Before he calls it a day, Mabaka elder Andanan Agagen weaves rattan baskets at night, which he sells to lowland folk in Conner town.

Courtesy of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines and the community, a 15-kW micro-hydro power facility in Lon-oy has not only lit up the 130 houses of 1,000 upland farming folk. The facility has also enabled many families to make brooms for sale, even at night.

And now that the electricity is flowing, the women have embarked on money-earning ventures such as processing ginger into salabat or ginger tea powder.

Other privately initiated micro-hydro power plants are starting a quiet industrial revolution in areas inaccessible to national power company.

A 5-kW micro-hydro power project built in 1993 in the sub-village of Ngibat in Tinglayan town, Kalinga province, powers a blacksmith shop, which manufactures simple farm tools such as trowels, hoes, bolos and machetes for the 30 families in the community. It also operates a community rice mill and a vulcanizing shop.

A 30-kW micro-hydro power facility in Tulgao village, also in Tinglayan, built in 1999 also with the help of Sibat, now runs a rice mill and a sugarcane presser, which is twice faster than the carabao-drawn dapilan (wooden presser).

The Cordillera's various springs and tributaries offer great potential for small water-powered electricity generators.

Philippine Daily Inquiry special reports on the country's "preventable crisis"

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Wave Power: Energy Buoy to Lead to Wavefarm?

BBC News reports that a pioneering project to harness wave power off the coast of north Cornwall, England is being monitored by scientists around the world.

A state-of-the-art energy buoy is being launched 12 miles off St Ives by the Renewable Energy Agency for the South West (Regen SW) on Friday.

The $132,000 buoy will record wave activity and measure wave power.

Regen SW has been awarded $368,000 from the npower Juice fund, which supports renewable energy technologies.

The project is designed to speed up the installation of one the world's first wavefarms, which could be in place within three years off the north Cornwall coast.

The area is being investigated by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) as a possible site for the creation of a Wave Hub.

This would act as an offshore electrical "socket" connected to the national grid by an underwater cable.

The Wave Hub would be the UK's first large-scale wave energy project, allowing manufacturers to carry out tests before going ahead with the development of commercial projects.

The British government wants the UK to be producing 10% of its energy needs from renewable resources by 2010.

Full Text of BBC Article on Wave Power Buoy

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Alternative Fuel Cars: Plug-In Hybrids and Electric Cars

fueling by plugging in

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on plug-in hybrids.

Not long after Dan Kroushl got his new 2004 Toyota Prius, he began to wonder about the mysterious button on the dash. It didn't seem to have any function. Didn't boost the turbo or engage an ejector seat. In online discussions with other Prius enthusiasts, Mr. Kroushl soon discovered the button did have a hidden function: It could turn the gasoline-electric hybrid into an all-electric car - for a mile or so on limited battery power.

This "stealth mode" button works fine in Japan and Europe where it's handy for drivers to roll politely about densely packed subdivisions in the early morning and late evening. But the button has been disconnected for North America's Priuses.

Now, scores of Prius owners in the United States are activating the button on their own - despite company warnings that altering the car will void its warranty.

Some drivers, including Kroushl, are going even further: adding battery capacity - and a plug. The hoped for result: a high-tech commuting car that plugs into a socket at night and gets amazing gas mileage the next day.

In effect, these backyard mechanics have turned the hybrid car's appeal on its head. Instead of emphasizing gasoline over electric power and the convenience of today's cars, they're aiming to create less polluting higher-mileage vehicles that emphasize electricity over gasoline - even if it's a bit less convenient.

"One guy I know plugs his Honda hybrid into a windmill for power," Kroushl says. "It costs him practically nothing to drive."

Since before the Model T, electric cars have been among the most efficient modes of transportation. They made a bit of a comeback in the mid-1990s, when General Motors and other automakers reintroduced electric-only cars to meet a proposed California clean-air mandate. But with the weakening of that requirement, which called for some vehicles to be zero-emission in 2003, GM, Toyota, and Honda stopped production of their electric vehicles. Some automakers, which had leased the cars, began taking them back to be destroyed.

the discontinued Ford Think

Only the dedication of enthusiasts has kept them from disappearing completely. This past summer, after Ford Motor Co. announced it would send its electric Think vehicles to the crusher rather than sell them to buyers in Norway for a million dollars, environmental groups occupied the roof of the company's Norwegian offices and held a mock funeral at a San Francisco dealer. Within two weeks, following a protest by Greenpeace, Ford agreed instead to ship its vehicles to a Norwegian electric-car manufacturer.

Just last week, Ford also reluctantly agreed to let Dave Bernikoff-Raboy, a California rancher, buy the all-electric pickup truck he had been leasing. He was so devoted to the vehicle, which recharged off a solar panel, that he camped out near a Ford dealership in Sacramento, California, to protest that automaker's plans to dispose of its remaining electric fleet.

Neocon Green James Woolsey

The article contains some quotes from who some are calling the Neocon Greens:

"We're not talking about electric vehicles, but about plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be topped off with electricity for short trips," James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said last month during the unveiling of a report by the 16-member National Commission on Energy Policy. "The potential in terms of national policy, and in terms of global warming, ought to be focused on by anyone" concerned about terrorism or "paying over $2 a gallon."

"We think the transportation fuel sector should be diversified by utilizing more electricity as a fuel - plug-in hybrids that can get 100 miles per gallon and allow you to run on electricity alone for 20 to 30 miles, then shift to the combustion engine," says Gal Luft, director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, an energy-security think tank in Washington.

Automakers however show little interest:

"Why would anyone want to do that?" wonders Sam Butto, a Toyota spokesman in Torrance, California, when told some Prius owners are creating their own plug-in Priuses. "One of the great features of the Prius is that you don't have to plug it in."

In my opinion they are failing to distinguish between having to plug it in and enabling consumers to plug-in their hybrids if they want to.

According to David Hermance, a Toyota environmental engineer there are a number of challenges in making a plug-in Prius including a "much, much, much larger battery" needed to increase range, which would add hundreds of pounds.

However as cellular phones have shown battery technology is improving all the time and the problems in mass producing plug-in hybrids may be insignificant when compared to producing hydrogen powered cars and the associated infrastructure.

And that's where plug-in hybrids have a major advantage. They can use the existing electrical infrastructure and be charged over night. Utility owned coal and gas generators cannot easily be shut down and therefore are run continuously even during the night when there is significant excess capacity. Therefore up to a certain level oil consumption could be decreased without any increase in electrical generation capacity. While in most countries the majority of electricity comes from polluting non-renewable sources this can be changed over time as more clean renewable power is added.

For those concerned about energy security it is definitely a step in the right direction. Less than 2% of U.S. electricity is generated from oil, so using electricity as a transportation fuel would greatly reduce dependence on imported petroleum. The Electric Power Research Institute projects that a midsize sedan PHEV with a sixty mile electric range would use fives times less gasoline a year than a regular vehicle of the same size.

The vast majority of journies in the United States are under forty miles and in European countries such as the United Kingdom the average journey is eight miles. Batteries have all ready been developed which can allow these trips to be completed solely on electric power.

According to Professor Frank from the University of California at Davis compared with conventional cars, the annual gasoline fuel consumption of the modified cars "is only about 10 percent, because you're using gas so infrequently," he says. "Our studies show [that] the average person would only go to the gas station six times a year compared with maybe 35 times a year."

The article continues:

Built on a stock Explorer platform, the hybrid retains all its original interior space. There is also more space in the engine compartment because the vehicle lacks moving parts like a fan belt, generator, water pump, and even a transmission. Because it has fewer than one-fifth the number of moving parts of a conventional SUV, the hybrid's weight, even with a heavier battery, stays the same. Assembly is simpler and reliability, better. In production, it might cost $40,000 or less, he says.

Ford Explorer Hybrid converted to be a Plug In Hybrid

Despite repeated presentations to the Big Three automakers in Detroit, Frank has received little interest from them. But last year, Toyota flew his Explorer to its research facilities in Japan so engineers could pore over the vehicle. "There's no question in my mind that Toyota has plans for a plug-in hybrid right now, but they aren't talking about it," he says.

Certainly, plug-in hybrids are for real. DaimlerChrysler is reportedly near delivery of the first batch of what is expected to be as many as 100 Sprinter delivery vans that permit travel of up to 20 miles on electricity alone. This will come in handy in car-clogged European cities currently considering bans or other limits on gas- and diesel-powered delivery vehicles.

AC Propulsion had demonstrated a converted VW Jetta with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) system. Renault is offering its Kangoo PHEV that can go 60 miles on a charge before switching back to gas. Commuter Cars Corp. of Spokane, Wash., is offering a low-volume electric car called the Tango for $85,000.

Renault Kangoo + Scenic Lighthouse

Meanwhile, a not-for-profit outfit called CalCars in San Francisco is modifying two Priuses by adding more battery power and a plug. The group has discovered an empty space under the hatch near the current battery that looks almost as if Toyota intended to do this itself one day. "We hope to get significantly more miles per gallon with the additional battery power," says Felix Kramer, the group's founder. "Our purpose is to show Toyota that there is demand for this kind of vehicle."

Will Toyota - or Detroit - respond? Not without major breakthroughs in technology, says Dan Bedore, a Ford spokesman. "It's become pretty clear that our ... non-plug-in hybrid system is the direction we see the market going."

"The answer is they really don't want to do it," Frank says. "We're just a bunch of students. If we can build this with off-the-shelf technology, they can too - and do things better than what we do. If they really were interested in doing something in the short term, they could do it."

I would agree with this sentiment. The profits for major automakers like Ford are in building high-profit SUVs which are exempt from environmental and safety standards rather than building smaller efficient plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs).

The hype around the hydrogen economy allows many automakers to spend a few million on prototypes and avoid doing anything now to change the fuel economy of their best selling vehicles. Rather than waiting decades and spending hundreds of billions on a hydrogen infrastructure that may never materialise or mere billions of dollars in subsidies for corn based ethanol fuel which can never replace gasoline, we can instead use plug-in hybrids as a simple and cost effective way to reduce dependence on oil and reduce pollution using the existing electrical infrastrucutre to which we can continue to add clean renewable energy sources such as wind power.

To encourage this, I urge you to sign this online plug in hybrid campaign asking automakers to produce plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Hybrid Consortium

Full Christian Science Article on Plug-In Hybrids

Mercedes-Benz prototype PHEV Sprinter Van with benefits and projections of PHEV use (pdf)

Ergosphere Blog with detailed technical analysis of the use of plug in hybrid cars

Ergosphere on Advances in Battery Technology

Geoff Styles on some of the challenges facing advocates of a Hydrogen economy

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Spanish Electric Utility Company Invests over U.S. $2 billion in Renewable Energy

Spanish electricity company Endesa SA has said that it will invest EUR1.9 billion (US $2.46 billion) in the next five years to increase its renewable energy capacity in Europe.

In a presentation to analysts filed to the market regulator, the company said it will spend EUR1.4 billion in domestic renewable energy to get some 2,100 megawatts in wind power capacity in Spain and Portugal. It will also spend EUR500 million to buy some 350 MW of renewable capacity in Italy and another 55 MW in France.

The renewable investment figure represents 32% of the company's EUR6 billion planned investment in new capacity throughout Europe through 2009.

The company expects to have a total renewable capacity of 4,100 MW a the end of 2009, compared with 1,858 MW in 2003, and with more than 2,000 MW estimated for 2004, said a company official.

Hopefully this a sign of things to come, with other utility companies throughout the world spending a major portion of their investments in new generating capacity on clean renewable energy.

Endesa Official Website

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Alternative Energy Afghanistan: Solar Energy for Rural Use

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said that it has approved a $750,000-dollar grant to develop solar energy technology for use in isolated rural areas in Afghanistan.

The grant, financed by the British government, would demonstrate how solar energy could enhance the quality of life in poor, remote villages which could not be connected to wider power grids, the ADB said in a statement issued from its headquarters in Manila.

Most of Afghanistan’s population have no access to modern energy sources like electricity and gas and are forced to rely on traditional fuels like firewood. This depletes the country’s forests, damaging the environment.

However the country has a great potential for solar power since the sun shines for about 300 days a year in Afghanistan.

The grant will be used to provide solar energy systems to communities on a pilot basis and to train ten people from different ethnic groups as solar energy technicians at a training centre in India.

Upon returning to Afghanistan, they would train ten additional people from their communities.

It's hoped that solar energy systems in Afghanistan cam be used to provide lighting for literacy programs, provide water for clinics and to power water pumps and irrigation systems.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Alternative Energy Estonia: Eight Windmills to Provide 1% of National Electricity

In Paldiski, Estonia on the site where border guards used to keep watch on the western outpost of the Soviet Union, Baltic European Union newcomer Estonia is erecting a wind farm to generate clean electricity.

The wind-swept Pakri peninsula, which juts into the Baltic Sea 60km west of the capital Tallinn, once hosted a training centre for Soviet border guards. The nearby town of Paldiski was a key Soviet nuclear submarine training ground.

The first three windmills of the Pakri Wind Farm have just been put into operation, with five others to follow before the end of the month.

When the farm is fully up and running, it is expected to supply one percent of Estonia's energy needs, and about 10,000 Estonian households are expected to get electricity from the farm.

The Parki Wind Farm is setting a precedent in the region in the carbon pollution quota market. Under the Kyoto Protocol's implementation project, 0.5 million tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be sold to Finland.

It's among the very first wind power projects anywhere where the economic feasibility is achieved through the sale of CO2 reductions under the joint implementation scheme of the Kyoto Protocol.

On January 1, the EU opened a market for trading in carbon dioxide and other gases.

The total investment cost of the Pakri project is 24 million euros. Most of Estonia's energy is generated using oil-shale fueled power plants, which are big pollutants.

With an expected annual production of 56 GWh (GigaWatt hours), the Pakri wind farm will meet about one per cent of Estonia's net electricity consumption, and thus contribute to achieving Estonia's target of providing 5.1 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010.

Developers have already made plans for building more wind farms on other former Soviet military installations in Estonia.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Alternative Energy Cuba: Four Wind Turbines for Guantanamo Bay

Four new wind turbines are being installed at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and are projected to save $1.5 million in annual oil imports. The Los Angeles Times also listed an additional benefit as being "showing energy-starved communist neighbours what they are missing".

Base public works officer, Cmdr. Jeffrey Johnston and the base commander, Capt. Leslie J. McCoy, noted that Cuban military officials with whom they met periodically had been keenly interested in the wind project, which is now the most visible feature of the base from any direction.

"The Cubans are very intrigued by the wind generators, but I see no potential for sharing the technology at this time," McCoy said, alluding to the absence of diplomatic relations with Havana and a trade embargo that had been in place since shortly after Castro came to power in 1959.

Cuba has suffered widespread and protracted electricity outages in recent years as the price of oil has driven up production costs. The country has invested little in developing alternative energy resources.

Los Angeles Times article on the addition of Windmills in Guantanamo Bay

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Grid Computing to Help Get Renewable Energy into the UK National Grid

A European grid computing project worth £4.7m could solve the approaching problem of how to co-ordinate the electricity output of a proliferation of new wind farms and solar power stations.

The UK power grid is today dominated by relatively few large power stations, but the move towards renewable energy will mean an explosion of smaller energy sources around the country.

Dr Peter Hobson, project leader of Brunel University's portion of the GridCC project, said that dynamically co-ordinating alternative energy source output on the national grid will prove difficult in the future. Grid computing, which harnesses the processing power of many interconnected computers at different locations may be the answer, he said.

'Today renewables contribute intermittently to the power grid, but in 15 years we're aiming for 30 per cent of our power from alternative sources and it's not viable to have them leaping on and off unexpectedly. We need a way to handle the change frommonitoring a few hundred power stations with private networks, to controlling 30,000 alternative energy generators.'
The project aims to develop the equipment and software needed to build a grid computing network that could autonomously process the instrument data from thousands of energy sources, and allow the power industry to optimise the ebb and flow of electricity on their national grids. article on GridCC Project

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Alternative Energy China: Asia's Largest Wind Farm

A private company plans to build Asia's biggest wind farm in the sea south of Shanghai, setting up 100 turbines in shallow coastal waters, an industry group said Thursday.

The announcement of the 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) project comes as China struggles with severe electricity shortages while also trying to reduce its heavy reliance on dirty coal-fired power plants.

Zhejiang Green Power Investment Co. is to build the project along the coast of Daishan County in Zhejiang, the province south of Shanghai, the China Electricity Council said. It didn't say when construction was to begin.

The wind farm is to have a generating capacity of 200 megawatts, according to the council, the main trade group for China's power industry.

At the end of 2004, China's total wind power capacity was a mere 730 megawatts.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Alternative Energy Vietnam: Pico Hydro - Small Scale Hydro-Electric Energy

Hanoi, the booming capital of Vietnam, according to the BBC epitomises the country's Asian tiger status. But while the standard of living in the cities has risen dramatically over the last few decades, in the countryside it is a different story.

The mountainous Da Bac province, outside Hanoi, is home to the Muong indigenous ethnic group. Many are rice farmers and few can afford the electricity from the new pylons that line the valleys. Instead, they are turning to a low-priced alternative.

Pico Hydro is a small-scale version of conventional hydro-electric power generation. The streams at the bottom of the valleys are powering a low-tech grid for the people of Da Bac.

Pico Hydro units need only a constant water supply and a slope with a one-metre drop. This produces a flow rate that can drive a turbine fast enough to generate electricity, providing houses with a direct power supply.

In some villages nearly every household has one. Imported 300-watt turbines cost about US$20, and have proved to be the most popular.

"Using Pico Hydro is really easy. There aren't any difficulties. It's actually more difficult to use the high voltage grid - it's much more expensive for us," says Ban Van Giang who lives in Da Bac.

"With better lighting, my wife can work and walk in the house easier, and my children can have better light to do their homework."

Vietnam has the world's highest uptake of Pico Hydro, with 120,000 units installed so far.

Cheap renewable means of generating electricity like Pico Hydro are key to spreading the benefits of electricity throughout the world in a sustainable way.

full BBC News article on water purification and small scale hydro power generation

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Alternative Energy Tanzania: Wave Power to Replace Gas in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is considering the possibility of turning Indian Ocean currents and waves into electric power to make the utmost of its geological position as an archipelago off east Africa.

If the initial study proves viable, the Zanzibar Utilities Company will build a power plant on the Pemba Island, one of the three major islands consisting the archipelago, which enjoys a history of strong currents and tidal waves.

The company expects to resort to power generated from tidal waves or ocean currents to turn the table against its loss-making situation. It now spends an average of 200 million Tanzanian shillings (200,000 US dollars) per month to generate power via gas turbines whereas it collects 60 million shillings (60,000 dollars) for its power supply.

Ocean energy constitutes to a large unexploited source of renewable energy and wave power therefore commands a good economical potential.

The Zanzibar Utilities Company will wait for the initial study to decide on whether to benefit from the wave power or the tidal power, which dictate two different energy converters to transform wave energy or tidal energy into electricity.

With prices of non-renewable natural gas rising in many countries around the world as readily accessible supplies dwindle, those countries which have a suitable stretch of coastline and are unwilling to invest the huge sums of money some of the world's richest countries are spending on LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals may find wave and/or tidal power to be a viable and renewable alternative.

Angola Press article on Zanzibar Wave Power

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Alternative Energy Bangladesh: Reaching Where the Grid Can't

According to this editorial in the Financial Express of Bangladesh daily loadshedding and suspension of production in industrial zones due to low gas pressure clearly indicate that Bangladesh is experiencing a severe energy delivery crisis.

The editorial describes energy, and especially, electricity, as being one of the most important ingredients required to alleviate poverty and ensure socio-economic and human development.

Access to electricity in Bangladesh is one of the lowest in the world. The coverage at present stands around 30 per cent of the total population. However, the rural areas of Bangladesh, where nearly 80 per cent of the population live, are seriously deprived of electricity.

Larger energy supplies and greater efficiency of energy use are thus necessary to meet the basic needs of a growing population. As the conventional grid-fed electricity can only cover 15 per cent of the total households, tapping different sources of alternative energy can be used for the benefit of the people.

The government in its national energy policy clarified its vision that it wants to electrify the whole country by the year 2020. But, major electrification through grid expansion is not a viable option for most parts of Bangladesh in the foreseeable future mainly due to inaccessibility and low consumer density. There are many areas in the country where electricity will not reach in the next 30 years. Some experts say, the current rate of electrification will take decades to provide access to electricity to all people in the country. In contrast, favourable natural conditions like sufficient sunshine and wind-speed exist for promotion of alternative energy in Bangladesh.

To fulfil the Bangladeshi government's vision of universal electrification, alternative energy sources will have to take a vital role for off-grid electrification.

Of all the options, solar energy has so far been considered the most easy and viable option. Solar energy's attributes of needing no fuel, high durability and reliability and being able to operate for prolonged periods without maintenance make it economical for all types of remote applications.

Different private business houses have started introducing solar thermal and photovoltaic systems in rural areas.

As the Rural Electrification Board (REB) has a countrywide network through its cooperatives, it can take a leading role in electrifying rural Bangladesh instead of keeping it dependent on the Power Development Board (PDB), which provides it with gas-based electricity.

It has become increasingly clear that, for the development of alternative energy in Bangladesh, the funding windows of non-government and private sources as well as financial and development institutions should be augmented. Furthermore, innovative new financing opportunities including micro-financing may be utilised to attract private capital to supplement the energy deficiencies in rural areas and thus to fulfil the aspirations of the Bangladeshi poor.

Financial Express article on tapping sources of renewable energy in Bangladesh

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