Future Focused - A chat with Salma Islam discussing global environmental challenges

Published on

September 28, 2023


Salma Islam

We sat down with Salma Islam – head of projects, fundraising and communications at SOLshare, the game-changing climate-tech company – to discuss environmental challenges, innovative solutions and how we all have a responsibility to look after our planet.

Salma Islam

Hi, Salma. We want to kick-off this interview by understanding a bit about SOLshare and how your role fits into the vision. Can you fill us in?

“Of course! SOLshare’s ultimate goal is to be able to build a network of smart-distributed, solar-powered storage assets using IOT (‘Internet of things’) devices that provide ancillary services to the grid and furthers the renewable energy transition. The way we see it, the only way to increase renewables in the energy mix is through the addition of storage, which is why our work in climate-tech has included this crucial element from the beginning.

I’ve been working at SOLshare for nearly five years now. I head our projects, fundraising and communications. I’m responsible for overseeing all our workstreams with development partners, as well as the process of bringing in new projects, developing proposals and applying for prizes and grants. I also oversee all the comms materials, including social media, marketing and press media. It’s a lot of work, but very fulfilling.

After 15 years in the development sector, SOLshare was the first place I felt like I was making a real difference. Even though I’m not the one going out into the field much or doing work on-the-ground, we really function as a team. Everyone is responsible and due credit for what the organisation has accomplished to date. I’m very lucky to work within a team of such hardworking and passionate individuals!”

Bangladesh is facing a huge energy challenge at the moment, with high prices and power outages. SOLshare is working towards being part of the solution. Can you describe how the company plans to realise a better future for the country?

“SOLshare recently published a white paper titled the Rickshaw VPP (‘virtual power plant’), that’s available to read on our website. The energy challenges that Bangladesh is facing from rising energy costs are also being felt across the globe. As we see it, the solution is to tap into as many existing resources as possible to add more energy to the grid. One such asset is the batteries in electric three-wheelers. Our smart tech makes lithium-ion batteries for vehicles more accessible and affordable, while providing data that is visible and controllable. By tapping into this existing market right now we could feedback 4GW of energy, which is 25% of the Bangladesh’s current peak demand.

SOLshare intends to pilot the VPP technology. This will demonstrate how we harness existing resources to fight the energy crisis, but also pave the path to sustainable development through the increased integration of renewables (in our case, solar) into the national energy mix.”


On a broader note, we’d love to know your thoughts on the role you believe SOLshare and climate-tech companies in general have to play in emerging markets such as Bangladesh.

“In the words of the immortal Shakespeare, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’. In the same way, SOLshare – along with so many other climate-tech companies rising from emerging markets across the globe – are the players with solutions to help us win the fight against climate change right now. Yes, there are companies developing extraordinary solutions in developed economies, but how many of those solutions are accessible or affordable for everyone? We need to stop seeking solutions among the few and look for applicable solutions for the many, because they’re there. We’re not saying that viable solutions that require more time and R&D shouldn’t be invested in. They should, but the fact remains, we’re running out of time and need to arm ourselves with what we have. We believe these solutions need to be given a spotlight. There are those who are doing this, like Prince William’s Earthshot Prize and the Zayed Sustainability Prize, but we need more organisations dedicated to finding and funding these solutions.” 

What are the most significant challenges you’ve faced when innovating and bringing new solutions to the market? What roadblocks are preventing faster progress in terms of climate-tech solutions?

“Financing is always the biggest challenge. You can have the world’s most brilliant idea, but without funding, that idea never gets off the ground. I’m sure many amazing solutions have died that slow and painful death! Not only do you need to have a great idea, but you need to be able to present it with a powerful story that will sell, and make money fast.

If there was a way to streamline all of these processes so that financiers could work in tandem to one another – instead of organisations having to answer similar questions on repeat in the form of multiple applications seeking funds, whether from investors or development funds – this would probably see a lot more money going to solutions that could have a real impact with positive benefits for the environment and the lives and livelihoods that depend on them.”


How beneficial did you find it to work with Bray St. as part of BTV’s ESG programme?

“Collaborating with Bray St. helped us find our new message, which is exactly what we needed at the time, as we were just entering the micromobility space. Having spent years focused on energy access and efficiency, we needed messaging that encompassed both our business lines. The sessions with Bray St. are what helped streamline our focus and articulate our new pitch, which now also includes solar rooftop services. That’s why I think organisations like Bray St. are so important to help ones like us find their story and strengthen their message to help get that across to their partners.”

Looking ahead, what do you hope to achieve over the next five years?

“In the long-term, I want to see SOLshare expand its services to encompass millions of EVs across the country working in harmony to feed their excess energy back into the national grid during peak load, alongside thousands of MWps of net-metered solar rooftop, all contributing to meeting the country’s renewable energy targets.”


If you could leave readers with one last thought, what would it be?

“My nieces and nephews are all young and still in school. I do my best to talk to them about the importance saving our environment and encourage them to do something that will contribute to saving our planet when they grow up. No matter how small the contribution is, every little bit is important. 

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