A 2016 study done by World Energy Outlook found that 16 percent of the world’s population (1.2 billion people) is still living without electricity. Communities primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and rural Asia lack modern electrical resources and rely on dangerous and physically harmful resources. Relying on biomass for the majority of their energy, health risks such as poor ventilation and open fires are routine in many households. Providing solutions for energy-impoverished areas requires a change in mindset, infrastructure, economic strategy and inventiveness. Here are 10 of the best:
- Make electricity a human right
Electricity may seem less important than other issues when addressing global poverty. While basic human needs such as food, water and shelter should obviously be of top priority, one solution for energy-impoverished areas is making electricity a human right. Having electricity helps highly-impoverished regions improve hospitals, school systems, industrial work, and other critical aspects of modern society.
- Focus on public health
A key component of human rights is individual health. Economic and technological factors often come second to issues like health care. However, having electricity can greatly improve the general health of a community. The United Nations estimates that dirty household air is responsible for more than 40 million premature deaths. Access to resources such as air purifiers could all but eliminate issues like this and greatly incentivize establishment of power.
- Changing attitudes of world leaders
To make electricity a basic human right, world leaders must become cognizant of its benefits and utter necessity. Often, obstacles such as cost, providing infrastructure and general planning can be seen as insurmountable when establishing power in areas without electricity. However, programs like one in Uganda that provides pre-paid power and can be topped up with a mobile phone may persuade other world leaders to follow suit.
- Create economic incentives for power companies
Many entrepreneurs and startup companies have found great success in developing cost-efficient and accessible solutions for energy-impoverished areas. Solar batteries, LED lights and other inventive energy sources have been met with great economic success and growing market shares. Developing technology that works can be a great economic incentive for global power companies.
- Increase global funding
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have diverted funding to establish electricity in power-impoverished areas because as organizations, they recognize the long-term economic benefits of so doing. Many countries lack the basic resources to begin projects of this caliber. Organizations that emphasize human rights and economic aid can provide these countries with the initial resources that will eventually create economic success stories.
- Think local
Small, local and even personal electronic grids are the recipients of recent research and funding. Why? The difficulty of spreading existing power to distant, rural communities can prevent areas from ever gaining electricity. Rather than trying to connect these areas to the main grid, many companies have suggested providing these regions with small, localized, off-the-grid solutions.
- Reduce energy theft
Along with influencing government and international-level organizations, convincing people that electricity is a worthy investment can be a challenge. Many communities have found methods of stealing electricity from the main grid, which makes leaders wary of investing in further power. In New Delhi, a program was instituted for local women to discuss the benefits of wide-scale electricity with their neighbors. Social programs such as this are extremely effective in changing attitudes.
- Invest in solar power
When discussing solutions for energy-impoverished areas, climate change is a key factor to consider. Many world leaders and emerging technology companies have considered the benefits of solar energy. While it can be expensive and difficult to implement, the long-term benefits of sustainable energy are important to consider when compared to short-term, non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels.
- Explore emerging natural energy sources
Although solar power is an extremely clean and renewable source of energy, it can be unreliable for large-scale energy production. To create solutions for energy-impoverished areas, various regions in Africa have begun to implement other natural energy resources such as geothermal, natural and hydropower. These are just as environmentally-friendly as solar energy but more consistent and easy to maintain.
- Think small
With international energy access being the long-term goal, there are still many new tech firms selling simple gadgets that greatly improve the way of life for communities lacking large-scale power. Voto, for example, creates personal solar-powered outlets that can charge devices like phones and batteries. While it may seem small, conveniences such as this can make the most basic tasks more simple.
Though these changes may require time, small steps towards improvement can have a great impact on individual households and villages living without power. In making small, tangible efforts towards providing electricity to these areas, global mindsets and policies will gradually be affected.
– Julia Morrison