Electricity in Iraq
The electricity shortage in Iraq is a major problem for ordinary citizens. Since the fall of the Saddam regime, the government is unable to keep up with demands for electricity, a particularly painful issue during the crushing heat of summer. Agencies of coalition forces controlled Iraq after the disposition of Saddam. A 2011 report by the United Nations indicated that the daily demand for electricity in Iraq was 6,400 MVV, while the supply of output was 4,470, creating a supply gap. Moreover, it reported that during the summer, demand frequently goes up in the range of 6,800 to 7,500 MVV. As a result, up to 40% of electricity demand is not met during critical times when people are suffering.

Understanding the Electricity Shortage

The electricity shortage in Iraq exists for many reasons. The first comes from the damages inflicted on the country over the course of various wars and invasions. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report indicated that due to the damage of the Gulf War, the production of electricity in Iraq dropped from 5,100 megawatts to 2,300 megawatts. After 2003, Iraq’s energy and electric infrastructure underwent a series of attacks from non-state actors such as Al-Qaida in Iraq (known today as the Islamic State).

Another challenge to accessing electricity in Iraq is corruption and illegal activity. Approximately half of Iraq’s national budget went into paying the salaries of civil servants. The IMF estimated that Iraq would need $88 billion for reconstruction and infrastructure alone; nearly $50 billion is going to the salaries of government employees. Electricity in Iraq is often dependent on oil revenues. The U.S. State Department indicated that up to 30% of Iraq’s national resources go into the black market. There is also widespread mismanagement and mishandling of the infrastructure that provides electricity. The country loses between 30-50% of electricity in Iraq due to inadequate systems of energy. For example, some of Iraq’s electricity is sourced from power plants that date back to the 1980s and are unable to meet the massive energy demands that people expect them to.

Effects on the Ground

How does this affect the working class of Iraq? Not everyone can afford a private generator—a now booming business in Iraq that closes the gap between public demands and government deliverables. Buying those private electricity services is simply not an option for many of Iraq’s poor, which makes life extremely intolerable for these families. Some have reported that they cannot use a fridge, wash clothes or even store food without it going bad overnight. These conditions of corruption, political gridlock and poor living conditions are the cause of massive protests in southern Iraq, one of the country’s poorest regions. The heat only fuels the anger of the protestors.

Finding Solutions

While the situation might seem hopeless, there are those working on solutions to the problem. It has been suggested that privatization could combat the issue by reducing the deficit and stimulating economic growth. Others suggest that addressing problems directly might alleviate conditions. They suggest tackling the country’s corruption and reliance on unreliable infrastructure. Oil energy production is also a solution that can bankroll the electricity demands. The most important thing is to ensure the efficient use of these resources and to prevent their trade on the black market. Some of the country’s neighbors are also helping provide electricity. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (including Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) are moving forward on a deal to provide electricity to Iraq and distance it from the Iranian supply. Regardless of political implications, the effort is still helping Iraq manage its electricity shortage.

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

health in south africaSince 2007, Eskom, the primary electrical provider in South Africa, has implemented a power-sharing technique across the country. This technique, referred to as load shedding, works to distribute power across the country by staging scheduled power outages in some municipalities for multiple hours a day. The power outages switch across different municipalities on a schedule to compensate for Eskom’s inability to provide sufficient power to the entire country at once without the collapse of the national grid. It is not known specifically why Eskom is unable to provide total power to the country, but the most commonly understood reasons for why load shedding was introduced involve the company’s failure to maintain power stations, update electrical infrastructure and uphold quality administration. Health in South Africa is adversely affected by these load shed power outages, particularly for those living in poverty.

There is considerable controversy surrounding the effects of load shedding, particularly on the topic of health in South Africa. Healthcare in South Africa is under-funded by the government, which is reflected in the inequality of access to care for those without jobs. This lack of healthcare support is especially detrimental due to the quadruple burden of disease in the country, referring to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases and injury in South Africa. Together with the daily fundamentals of preventative and reactionary health procedures, each burden of disease is independently impacted by power outages in the country. Here are five ways that health in South Africa is impacted by the country’s load shedding system.

5 Ways that Load Shedding Impacts Health in South Africa

  1. Refrigeration: High rates of HIV and tuberculosis in South Africa call for the refrigeration of medications, which is impacted when load shedding occurs across the country. South Africa’s incidences of both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are among the highest in the world, with over 20% of the adult population living with HIV/AIDS and over 450,000 people developing tuberculosis every year. Many anti-retroviral medications used to treat these diseases require specific temperature-controlled storage to remain effective. Without proper access to refrigeration, medications can spoil, leading to further expenses for patients, along with potentially fatal health repercussions.
  2. Traffic: Traffic lights losing power as a result of load shedding often results in automobile collisions, which contribute heavily to the incidence of injury in South Africa. In 2000, injury was responsible for around 12% of all deaths in South Africa. The most common causes of injury in the country are interpersonal violence and traffic incidents. With a safer driving environment implemented across the country through a reliable traffic light system, traffic accidents would be more preventable. Fortunately, the country has discussed implementing crossing guards and traffic directors at intersections in need of guidance during load shedding to prevent collisions and improve health in South Africa.
  3. Food safety: Hygiene within households surrounding food storage, processing and consumption is obstructed by extended periods without power in South Africa. Nearly 80% of South Africans use electricity to sterilize food, and improper food preparation could lead to serious health implications for this population. In addition to sterilization through proper food processing, the loss of refrigeration for perishable products like dairy and fresh vegetables enables bacterial growth in food. Consuming bacteria from poorly kept foods could lead to health complications such as diarrhea and dehydration.
  4. Hospital admissions: Load shedding poses many risks to both pediatric and adult health. As reported through a case study of load shedding and its impacts on one pediatric hospital admission rate, load shedding periods consistently result in a 10% increase in hospital admissions. Superficial health, then, is impacted by a loss of electricity due to load shedding.
  5. Public hospitals: Public hospitals are impacted by load shedding due to inconsistent support for reliable electricity. Public hospitals are reliant on government funding in order to maintain back-up power generators that provide stable electricity to physicians and patients. According to a recent study on the impacts of load shedding on hospitals, one electrical generator could cost a monthly maintenance fee of nearly $50,000. If the high expense for generator maintenance is not tended to at public hospitals around the country, many who seek public care could be impacted. Only 20% of the South African population is not dependent on public healthcare, meaning that a great majority of South Africans are at a higher risk of health complications in the event of electrical failure at a public hospital.

With proper support through government funding, the infrastructure for generating ample electricity could be improved and maintained in South Africa, which would not require load shedding. Preventative health measures would become possible with improved access to electrical resources, and reactionary medicine in hospitals would also become more reliable and effective without a dependency on unstable generator electricity. Not only would increased funding for electrical infrastructure contribute to equal access across the country, but it would also support the overall status of health in South Africa.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

solar sisterWith nearly 75% of rural Africa lacking access to electricity and only 26% of women acting as entrepreneurs, several African countries remain behind the developmental curve and bogged down in poverty. Lack of light and decreased business-building based on gender and status stall improvement in nearly every facet of life. Therefore, access to electricity and increased female entrepreneurial activity could be pivotal in overcoming poverty. The nonprofit organization Solar Sister empowers women to conquer economic, healthcare and education challenges in developing nations by encouraging female entrepreneurship related to increasing electricity availability.

What Is Solar Sister?

Founded in 2011, Solar Sister is a women-led empowerment movement aimed at encouraging female innovation and entrepreneurship through solar technology. The organization trains and equips participants with the necessary skills to create and distribute clean energy solutions that help combat community problems. The overarching goal is to increase electricity access in the world’s most impoverished places. According  one successful Solar Sister, “to progress, first you need light.”

Like most business ventures, many Solar Sisters report that their businesses are built largely on trust and willingness to “take risks.” Solar Sister empowers women by focusing intently on its founder and CEO Katherine Lucey’s motto that everyone deserves access to clean, affordable energy. By employing women’s personal knowledge about their peers’ and villages’ needs, the organization is quickly approaching Lucey’s goal by creating specialized clean energy solutions and promoting female entrepreneurship.

Hilaria’s Story

Hilaria Paschal, one of Solar Sister’s first entrepreneurs in Tanzania, began her journey with clean energy in 2013. She is a farmer, basket weaver, businesswoman, wife and mother of three. Paschal’s husband kick-started her company with minor capital, but she has managed the operation since. She purchased only 12 lights at her business’s conception, yet managed to sell 25 products in her first month. Since 2013, Paschal has sold nearly 400 products that now power more than 2,000 homes. She attributes her success to her specialized knowledge of her village’s needs and to her immense creativity.

In 2015, Paschal formed Mshikamano, a group of basket weaving women ready to learn more about clean energy, entrepreneurship and the possibility of becoming a Solar Sister. Mshikamano translates to “solidarity” in Swahili, a perfect depiction of Solar Sister’s mission and Paschal’s work.

For her outstanding performance in the Solar Sister Program, Paschal was named the 2017 Women Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA). She was granted the opportunity to travel to New York, where she accepted her prize and was invited to speak at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

But Solar Sister’s praise and recognition does not end with Paschal. In 2015, former president Bill Clinton visited Solar Sister’s site in Karatu, Tanzania as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. His visit resulted in higher publicity for the organization and its entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

Solar Sister’s Impact

To date, Solar Sister has launched operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where its 4,000 entrepreneurs have collectively reached more than 1.5 million people and broadened electricity access in some of the world’s most energy-poor countries. Solar Sister products include clean cooking stoves, regular solar lanterns and even solar-powered cell phone chargers, all of which can improve several facets of life and surpass the abilities of simple light.

In an effort to explain just how beneficial affordable, clean energy can be in developing countries, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship conducted a 2017 study entitled, “Turning on the Lights: Transcending Energy Poverty Through the Power of Women Entrepreneurs.” The study concluded that Solar Sister provides much more than light to communities and opportunities for female entrepreneurs, as newly prosperous populations also experience an enhanced quality of healthcare and education. Women in particular are reaping the benefits of increased household incomes, greater respect in the workplace and higher economic statuses.

Empowering Women Helps Entire Communities

In addition, Solar Sister’s solar technology improves health and safety. Solar lanterns do not create the negative health effects that kerosene exposure causes, nor do they pose a fire hazard. Additionally, health clinics and hospitals can use solar lanterns to extend their services and increase their efficiency during night hours. In terms of education, 90% of parents believe their children have improved academically since obtaining increased access to light. This progress is partially due to children having more time to study at night, but mostly because kerosene savings can now be put toward education. Other benefits of solar power include eliminating the travel time required to acquire kerosene, which can now be used to work longer hours and increase household incomes. Higher incomes create more purchasing power and more opportunities for advancement which stimulates local, national and global economies. Overall, Solar Sister empowers women in Africa to live safer, financially secure lifestyles.

To follow the Solar Sister program and its progress, visit solarsister.org or search #IAmSolarSister on social media.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

diminish global poverty
Self-driving cars and trips to Mars might be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Elon Musk. His massive-scale innovations will help humanity as a whole, but Musk’s initiatives are also helping to diminish global poverty. Since he was in college, Musk has sought to help humanity through space exploration, global internet and energy efficiency. The mission of Tesla, which Musk founded in 2003, is to accelerate the world of sustainable energy for the good of humanity and the planet. This mission will also have numerous benefits to the poor and overlooked populations of the world.

Tesla Powered Water Plants

In the coastal village of Kiunga, Kenya, water is available but contaminated. With most water sourced from saltwater wells, communities must bathe and cook with saltwater. Washing clothes and bodies with saltwater leads to painful sores that are hard to heal. On the other hand, drinking and cooking with saltwater leads to health problems like chronic diarrhea or kidney failure. These complications inhibit a healthy and productive society.

Tesla and GivePower offered a solution to Kiunga’s lack of potable water: a desalination plant that solar power and a battery reserve power. GivePower is a nonprofit organization aiming to provide resources to developing countries; it was acquired by Tesla Motors in 2016. A solar water farm that Tesla Powerwalls facilitated stores energy from solar panels to fuel the Kiunga facility at night and when there is a lack of sunshine. This plant produces about 70,000 liters of clean water every 24 hours, giving clean water to 35,000 people daily. This project has improved Kenyans’ lives, and GivePower aims to reach Colombia and Haiti next.

Tesla Powered Micro-grids

In many regions, people take electricity for granted. In Africa, hundreds of millions live without it. According to the International Energy Agency, 55% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack basic electricity access. Energy is essential to power schools, homes and healthcare facilities. A lack of modern energy in developing countries hinders the ability to study, work and modernize. For instance, in Zimbabwe, widespread violence and poverty contribute to a declining economy. One beacon of hope is the money trade, which takes place almost completely electronically. An innovative mobile payment system called Ecocash facilitates financial transactions for customers with mobile phones. To be effective, this process relies on consistent power infrastructure.

One incident in July 2019 exposed the vulnerability of Zimbabwe and its markets. A power outage occurred, and Zimbabwe’s Econet generators failed to power up, resulting in a mobile money blackout. This consequently had detrimental effects on the country’s economy, as the majority of financial systems halted. Over 5 million transactions occur daily through mobile money markets, adding up to around $200 million. Interruptions to power cause Zimbabweans to lose millions of dollars.

Microgrids are the answer. Generated by Powerwalls from Tesla, these self-contained systems of solar panels and batteries can provide power across the globe. Above all, no community is too remote to benefit. Tesla’s Powerwalls will alleviate uncertainties that unfavorable weather, unstable prices and fuel shortages cause. Although they require an investment of $6,500, solar-powered batteries replace archaic diesel-powered generators to ensure stability and diminish global poverty.

StarLink: High-Speed Internet Access Across the World

A lack of internet and mobile applications make life harder in developing countries. Without educational, communication and health tools, the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, an estimated 750 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write. Access to educational tools and resources through the global internet can reduce drop-out rates and improve education levels.

Elon Musk’s StarLink internet would deliver high-quality broadband all over the globe, reaching communities that historically lack an internet connection. The internet can bring education, telemedicine, communication and truth to people oppressed in developing countries. It gives isolated and overlooked communities a chance to become more secure. Using Starlink is straightforward: Plug in the device and point it toward the sky. The costs and benefits of Starlink can be shared across multiple families. The Starlink project strives to place a total of 42,000 satellites in space by the end of 2021, enabling internet access and helping to diminish global poverty.

A Sustainable Future for All

Musk’s focus on energy technologies benefits everyone, including the world’s poor. One obstacle to ending global poverty, especially in extreme cases, is that the poorest populations are usually the most remotely located. However, with Musk’s innovations, even remote rural communities can advance with modern technology.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Plant Powered Lamps Light Up Peruvian VillagesPeru is a developing country in Latin America. It has one of the region’s best economies with a 50% growth in per capita income in a decade. Despite the country’s growing success, there is a considerable gap in electricity access between rural and urban parts of the city. Only about 62% of people in rural areas have access to electricity. Fortunately, a group of students and professors from a Peruvian university are developing a solution to combat the issue. The plantalámpara is a lamp powered solely by plants that will light up Peruvian villages.

How Did the Idea Come About?

A hurricane occurred in the Amazon rainforest area of Peru that left 173 inhabitants of the Nuevo Saposoa region without electricity. Also, about 42% of the rural population did not have electricity at all. The Nuevo Saposoa village is remote and isolated from nearby cities. It is a five-hour boat ride from the nearest town, so the village could not receive reliable access to electricity after floods from the hurricane destroyed power lines.

Consequently, the inhabitants could not perform daily tasks after sunset, like studying and cooking. A professor and group of students at the UTEC University in Lima developed the plantalámpara to solve the issue of the lack of electricity. The plantalámpara lights up Peruvian villages. The developers encourage people to get back to their normal lives.

The plantalámpara is made in a box filled with a grid of electrodes and a plant growing inside. Photosynthesis, or the capturing of sunlight energy by plants, powers the box. When the plant goes through photosynthesis, its waste decomposes in the soul and produces electrons. As a result, the lamp captures those electrons and converts the energy into battery power. It can light up a 50-watt bulb for up to two hours.

Benefits of the Plantalámpara

The lamp provides clean and sustainable energy to forest villages without using gas, oil, or dirty fossil fuels. The plant-based light is entirely pollution-free. Additionally, plants offer 100% renewable energy at a low cost. According to a lead professor of the project, any plant can be used for the lamp, though some work better than others. The plantalámpara protects the beautiful rainforest, lights up Peruvian villages, and provides the Nuevo Saposoa community with more opportunities and a better quality of life.

It also gives Peruvian residents the possibility to work on schoolwork and other tasks past sunset. UTEC intended to put the digital community in the shoes (or eyes) of a forest dweller to understand how a lack of light can affect daily actions. The team originally provided 10 of the lamp prototypes to Nuevo Saposoa. The hope is that these lamps will eventually replace gas and oil lamps.

The plantalámpara serves as a crucial part of reducing the gap between rural and urban areas of Peru. Its amazing eco-friendly technology helps to light up Peruvian villages while not harming the environment at the same time. With this invention and more, Peru will continue to grow and expand, as more opportunities become available to all.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Rise of Solar Energy in AfricaThe future is bright for Africa. The continent is beginning to tap into an energy source that is plentiful, clean, renewable and self-sustaining. Unlike other energy sources such as coal or oil, solar energy is a path to energy independence for African nations developing their economies. This desire for energy independence has led to the rise of solar energy in Africa.

Growth Potential

Since sunlight is the most intense closest to the equator, Africa has a great opportunity when it comes to solar energy. The equator runs through the center of the continent, earning Africa the nickname, “The Sunshine Continent.” Companies such as Kenyan-based M-KOPA are tapping into the abundant resource. M-KOPA has, so far, created 2,500 jobs in East Africa. Although the rise of solar power is relatively new, Africa’s access to sunlight could fuel the future.

Independence

Other energy sources are often imported and therefore create a reliance on other nations, whereas solar energy is often independently operated. Nations with vast oil reserves are able to consolidate control over the resource, but not all citizens benefit from the nation’s wealth. The average citizen is not able to drill for oil and process it. Although oil and coal provide money for the nation, only a few wealthy people can control the resource. Individuals cannot build dams or nuclear reactors, but they can install their own solar panels and power their homes. M-KOPA helps foster self-reliance by supplying 750,000 homes and businesses with solar panels to produce electricity.

Additionally, 46% of households that are powered by M-KOPA solar panels generate income from their solar panels. They can essentially sell their excess energy back to the grid. Solar power empowers individuals because they have control over their energy. The ability to sell excess energy allows the people of Africa to collect passive income and invest in their future. Most importantly, electricity is a requisite for many activities and is necessary to live a more autonomous life. Access to electricity allows people to be more productive with their time, as they can see and work at night. Unfortunately, only 43% of Africa has access to electricity.

Companies such as SolarNow provide solar power systems for people that live off the grid. Considering 60-80% of people in Uganda and Kenya live off the grid, companies like SolarNow have an enormous market to serve. SolarNow has sold more than 50,000 units in East Africa. The rise of solar power in Africa will continue to grow the economy of African nations and allow people to take control of their lives and energy.

Clean and Renewable

Unlike other resources, solar power is clean and does not pollute the atmosphere. Solar power is renewable, utilizing energy from the sun, which is relatively infinite. Since much of Africa lacks electricity, it is important that the continent develops sustainably. This way, people do not suffer from the harmful effects of pollution. The rise of solar energy in Africa has been successful so far, considering M-KOPA has conserved 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 since 2011. Although solar panels are expensive, they are a cleaner and more sustainable option than the coal that is currently burned to produce electricity.

A Bright Future

Despite having room for further improvement, the future is bright for the people of Africa. Investing in solar power is a key component to reducing poverty because it empowers individuals to harvest their own energy and potentially profit from it. Far too many African people lack access to the electrical grid, and solar energy is a viable path to powering the continent. The rise of solar energy in Africa will continue to create jobs and produce clean, renewable energy that can help grow the economies of African nations.

– Noah Kleinert
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts About Energy Poverty in BulgariaThe initial and commonly held definition of energy poverty is a lack of access to energy sources; therefore, Bulgaria is free of energy poverty. According to the research organization Our World in Data, 100% of Bulgarians had access to energy as of 2016. However, if we expand the definition of energy poverty to include factors like energy efficiency and access to clean fuels, Bulgaria has a severe energy poverty issue. This article will discuss seven facts about energy poverty in Bulgaria.

Limited Access to Information

Data on energy poverty in Bulgaria is limited. However, a 2018 report by the European Union Energy Poverty Observatory stated that Bulgaria performs worse than the EU average on certain measurements, including the percentage of households that could keep their homes adequately warm in 2017. A 2014 report from the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) stated that more than 67% of Bulgarians went without sufficient heat in winter 2008 because they couldn’t afford it. The EU average was 8%.

The IAEE report noted that “specific measures and social policies” for three key factors of energy poverty in Bulgaria are “ineffective.” These include low income, high energy prices and poor-quality buildings because they focus on a limited part of the population with a limited standard of heat. What’s more, the 2019 European Energy Poverty Index by data firm OpenExp ranked Bulgaria last of all EU nations for a set of factors including energy expenditures, winter discomfort, summer discomfort and quality of dwellings. These and other sources delve into the factors behind these rankings and into Bulgaria’s energy poverty issue in general.

7 Facts About Energy Poverty in Bulgaria

  1. Energy poverty has been linked to a state of post-socialist recovery. According to the book “Energy Poverty in Eastern Europe: Hidden Geographies of Deprivation” by Stefan Buzar, energy poverty has emerged across former communist/Soviet Union nations. In fact, half of the modern six nations that partly comprise the communist Eastern Bloc and are now EU members rank in the bottom 10 of the 2019 European Energy Poverty Index.
  2. Incomes are too low even for relatively low energy prices. Even though energy prices are low compared to other EU countries, Bulgarians’ incomes are proportionally low. The IAEE noted 22% of Bulgaria’s population were living in poverty in 2012/2013. That equated to around 1.6 million people. At that time, the nation’s minimum salary was 158 Euros per month, but it had an average salary of 408 per month. As such, based on the U.K.’s definition of fuel poverty, residents spent at least 10% of their household income to heat their homes to an acceptable level of warmth. Typical Bulgarians were fuel poor from at least 1999 through 2012, according to National Statistical Institute data.
  3. The expense issue is also due to inefficient energy use and resources. For one, homes are not well-built for heating. A 2012 report showed the construction of 65% of existing homes occurred before 1990. At least 800,000 residences were prefabricated buildings. The kinds of homes have poor thermal insulation. In Bulgaria, daytime winter temperatures average 32-41 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, electricity accounts for 42% of Bulgarian energy consumption sources, instead of the much cheaper source of gas. This is partly because Bulgaria has an underdeveloped gas supply network.
  4. Residents have protested prices more than once. Protests over high electricity bills erupted in 2013 despite a mild, and thus less expensive, 2012 winter. The government responded by refraining from letting prices increase the next year. However, in 2018, thousands took to streets in several cities to protest high fuel prices.
  5. To save money, Bulgarians have turned to dangerous alternative heating sources to electricity. In addition to protests, Bulgarians fight high electricity expenses by measures that risk their quality of life. They underheat their homes or rely on coal and wood. This causes more air pollution, according to the Palgrave Macmillan book “Energy Demand Challenges in Europe.”
  6. Energy poverty in Bulgaria is widespread. The EU Energy Poverty Observatory reported that “some socio-economic groups are known to be particularly vulnerable to energy poverty.” However, that is not the only factor. Location, which energy carrier the people have access to and the housing situation can all play a part.
  7. The Bulgarian government is making at least some effort. The Energy Efficiency Act created the Bulgarian Energy Efficiency and Renewable Sources Fund (EERSF) to support and finance energy efficiency projects in the country. It hopes to increase renewable energy sources for residence and public buildings. Hydrothermal, geothermal and solar energy are among those eligible to receive funds.

These seven facts about energy poverty in Bulgaria show that it is a real issue despite the country’s World Bank status as an upper-middle-income nation. Too many people can’t afford to properly heat their homes. Due to a lack of access to gas, people must use the more expensive option of electricity or simply underheat their homes. But, there’s hope for the future as government programs exist to offset the problem.

Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Energy Poverty in Italy Through Solar PV Market
Powertis, a Spanish company that focuses on the development and investment of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, has announced an expansion plan to enter Italy’s solar PV market. This shift will bring Powertis closer to its goal of reaching one gigawatt (GW) of ready-to-invest assets by 2023. In addition, it will support the National Plan for Energy and Climate (NECP), which has set a target of +30 GW of PV capacity by 2030. Powertis’ growth into the solar PV market will also serve as an opportunity to decrease energy poverty in Italy by reducing the price of electricity.

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty refers to people who are least likely to have access to energy services. This increases their likelihood of remaining poor. Energy poverty affects health by increasing the risk of cardiovascular or respiratory disease and the number of excess deaths in the winter, especially in colder areas. In 2017, estimates determined that 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and nearly 3 billion people cook meals with polluting fuels, such as charcoal, wood, kerosene and dung.

The Aim for Efficient and Affordable Energy

In 2011, the former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative to drive faster action towards achieving SDG7. SDG7 is the seventh goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is battling energy poverty by advocating for improved access to reliable, affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all. SE4ALL aims to double the global rate of improved energy efficiency and the global share of renewable energy by 2030. By working with government leaders, the private sector and civil society, SE4ALL hopes to ensure universal access to modern energy.

Energy Poverty and “Vulnerability”

The primary concern that Italy’s population faces when it comes to energy poverty is the uneven distribution of energy expenditure. The lowest 10% of Italian income-earners spend 4% of their budget on energy compared with the 1% that affluent households spend. This leads to a concept known as “vulnerability,” where the lowest 10% of Italian households have compressed purchasing power and reduced ability to purchase domestic or international goods and services.

Furthermore, as of 2017, Eurostat reported that 15.2% of Italy’s population cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. The inability of households to purchase an adequate amount of energy goods can have negative direct costs including increased stress on the healthcare system. It also has indirect costs such as a decrease in economic productivity and output in the community.

How Italy is Addressing the Issue

Italy’s government has created the National Energy Climate Plan (NECP) to address its energy poverty. The NECP aims to cover 30% of final consumption by renewable sources, reduce final energy consumption by 39.7% and aim for a 33% reduction in greenhouse gases. Italy introduced the NECP in December 2018 as a commitment and strategy to increase environmental protection and energy security while reducing polluting emissions, as the European Union put forward. So far, Italy has obtained “Medium” ratings in all of the categories after the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) evaluated it for 2020. This suggests that there has been a lack of implementing effective measures by the public sector.

Powertis’ Role in Reducing Energy Poverty

The CCPI evaluation also includes a “Low” rating for the “Renewable Energy – current trend” component, demonstrating the need to involve the private sector in producing more renewable energy for Italian markets. The inclusion of PV solar panels would improve Italy’s rating. According to Roberto Capuozzo, the Country Manager of Powertis in Italy, Powertis is one of many private firms working to address this need. It is operating as a leading company in the transition to a zero-emission economy. Powertis’ plans to develop PV projects in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio and increase its pipeline beyond over two gigawatts between Italy and Brazil.

Powertis is reducing the price of electricity by working with local community partners to structure the project’s financing and offer a lower price, in comparison to the cost of electricity for coal. Italy’s main issue is the inconsistent distribution of energy expenditure budgets for the bottom 10% of Italian income-earners in comparison with the top 1%. If prices for energy decrease, energy poverty should decrease. Powertis’ expansion to local communities in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio will offer these individuals more purchasing power and decrease their level of vulnerability. This will also benefit the economy by allowing them the ability to consume other goods and services. By increasing Italian households’ purchasing power, Powertis is increasing access to energy services and reducing energy poverty in Italy.

Powertis has expanded its reach into Italy’s solar PV market, thereby decreasing the price of electricity for Italian households. This has increased households’ access to energy services and subsequently increased their ability to dedicate more of their personal budget towards the consumption of other goods and services. The households’ lower level of vulnerability should also help to decrease energy poverty in Italy.

Natasha Nath
Photo: Flickr

enewable Energy in BrazilRenewable energy in Brazil is nothing new. For decades, the country has been a leader in producing some of the world’s largest quantities of ethanol, an eco-friendly fuel source for vehicles. Recently, Brazil invested in expanding their renewable energy sources by creating huge wind power plants and high-tech solar panels. This lowered the nation’s carbon emissions as well as creating countless jobs for citizens. With fewer fossil fuels being burned, air pollution becomes minimal, resulting in a healthier, happier way of life. Here are 5 facts about renewable energy in Brazil.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in Brazil

  1. Brazillian winds can create up to 500 gigawatts of energy. Wind power is one of the ways renewable energy in Brazil is thriving. Wind power plants across the country create about 10 percent of all renewable energy used domestically. The production of wind farms is beneficial in more ways than just environmental. The turbines built along the coast create new jobs for the community while keeping city air cleaner than a coal power plant. Because of how large and powerful the turbines are, they boost the local economy while creating an overall better way of life.
  2. Globally, Brazil is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power. As of 2018, renewable energy accounts for nearly 80 percent of all domestically produced energy in the nation. This means that after China, Brazil produces more hydroelectric power than any other country in the world. Around 65 percent of renewable energy comes from hydroelectric dams primarily along the Amazon River Basin. During times of drought or long heatwaves, other forms of renewable energy in Brazil supply the country with power. This includes solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal power, ethanol and biomass.
  3. All gasoline in Brazil contains ethanol. Ethanol is a common vehicle power source for renewable energy in Brazil. The country began creating ethanol in 1975 during the oil crisis. In 1976, Brazil launched the Fiat 147, introducing the world’s first mass-production of a completely ethanol-powered car. Since then, it became a normal fuel option for all drivers. Oxford University describes the nation’s sugarcane-based ethanol as “the most successful fuel alternative to date.” Currently, all gasoline in Brazil is a blend of between 25 to 75 percent ethanol, as required by law since 2007. It is also common for some cars to run on ethanol exclusively.
  4. Brazil has the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy. Support for renewable energy in Brazil continues to boost the nation’s economy. Hydroelectric power from the Amazon River Basin brings huge energy surges across the country. When drought occurs, the solar panels and wind turbines provide a reliable power source. In 2008, investors all over the globe declared Brazil as the world’s first sustainable economy powered by biofuels. As the Earth’s population grows, so does the demand for electricity. Without a sustainable method of generating electric power, the supply for coal becomes limited. Once thought of as a necessity only during war, coal rations are increasing internationally, leading to power shortages.
  5. As renewable energy in Brazil becomes more technologically advanced, investors are taking note. This is notable, especially in the wind energy sector. Wind turbines are cheaper and faster to produce than hydroelectric dams. Wind power is also more reliable during heatwaves or seasonal droughts. A U.S. International Trade Administration report shows that by the end of 2020, investment in Brazillian wind power will be just over $24 billion. This huge increase in funding will continue to boost the domestic economy and is expected to set a trend for other world leaders.

Renewable energy in Brazil continues to be an example on the world stage. Through sheer numbers alone, the South American country has proven that investment in sustainable, natural power sources are economically viable and eco-friendly. Almost the entire country is powered by wind, hydroelectric, solar and ethanol sources. This trend is expected to continue as the demand for sustainability grows internationally.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Durian Fruit Will Transform ElectricityAround the world, millions rise with sunlight and go to bed with the moonlight, not because of preference, but because of lack of choice. In 2016, 13 percent of people around the world did not have electricity. Lack of electricity hampers the development of impoverished nations around the world. Developed nations’ sustainability relies on electricity. According to the World Bank, lack of electricity hampers developments in healthcare, education, gender equality and occupations. However, many third world nations may not see electricity in their neighborhoods for many years to come. With approximately 940 million people living without electricity, a significant gap has developed between the haves and the have-nots. Upon observation of the gap, it was important for scientists to figure out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere.

What Is Durian?

Durian is a valued fruit native to tropical regions around the world, but most commonly found in Southern Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Durian is most widely known as the smelliest fruit in the world, but it is also very nutritious. In fact, in many countries, different places have restrictions on where this fruit can and cannot go. Many South Asian cultures value durian fruit, but have no need of the skin; it is simply thrown away. Excitingly, experts figured out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere. Scientists discovered that durian fruit’s surface is transformable into something called aerogels—a part commonly used inside batteries.

According to Sydney University, the method is entirely non-toxic. The aerogels can replace parts of a standard phone battery. They perform much more efficiently than modern-day batteries do. While this non-toxic method will allow smartphones to charge at astonishing rates more consistently, it also opens up possibilities to provide impoverished communities with low-cost electricity initiatives.

This method differs from any others because of its convenience. Communities that value durian are already throwing out the skin. This means there is a cost-effective way to provide materials and a non-toxic manner of production, resulting in low-cost access to energy.

Benefits Of Electricity

With electricity, communities develop communication services. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this allows people to build their quality of living rapidly. If there is a lack of supplies or an important governmental initiative, communication services allow for this information and materials to be accessed much quicker than traditional methods. Along with communication services, electricity allows people to preserve goods for longer.

With the ability to produce low-cost energy, impoverished communities are more capable of accessing electricity into their daily lives. The implementation of electricity into underprivileged communities allows them to develop their quality of life.The durian may be the key to cheaper and more readily available electricity. This could provide people in developing countries with lower-cost electricity for everyday items. With objects such as refrigerators and freezers, underprivileged people can stock up on food, thus helping to diminish high rates of starvation. Furthermore, cleaner forms of electricity can provide light, heat and easier cooking.

– Cleveland Lewis

Photo: Unsplash