The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance DamThe Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will allow over 65 million Ethiopians access to electricity. Many estimate it to cost as high as $5 billion. Using two large turbines, the dam will bring more than 6,450MW worth of power to the country.

Project Background

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began in April of 2011 and finished in July of 2020. The dam can hold up to 74 billion cubic meters of water, which makes it the largest hydropower project in Africa.

Located in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, about 30 km upstream from Sudan, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation identified the site between 1956 and 1964. But, construction only actually began after surveys in 2009 and 2010.

Funds from local taxes, donations and government bonds raised the necessary $4.8 billion to cover construction costs. Ethiopian’s at home and abroad provided the first $350 million. Then, the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation invested some of its own revenue, as well as money borrowed from state-owned banks.

Controversy

Despite the benefits some say the dam will have, the project is not without controversy. Over the last decade, the governments of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are working to come to an official agreement on how the GERD will operate.

The Egyptian government voiced strong opposition to the GERD stating that it will cause major disruptions to the Nile. Egypt depends on more than 90% of its water from the river. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt is facing “an existential threat” because of this project.

For Egypt, the main concern lies in the impact on the water supply of previous dams on the Nile. They worry GERD will do the same. The annual flooding of the Nile is one of the most important natural events that occur throughout Egypt’s history. Egypt relies heavily on this annual event for its agriculture. Additionally, there is concern that the GERD could alter this flooding and/or interfere with the flow of sediments that are vital for growing food in the region.

Furthermore, the Sudanese government expressed concern over the effect of the dam on its people and their water rights. In June 2021, Sudan and Egypt released a joint statement. They urged for a legally binding agreement between the countries before Ethiopia began its second filling of the dam.

Water Rights

The Nile Waters Agreements of 1929 and 1959 gave Egypt and Sudan the right to all the water in the Nile. These agreements also gave Egypt the right to veto any upstream construction, such as the GERD. However, The agreements did not include Ethiopia. Therefore, Ethiopia does not recognize the agreements as legitimate.

Since Ethiopia does not recognize the Nile Waters agreements, Egypt and Sudan pushed to get a legally binding agreement. The new agreement would place restrictions on the amount of water Ethiopia may hold in the dam. However, Ethiopia refused to agree to any of these restrictions, instead favoring looser guidelines that are not legally binding.

However, the international community supports Egypt’s calls for a formal agreement. The United States warns that filling the dam without an agreement in place would lead to heightened tensions in the region. In July 2021, the United Nations Security Council made another attempt at mediating the conflict, the latest in the decade-long struggle to reach an agreement. These talks also failed and Ethiopia proceeded to fill the dam.

Looking Ahead

Despite the controversy and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s effect on Egypt and Sudan, it appears that the Ethiopian government will continue to move forward with filling the dam. In July of 2021, the second filling of the dam was completed. Even with the controversy, the project will provide electricity to millions in the region who previously did not have access. This is sure to have a positive impact on the citizens of the region.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

solar panels in SenegalIn Senegal, close to a quarter of the total population lacks access to electricity, with rural communities enduring the least access. In May 2021, two new photovoltaic solar plants opened in Kael and Kahone, two towns located in Western Senegal. The plants will provide electricity for 540,000 citizens at a low cost. The addition of the solar power plants form part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program and are funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank and Proparco. The project estimates that more than 400 jobs in the towns benefit from the existence of the new solar power plants in Senegal. Because Senegal mainly relies on imported oil for electricity, solar power plants offer a more reliable and sustainable green energy source that costs less. Access to electricity is critical for the economy and businesses, improving people’s daily lives in several ways.

Poverty in Senegal

With roughly half of the total population living above the poverty line, significant improvements are needed to lift more people out of poverty. Roughly 75% of the Senegalese population depends on agriculture as their income source. Another primary industry in Senegal is mining. Senegal’s economy rises and falls, following global trends of prices. When export prices fall, farmers suffer the adverse effects since their incomes decrease. Many Senegalese people lack access to education, healthcare and other essential services. As a result of economic hardships, many people migrate from Senegal in hopes of finding better work.

Electricity in Senegal

Access to electricity plays an important role in the economy and contributes to reducing poverty. Senegal relies heavily on oil imports for fuel. Roughly 80% of Senegal’s energy is “oil-based.” The prices of imported oil fluctuate, and recently, prices have been high. The combination of no access to electricity, power cuts and limited electricity infrastructure takes a toll on the economy, especially businesses. Individuals also face hardships in their homes with a lack of lighting and energy to power appliances.

The Solar Power Plants

The solar power plants are located in Kael and Kahone, two small towns that rely on agriculture and have high poverty rates. Lack of electricity access is higher in rural areas similar to Kael and Kahone in comparison to urban areas. The new solar plants in Senegal bring opportunities for employment, improved conditions in workspaces and homes and affordable electricity costs.

Solar power plants in Senegal form part of the strategy for increasing access to electricity, focusing on regenerative sources. Senegal’s government wants to become an emerging economy by 2035 and the energy sector is one of the major components of Senegal’s growth. Rural areas remain the most challenging areas to install power grids. However, with low incomes, rural people struggle to afford the high costs of electricity. Solar energy from the new plants costs less than four euro cents per kilowatt-hour, making the energy more affordable than oil-based electricity and more accessible to rural areas with high poverty rates.

Attracting Investment and Igniting Economic Growth

These renewable energy projects attract potential investors to Senegal, giving the country even more opportunities to increase sustainable energy, including hydro, wind, thermal and off-shore natural gas. Senegal is also home to “the largest solar farm in West Africa,” with many private home-installed solar power systems. More micro-financing options and interest in infrastructure improves economic growth and increases access to electricity for those in low-income areas.

Although poverty rates are high in much of rural Senegal, one solution is growing the energy sector, which will improve the economy. The inability to access electricity puts a major constraint on economic growth. Solar power plants in Senegal bring people much-needed electricity at a low cost. Renewable energy sources are critical as the world is depleting its oil reserves. Bringing sustainable energy solutions to people living in poverty positively affects development indicators such as “health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods and poverty reduction.” Senegal is on its way to success as more and more countries switch to earth-friendly energy.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable energy in KenyaWithin the continent of Africa, Kenya has become one of the fastest-growing nations. Between 2010 and 2018, the country saw annual growth of 5.9% and a GDP of $95 billion. Due to COVID-19, there have been challenges toward the attempts to continue growth. However, there is one area that continues to grow and is apparently the key to ensuring this growth prevails. This new safety net is a renewed use of renewable energy in Kenya.

Over the past decade, Kenya shifted to clean and natural energy. This change received support from the African Development Bank, the Kenyan government and European investment partners. The result has been a rise of new resources for renewable energy in Kenya and their implementation in new areas. With around 16% of the country’s population having access to electricity, the use of renewable energy has given Kenya the ability to supply it to more homes. The results have led the nation’s electrification to rise from 28% in 2013 to over 60% in 2017. Even if the issues from COVID-19 have impeded the current growth, the government still prioritizes this shift of resources. However, one of the most interesting developments is Kenya’s focus on multiple types of energy that can consistently provide electricity.

Wind

The usage of wind power had previously been prominent in Kenya and has provided a considerable amount through wind farm projects. Using wind turbines to generate electricity, this type of power has become one of the more widespread methods of obtaining renewable energy throughout the world. In Kenya, one of the most notable projects has been the Lake Turkana Wind Farm. The area of Lake Turkana was prime for this type of installation as it has consistently high wind speeds. Having 365 turbines, the farm has a power output of around 300 megawatts. The goal of the farm is to increase the electrical supply of the country by 13%. The project took 15 years to build and is the largest of its kind in Africa.

Another successful farm is the Ngong site that the company KenGen operates. Located near the city of Nairobi, the station’s output provides 5,100 kilowatts of power. Ngong was also the largest wind farm until Lake Turkana underwent construction. These projects both ensure the decreased use of fossil fuels and the growth of jobs to help maintain the farms. The Lake Turkana project alone employed over 2,500 people for its construction.

Also, the government support for these projects shows the country’s desire to have its own independent sources of power. The ability for Kenya to tap into grids and resources within its own borders provides benefits and allows for less of a need to rely on other nations for energy. While costs could be an issue, as most areas suitable for wind generation sites are far from the main grids, the benefits are tangible and the support from the government and other organizations could alleviate any financial problems concerning renewable energy in Kenya.

Hydroelectricity

Another of the most prominent types of renewable energy in Kenya is hydropower. This type of energy uses the natural flow of water to generate electricity. The amount of energy from the hydropower installations has resulted in a capacity of 743 megawatts. Due to Kenya being part of the African Great Lakes region, its potential for hydropower could reach 3,500 megawatts. The use of this energy also has a long history as small systems were present since the 1920s. The company Andritz Hydro first commissioned modern stations in 1968 with the Kindaruma Power Station. Since then, hydropower has remained a constant source of energy within Kenya.

Rural communities have consistently used hydropower. One individual who has taken advantage of this opportunity is Kenyan native John Magiro. His family raised him in a rural farming community with no electricity. As an adult, he dedicated his life to ensuring that communities like his would receive electricity and other modern advantages. This has culminated in the construction of a micro-hydropower plant along the Gondo river around 2015. The creation of plants like this, alongside support from organizations like the Kenya Environmental Trust Fund (NETFUND), shows that there is a desire in the country to easily give rural communities the benefits that renewable energy can provide.

However, as of late, there has been a consistent issue with the reliability of hydropower in Kenya. Over the past few years, there have been consistent droughts and a lack of rain. This has reduced the water going through dams and less overall production from plants. Between December 2016 and January 2017, production of energy declined from 299 million kilowatts per hour to 252 kilowatts per hour. While this does not spell doom for the future of this energy since weather is unpredictable and rain patterns could go back to their prior state, events like this show the necessity of investing in multiple types of energy. If one energy declines, another that supplies at a more consistent rate will be available. In particular, there has been one source of energy that has grown in importance in the wake of declining water in Kenya.

Geothermal

Accompanying the slight decline of hydropower has been the advancement of geothermal energy. This energy relies on the natural steam from rifts within the earth and, unlike other resources, outside influences such as weather or other natural occurrences, do not affect it. In 2017, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics found that at least 274 million kilowatts per hour come from thermal sources monthly. Through its application, geothermal energy has managed to create 32% of the overall electricity that people consumed in Kenya.

The construction of new plants has shown abundant results and higher energy outputs. In 2015, two new plants in Kenya’s rift valley, Olkaria, helped the national energy increase by 51%. The World Bank Group has backed Kenya in financing the use of this energy through its Internal Development Association (IDA). This has resulted in the region of Olkaria turning into one of the largest sources of geothermal energy in the world and one of the most prominent energy suppliers in the country. These efforts have helped geothermal energy rise up as one of the most prominent types of renewable energy in Kenya. At the moment, geothermal energy looks to be the most important source to the current efforts of change within Kenya due to the advantages it offers in output and availability.

Why This Matters

The rise of renewable energy in Kenya is important as it represents a lot for the country. The creation of new advancements represents a drive to modernize and connect Kenya to a larger global scene. Many people dedicate their lives to ensuring that those living in rural areas have opportunities that are common in other countries. In general, this is what renewable energy represents for Kenya. Not only does it supply a lot for the nation, but it also brings new innovations. They can connect electricity to places that have never had it before and all could reap the benefits of a revitalized Kenya. It may take some time, but a better future is on the horizon not just for Kenya, but also for all countries focusing on new ways to improve themselves.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

Electrifying the Rural Amazon
In the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, communities of people currently live on islands with no electricity. The Tucuruí hydroelectric dam on the Tocantins River in the Amazon provides electricity to countless people but not to those living in the area. In 2013, nearly a quarter of those living in this region lived in “favelas” or slums and 12,000 people were without electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon could improve the conditions of those living there.

Bringing Power

The Brazilian government’s original plan was to connect isolated communities to the national power grid. However, this was not feasible due to Brazil’s difficult terrain. The landscape made it very challenging to reach certain remote regions. Oftentimes, these remote areas have plenty of renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and water. This means that off-grid solutions, such as individual solar panels, can be much more effective in reaching these areas. Thus, a new plan emerged.

Omexom, through its Brazilian branch (VINCI Energies), plans to install mini photovoltaic power plants to bring electricity to these isolated communities. From January 2019 to January 2020, Omexom was supposed to install 1,361 solar panel systems to the islands surrounding the dam. Each of these solar panels has a capacity of 1.8 MWp, which is enough power to run lights and household appliances on the farms. This is all part of the Brazilian government’s program “Luz Para Todos.” This endeavor aims to provide electricity to more than 10 million people living in the rural areas of the country without access to the grid. Electrifying the rural Amazon and other rural areas in Brazil can help the country in a multitude of ways, including poverty.

How Electricity Helps Poverty Reduction

Very few farms on these islands have access to diesel generators for power as they are expensive. Many families use oil lamps for light and preserve food using ice they must bring back from the mainland daily. Renewable resources could help increase the quality of living for these families through sustainable development. In turn, this could reduce poverty overall.

According to an environmental research letter, “Electrification provides a solid basis for development of local communities.” Access to electricity aids communities in accessing other vital resources. Safe potable water, improved health conditions and food security are all linked to available electricity. By-products, such as time saved and less pollution, also aid the community.

Electrifying the rural Amazon can help improve Brazil’s Human Development Index (HDI) score. Studies have shown a clear connection between HDI and electricity consumption. One study even concluding that electricity consumption promotes human development. In the case of Brazil specifically, the states with the highest HDI score were also the states with the highest electrification levels in the country.

Lighting Up the Future

Brazil can help improve the lives of the rural populace by simply giving these communities access to electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon will help the people isolated by the Tucuruí dam and many others across the rainforest. With increased access to electricity, inhabitants can obtain a higher quality of life and have more opportunities in life. Electricity for those who live off-grid can help to decrease poverty levels. It is time to bring poverty-reduction efforts to the rural areas; it is time to electrify the rural Amazon.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Access in the SahelOn March 11, 2021, the World Bank approved $22.5 million of funding for the Regional Off-Grid Electricity Access Project (ROGEAP) in the Sahel region of Africa. This region is one of the most impoverished areas in the world and few residents have access to electricity. However, the funding expects to increase electricity access in the Sahel by turning to a new source of energy — solar power.

Electricity Access in Sahel Region

The Sahel region stretches across the Sahara desert and includes the countries of Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, among others. Besides having arid climates, the common denominator for countries in the Sahel region is poverty. None of the countries mentioned above have a GDP per capita of more than $3,000, and with this lack of capital, comes a lack of electricity access. Furthermore, approximately 50% of the 340 million people living in the Sahel region do not have access to electricity, representing one of the lowest modern electricity consumption rates for any region on Earth. Insufficient generation, high petroleum prices and lack of financing for large electricity grids have all contributed to the area’s low connectivity.

This lack of electricity access in the Sahel has had destructive physical and economic effects on regional residents. Several public health centers lack sufficient energy generation, which puts the lives of patients requiring electricity for survival at great risk. Furthermore, rural areas of the Sahel often lack any electricity, forcing residents to use firewood in traditional stoves for cooking, which has led to adverse health effects from smoke inhalation and the dangers of cutting trees for fuel. Even if the electrical grid reaches some rural areas, most families cannot afford the cost. Many countries in the region currently generate more than 90% of their energy from expensive diesel or heavy fuel, which results in high energy costs for both the urban and rural impoverished. Without any policy changes, energy poverty will continue to ravage the Sahel region for the foreseeable future.

Turning to Solar Power Solutions

Thankfully, solar power presents an exciting new possibility for expanding electricity access in the Sahel. Experts see the Sahel as an area with massive solar potential, as many people living there, especially those in rural communities, have access to vast areas of flat land needed for solar panels. Furthermore, off-grid (individually owned) solar power systems present the lowest-cost energy option for 65% of the rural population in the Sahel region. Off-grid power sources are already becoming regional hallmarks as many residents live a significant distance from the power grid. According to the International Energy Agency, about 70% of Africa’s new rural power will come from off-grid power sources by 2040.

Seeing this potential, the World Bank increased funding for the Regional Off-Grid Electricity Access Project (ROGEAP) by $22.5 million. Grants from the International Development Association and the Clean Technology Fund have made this funding possible. The main goal of ROGEAP is to support the development of stand-alone (off-grid) solar products and the advancement of the solar market in a unified effort to boost electricity access in the Sahel. This project will assist in accelerating the deployment of stand-alone solar products, provide credits and grants for off-grid solar home systems and coordinate policies and standards to develop a prosperous regional solar market.

How ROGEAP Will Help

  1. It will provide electricity for public health centers and schools, which will, in turn, improve health and education in the region. The projected increase in the standard of living will likely lead to more people being able to secure well-paying jobs to support themselves and their families.
  2. It will create jobs within the blossoming solar market for people of all skill levels. Transitioning to solar power creates the need for jobs in installation, transportation and infrastructure industries. Additionally, entrepreneurial ventures in solar power will likely sprout from the new funding.
  3. It will improve the output and ease of production for many different jobs. For example, farming communities can use solar water pumps for easier irrigation and milling communities can use new solar milling equipment for more efficient production.

Lighting the Way Forward

By supporting the advancement of stand-alone solar products, ROGEAP aims to enhance electricity access in the Sahel for more than a million residents. The project will increase the use of solar power across the region and subsequently provide electricity for homes, schools, hospitals, farms and small businesses that previously lacked connection. The new funding will likely have a positive impact on health, education and employment in the region for decades to come. If the World Bank and other international agencies hope to continue this endeavor of expanding electricity access in developing regions of the world, projects supporting stand-alone solar power sources like ROGEAP seem to be a winning solution.

Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in TanzaniaIn 2018, 29% of the population in Tanzania had access to electricity. For rural populations, that number was 10% and for poor households, it was 7%. About 66.2% of Tanzania’s population lives in rural areas, according to data from 2018. This means that most of the population that needs electricity lives in off-grid regions. The Tanzanian government and other organizations seek to meet this need through innovative renewable energy solutions.

Renewable Energy in Tanzania

Renewable energy in Tanzania has great potential. Tanzania’s renewable energy resources include hydropower, solar, wind and biomass. A study completed by the Institute for Sustainable Futures from the University of Technology Sydney, the Climate Action Network Tanzania, Bread for the World and the World Future Council found that by 2020, Tanzania’s portion of renewable energy generation was thought to reach 53%. By 2030, that number could increase to 75%. The study also discovered that it is 30% cheaper for Tanzania to use renewable energy than energy from fossil fuels. Thus, the study recommends implementing 100% renewable energy in Tanzania so that the country can substantially decrease poverty levels.

Importance of Renewable Energy Access for Poverty Reduction

Energy access is crucial in the fight to end poverty. Renewable energy is valuable for poverty reduction because it can provide power to more schools. Furthermore, it can increase health services and hygiene and provide clean water in rural areas. In fact, the World Bank cites increased electricity access as one of the reasons poverty rates have decreased in Tanzania.

According to the World Future Council, due to the increase in energy access, people in rural areas have been able to focus on “efforts to improve their socio-economic welfare.” Women, in particular, have benefited greatly from energy access. They can spend more time working on other tasks rather than working in the home and in the field.

Projects and Initiatives

Renewable energy in Tanzania has increased over the past decade because the government and other organizations have been working on renewable energy projects. These initiatives include installing off-grid and grid power systems and advocacy work.

Lighting Rural Tanzania installed solar lanterns and solar home systems to mostly low-income households. The goal of the project was “to enable access to cleaner and safer off-grid lighting and energy for 6.5 million people in Tanzania by [the] end [of] 2019.” Overall, the project helped provide energy access to 1.2 million people as of 2018.

The Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is a membership organization dedicated to improving renewable energy technologies and increasing access to renewable energy in Tanzania. The organization provides ten distinct services with advocacy and awareness work, community access programs and renewable energy policy initiatives.

Last is the Rural Electrification Expansion Program for Tanzania (TREEP). Beginning in 2013 and ending in 2022, TREEP’s goal is to provide both grid and off-grid energy to 1.3 million rural households and businesses. The project focuses on solar energy, specifically photovoltaic systems. As of 2021, The World Bank has labeled TREEP as “moderately satisfactory.”

Looking Forward

While less than half of Tanzanians have access to electricity, governmental initiatives and dedicated organizations are succeeding in increasing energy access. According to the International Energy Agency, Tanzania hopes to ensure that 70% of the population has access to electricity by 2030, with 50% of that originating from renewable energy resources.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Energy Vault
“Energy poverty” is a term that describes the lack of reliable, affordable sources of energy. More than one-seventh of the world’s population still lacks electricity, and in countries where it is available, it is often very expensive or unreliable. Access to energy is essential to people’s health and wellbeing, and it is instrumental in reducing poverty. Countries will not be able to engage in economic activities without modern, efficient energy. This in turn slows economic growth, which is a necessity for countries to pull themselves out of poverty. The poor will remain outcast and unprosperous, shut out from the high technology world if energy poverty persists. Here is some information about renewable energy and the Swiss startup Energy Vault that is providing low-cost energy to developing countries.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has the potential to help the developing countries that are struggling to provide power. It is sustainable and efficient, and the more efficient the energy technologies are, the more energy a country can save to use elsewhere. Renewable energy may seem like the perfect solution to energy poverty. In practice, however, the familiar forms of renewable energy like wind and hydropower pose various challenges.

Barriers to Renewable Energy Use

First, renewable energy has a high initial cost. In order to harness renewable energy, countries must build specific structures to capture it and convert it into electrical power. If using hydropower, a country must build a hydropower plant; in the case of wind energy, a country must build wind turbines. Furthermore, energy generation is dependent on the climate and geography of the area and it may be unstable. Wind does not blow incessantly, and the turbines will not generate any energy when there is no breeze.

In the example of hydropower, areas may not have water to spare to power hydroelectric plants. More than 40% of the world’s people still do not have access to clean water, and it would be unwise for countries to use the little they do have on hydropower when their own people are still struggling. While renewable energy seems like the best option for developing countries, it presents several challenges when implemented.

Energy Vault

In response to this issue, Energy Vault, a Swiss startup, developed a method to provide reliable energy by utilizing the force of gravity. It operates by lifting composite bricks, then lowering them back to the ground. The brick has kinetic energy as it goes down, which the structure converts into electricity. It uses similar principles to hydropower but replaces the water with a system of bricks. This makes the system more implementable than hydropower since it does not divert water away from the population, who need it for drinking. Any area can implement Energy Vault easily because it does not depend on geographical or climatic factors. Unlike hydropower, wind power or solar power, it can generate electricity under any conditions. Energy Vault is extremely low cost and affordable to developing countries that need it.

In addition to its reliability, Energy Vault is sustainable. It can last for more than 30 years, and its performance will not degrade at all throughout its life. Recycled waste and landfill materials make up the bricks that Energy Vault uses, and as such, they are readily available anywhere.

The affordability and sustainability of Energy Vault make it a good energy source for struggling countries. Though energy poverty is still a major issue in many areas of the world, startups like Energy Vault offer innovative solutions to combat it.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Brazil's Emerging Market
Brazil currently has the ninth-largest economy in the world. It has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.05 trillion which accounts for slightly more than 2.5% of the global GDP in 2020. Brazil would account for 2.5% of the world’s wealth if one measured it by all of the goods and services it exchanged in 2020. Thus, Brazil’s emerging market has become a reputable force on the world economic stage. It has now surpassed some developed economies in GDP. For example, Brazil’s economy is now larger than Italy’s, which accounted for 2.4% of global GDP in 2020. Several factors contribute to the success of Brazil’s emerging market: better international relations, the adaptation of technology and improved education. However, the most important element of an emerging market is a solid mix of domestic companies. Here are three Brazilian companies that have been driving the economy forward.

Eletrobras

Eletrobras is the number one supplier of electricity in Latin America. Additionally, it projects that it can be one of the top three clean energy suppliers for the entire world by 2030. Furthermore, Eletrobras differentiates itself from other energy companies by focusing on generating electricity through renewable methods. In fact, the company strives to ensure that less than 10% of electricity produced comes from sources that have high greenhouse gas emissions. Eletrobras utilizes hydropower and wind farms to create the vast majority of its electricity.

The company supplied about one-third of Brazil’s total energy in 2020. As a result, there was a reduction in reliance on foreign energy companies. In addition, it provided vast employment opportunities to Brazilians and residents of other Latin American countries.

Vale

Vale is a Brazilian mining company responsible for churning out more iron ore and nickel than any other mining company. Iron ore has multiple applications and is the raw ingredient for steel. One can find it in cars, trains, sinks, dishwashers and much more. Additionally, a battery’s fundamental material is nickel. It has a shiny appearance and is inexpensive. Therefore, many countries use it to make their currencies.

Vale now employs more than 100,000 workers ranging in countries from Canada to Indonesia. The company has been able to successfully push into other sectors including artificial intelligence and energy production.

Itau Unibanco

Itau Unibanco is Brazil’s largest bank in the private sector. The company’s headquarters are in Sao Paulo and it employs more than 90,000 people across nine countries. The government now owns the majority of the company’s equity because it is in the private sector. The primary shareholders are private institutions, corporations and individuals. As such, Itau Unibanco is a bank for everyday workers.

Furthermore, Itau Unibanco has a commitment to giving back to the community. The company invested more than $0.5 billion into education projects and improving transportation infrastructure in Brazil. It shows that people should not consider domestic companies that give back as charities, but rather as an investment in the people.

The Reason these Companies Matter

These companies are critical to Brazil’s emerging market for two major reasons. First, Brazil needs businesses that spark interest in countries abroad to make the leap from emerging markets to the developed economy. All three of these companies successfully accomplished this goal. As such, these companies are appealing to many nations. As a result, there is an inflow of non-domestic goods and services. This allows the economy to expand and raise the overall quality of life for everyone.

The second reason is that these companies provide employment opportunities to Brazilian citizens in diverse sectors. Brazil needs companies such as Eletrobras to provide electricity in an economic boom and a severe recession. In addition, Brazil needs Vale to produce steel. In the end, these companies create many opportunities for Brazilian citizens in many sectors.

If Brazil can navigate through the pandemic while keeping companies like Eletrobras, Vale and Itau Unibanco afloat, it has a fair shot at becoming a developed economy in the future.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Brightlife Brings Financial Inclusion
BrightLife is a program from FINCA, the microfinance organization. The program is a Uganda-based, social enterprise that pairs access to finance with access to energy. This allows for connections to financial inclusion for the “unbanked.” BrightLife brings financial inclusion to Ugandans and clean energy products to poor and impoverished areas through multiple initiatives and products. BrightLife ensures financial inclusion and wellbeing for those areas. People pay for their BrightLife products with a system called PAYGO. This allows people to pay for only the electricity they use as they go. This then allows BrightLife to build credit profiles for “unbanked” people and connect them with FINCA.

The Situation in Uganda

There are currently 1 billion people in the world living without electricity and 73% of the Ugandan population does not have access to electricity. People living without electricity must often use insufficient fuels to heat, light and energize their homes. This can then lead to indoor air pollution causing premature death. These energy uses are also dangerous in homes since they can cause fires.

Lack of energy in any area can cause a cycle of poverty since so many people cannot access the most basic necessities. This is why BrightLife brings financial inclusion to Ugandans. As FINCA states, the program “provides last-mile distribution and end-user financing for products that create healthier and safer homes, increase productivity, reduce household expenses and provide additional income-generating opportunities.”

BrightLife’s Impact

To date, BrightLife has impacted over 202,000 lives with clean energy. By providing education, distribution, financing and after-sale support, BrightLife is able to bring clean energy products like home appliances to people who cannot acquire them. However, access to energy is just the first step in FINCA’s BrightLife enterprise.

BrightLife announced a new product called “Prosper” in March 2019 to further its impact on the Ugandan people. Prosper is an initiative that helps Ugandans access the clean energy that BrightLife provides. Then, Prosper helps people transition from unbanked to FINCA Uganda where they can access savings and credit opportunities, increasing their financial inclusion.

A Better Tomorrow with BrightLife

Now, BrightLife is working to better understand the solar energy needs of their clients and is positioning itself to serve communities more efficiently. Through COVID-19, it has been able to grant access to solar lanterns and give students the ability to still get the education they need from home. Since BrightLife brings financial inclusion to Ugandans, it also won the Smart Communities Coalition Innovation Fund grant. As USAID reported, this grant will allow for the development of “a solar-powered hatchery” and small-scale solar systems used for poultry farming in Kiryandongo, Uganda.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

The Success Story of Ghana's Electrical System Ghana’s electrical mini-grids have made the country a leader in capacity and access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana’s government and international institutions like the World Bank have worked together for over two decades to bring light to more than 30 million people. A major part of the success in the region is due to its focus on increasing reliability, distribution and renewable resources. Ghana is an example of what is possible when international forces come together to give aid to developing nations, transforming the countries into industrialized global partners.

Electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa

As of April 2020, USAID found that Ghana had 4,3999 MW of installed energy capacity. However, only 2,400 MW of energy is available due to Ghana’s reliance on hydroelectricity, fossil fuels and ailing power infrastructure.

On the other hand, Cameroon only had 1,558 MW of installed electrical capacity in 2017 and a population of more than 25 million. Moreover, Cameroon’s electricity access rate was only at 61.4% at this same time. Urban regions and rural regions have a massive disparity in access with 93.2% and 21.3% respectively. As such, Ghana’s electrical grids are improving at a much faster rate than those around them.

Creating Solar Mini-Grids in Remote Communities

In 2007, Ghana, in partnership with the World Bank, approved the Energy Development and Access Project. As of January 2021, the project has financed more than $210 million to Ghana. By September 2020, 1.73 million people in Ghana have gained access to electricity. The 2022 target is for a total increase in access for 1.95 million people. The international resources provided have helped Ghana’s government implement its national electrification plan and is the reason for its successful electrical system.

The Ghanaian government in 2018, through its National Electrification Scheme (NES), identified 11,000 communities connected to the national grid. The Ghana Ministry of Energy in 2019 stated that it cost $2 billion to reach this number. The Ghana government also estimates that about three million citizens lack access to the electricity grid.

What it Takes to Create Solar Mini-grids in Remote Communities

Ghana and its partners have been successful in providing more than 90% of Ghana with electricity access. However, funding has been a challenge. Extending electric grids to connect the remaining communities could cost up to $900 million. The country also faces a shortage of funding due to “strict conditionalities of development partners and the rising cost of borrowing.” In order to deal with this issue, the government has established a unique initiative.

Mini off-grid electricity was implemented by NES to meet the rising cost of connecting rural communities to the national grid. This initiative brought light to these remote regions by installing 20 mini-grids in 2019. The average cost of connecting a household to a mini-grid is $2,000 and have set aside funds for many more.

The Benefits of the Mini-Grid

Ghana’s infrastructure, which its national energy grid relies on, is often unreliable in remote areas. While Ghana’s electrical mini-grids have more upfront costs, it offers more reliable electricity. Pediatorkope is a small island town in Ghana and one of the first regions to receive a mini-grid in Ghana. The World Bank’s report outlined that while the costs of the grid were more significant than if they had connected the town to Ghana’s national grid, the solar mini-grid provided a more reliable system for the town. Ghana’s national grid is under a lot of stress. These mini-grids offer reliable energy distribution systems for remote communities, providing tangible benefits to Ghana’s rural population.

The World Bank stated that mini-grids would “provide wider economic benefits to the community.” Solar power is one of the renewable resources that play a significant role in these mini-grids. Native Ghana companies, international energy corporations and governmental agencies supply, maintain and operate these mini-grids.

Naomi Dagrey, a Ghanaian citizen with a mini-grid has been financially saved by her community having consistent access to electricity. “Once we got connected to electricity, I invested in a refrigerator which I use [for] frozen beef and chicken,” she stated in a World Bank promotional video. The success of Ghana’s electrical mini-grids has changed the way people are able to live and has opened the doors for future possibilities.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo:Flickr