Power Crisis in Puerto Rico 
Puerto Rico is facing a power crisis as regular power outages put a pause on the island’s regular schedule, forcing many Puerto Ricans to throw away their groceries and stay at home in shelter from the unwavering heat. Hurricane Maria heavily damaged the electric grid system in 2017, leaving the public power company with $9 billion in debt. According to AP News, power authority workers stated that they patched up the electric grid with whatever material they could during the hurricane as they did not have enough funds or materials to completely repair the electrical grid. The Puerto Rican government announced the privatization of the power company in June 2020, selecting Luma Energy to care for the electric grid for the next 15 years.

Blackouts in Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans claim the new power company has failed to meet the standards it promised the citizens. Puerto Ricans claim constant power outages plague their daily routine as several explosions in the electric grid have caused major blackouts in the recent months. The Center for New Economy, a Puerto Rican-based thinktank, has said that the blackouts will continue as a regular occurrence until the electric grid receives full repairs which could potentially cost $10 billion for the local government. The CNE also stated that most of the irregularities within the electric crisis in Puerto Rico have been due to miscommunication between the government and Luma Energy.

A recent outage on the island that lasted five days led to more than a million citizens being left without electricity on the island. Around 160,000 did not have water due to buildings needing the power to push the cistern to the upper floors. Hospitals around the island ended up without power leaving many patients who rely on electricity waiting.

The power crisis in Puerto Rico has been an ongoing constant on the island since Hurricane Maria, no viable solution has yet emerged for the island to recuperate its electric grid system. Puerto Ricans have become used to living in the dark as of 2022.

Green Initiative

The Casa Pueblo Foundation is a community-based organization that focuses on developing sustainable management for communities in Puerto Rico by beginning to build a solar power grid system to bring sustainable energy to the pueblo of Adjuntas. Approximately 1,000 solar panels underwent installation in December 2020 in 18 businesses and buildings around the town. The panels include a 220 kW capacity and a 1 MW storage capacity. The Honnold Foundation is an organization that promotes solar energy for a more equitable world. This Foundation and the Community Solar Energy Association of Adjuntas supported the project to help finance the installation for low-income community members as the organization projected a 30% decrease in the communities power bill for the incoming year.

Maximo Solar, a Puerto Rican-based company that looked to staff the installation process with members of the Adjuntas community, produced the solar grids. The initial profits of the project will go towards the operation of the microgrid, repairs and maintenance while the remaining profits will go back into the community.

– Nuria Diaz
Photo: Picryl

Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis
In October 2021, Bboxx, a U.K.- based company created to tackle energy poverty, expanded its market to Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria. As more than 85 million people live without electricity in the country, Bboxx aims to address Nigeria’s electricity crisis by providing electricity to 20 million Nigerians over 10 years. With Nigeria being its largest market to date, this could yield major results for both Bboxx and the Nigerian economy.

Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis

Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $432 billion in 2020. However, problems with access to strong, reliable electricity hinder Nigeria’s development. Despite being “Africa’s largest market for diesel generators,” close to 50% of Nigerians lack access to electricity with rural Nigerians accounting for the majority of those without access. Moreso, the majority of Nigerians with access to electricity struggle with “an extremely unreliable grid,” Bboxx CEO Mansoor Hamayun told The Africa Report.

This “lack of reliable power costs Nigeria $26 billion” annually, which equates to 2% of GDP, according to the World Bank. In light of this, in February of 2021, the World Bank “approved $500 million to support improvements in electricity distribution, including investment in on- and off-grid renewable energy.” Through this commitment, Bboxx was able to launch into the electricity market.

How Will Bboxx Operate in Nigeria?

Bboxx Nigeria plans to provide a solution to Nigeria’s electricity crisis by “expanding access to clean, affordable and reliable Solar Home Systems (SHS).” Bboxx uses a long-term pay-as-you-go system whereby “customers only pay for what they use” in “monthly installments from [one] to [three] years.”

Bboxx will especially target individual households in the rural areas of Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Ondo, alongside “small business owners and market traders.” Bboxx’s strategy is to strive to electrify 100,000 Nigerian households per year for three years in order to meet its goal of 20 million people over 10 years. Bboxx also plans to release other products and services in Nigeria such as “LPG clean cooking solutions, solar-powered water pumps for farmers and smartphones.” The first Bboxx shop in Nigeria opened in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State in October 2021. The company hopes to roll out its services to the rest of the target areas, eventually spreading nationwide.

The Impact of Solar Power

Because solar energy is more affordable than both diesel and kerosene, adopting solar sources means saving money. Such savings would be useful in curbing Nigeria’s high inflation rates while allowing investment into other areas. This would not only result in a better living standard for Nigerians in terms of electricity access but will also create vast improvements in other services like health care and education. Moreover, the solar home systems provider estimates that its expansion into Nigeria will create 10,000 new green employment prospects in a span of 10 years. Overall, the Bboxx expansion into Nigeria would help create new employment opportunities for Nigerians, thus enabling a booming economy and an upward trend in Nigeria’s development.

Unfortunately, while Bboxx is currently able to operate without cost constraints, the risk that the Nigerian naira may continue to devalue poses a threat to Bboxx’s operations. Nevertheless, as Hamayun told The Africa Report that it was likely “a short-term issue.” Looking at the long-term, the “fundamentals are super-strong,” he said.

The Bottom Line

While the project is still in its early stages, the prospects are clear: Nigeria’s off-grid clean market has significant potential. With the assistance of Bboxx, these transitions will revolutionize Nigeria’s electricity crisis, system and economy while reducing carbon emissions.

– Divine Adeniyi
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, Zambia’s demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity and frequent droughts prevent these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide rate of access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because the grids do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. The mini-grids will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. Developers installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, the nation’s energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources, which should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Shortages in Tajikistan
Seasonal electricity shortages in Tajikistan are a common occurrence. This winter will be no different, as the government has drafted a plan for winter electricity rationing and the rural parts of the country have undergone electricity rationing since October 2021. These areas only have power from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. This means during normal operating hours, businesses and public facilities are without electricity.

According to Radio Liberty, hospitals are not exempt from rationing either. Hospitals have to rely on diesel-powered generators due to not having access to electricity. However, not every hospital in Tajikistan has or can afford such generators, leaving staff and patients in the dark and medical equipment inoperable. Depending on the severity of the shortage, even facilities in the country’s capital, Dushanbe, could experience a loss of electricity, as it has in the past.

The Reason for Electricity Shortages in Tajikistan

The simplest explanation for why Tajikistan undergoes seasonal electricity shortages is the country does not have a great enough supply of energy to meet demand all year round. A major reason for this gap in supply and demand is Tajikistan relies heavily on hydroelectricity.

Hydropower is the country’s largest energy source. In 2019, Tajikistan had a hydropower supply of 69,012 terajoules, compared to its coal supply of 50,377 TJ. Its oil supply was 44,533 TJ and its natural gas supply of 8,122 TJ.

The problem is hydroelectricity accounts for 98% of Tajikistan’s electricity consumption, according to the Access to Green Finance Project. However, it is also a form of energy that fluctuates based on factors like a river’s volume or freezing. The volume of Tajikistan’s rivers like the river Vakhsh continues to decrease yearly in tandem with a decrease in rainfall. Energy demand rises in the colder months. Therefore, the country finds itself without enough electricity.

Sometimes, the electricity shortages end up not lasting for the winter, but for the entire year. Substituting hydroelectricity with different energy sources is difficult because the country needs to use coal and imported oil for purposes other than electricity. Moreover, Tajikistan exports a significant portion of its energy to countries like Afghanistan, according to the Access to Green Finance Project.

Solutions to Electricity Shortages in Tajikistan

The Rogun hydropower plant became partially operational in 2018. According to Radio Liberty, many people in Tajikistan believed the electricity shortages would end with this. Since the rationing will almost certainly continue into 2022, the plant becoming partially operational was evidently not enough to meet the country’s needs. However, hope exists that the shortages will come to an end.

After the Rogun plant has become fully operational, it will have an electricity production capacity of 3,600 megawatts. For reference, Hoover Dam’s capacity is 2,080 MW. This means Tajikistan should not only have enough electricity to consistently meet its needs, but it might also be able to export more energy to other countries. This would be greatly beneficial to the developing nation’s economy. Regardless, the Rogun plant is a much-needed development in Tajikistan’s energy sector since the old Soviet plants are becoming less economical.

For Now, Electricity Shortages in Tajikistan Continue

Enduring electricity rationing, the prices of coal, natural gas and firewood are high. The people of Tajikistan will experience immense hardship this winter. It will be up to the government and NGOs to support them through difficult times.

However, once the Rogun plant is fully operational, Tajikistan’s electricity shortages may be a thing of the past. People could have consistent access to electricity all year, every year.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

Smart Meter Systems in Kenya
In September 2021, Kenya’s largest telecommunications business, Safaricom, proposed a deal to Kenya Power to install “a $300 million smart meter system” at Kenya Power’s site. Furthermore, Safaricom will bear the cost of installing “330,000 consumer, transformer and feeder smart meters” in communities experiencing high power leakages or electricity theft. These leaks put an added economic burden on individuals and Kenya Power. Safaricom and Kenya Power’s partnership to install smart meter systems in Kenya will also lead to more job opportunities for Kenyans.

Power Leakages and Electricity Theft

Power leakages can occur when a current is not entirely insulated or the electrical equipment is not fully grounded, meaning there may be no safe way to discharge electricity in case of a malfunction. The energy needs somewhere to go and grounding sends electricity outside the building and into the ground through the insulated wiring. This lost energy costs Kenya Power revenue that often exceeds what the company earns. Safaricom anticipates that the new smart meter system will save Kenya Power more than $89 million of losses due to power leakages.

Kenya Power is the primary company in Kenya responsible for producing and distributing electricity to Kenyans across the country. Kenya Power holds the responsibility of delivering electricity to almost 70% of Kenyans with electricity access, however, this figure means more than 16 million Kenyans still lack electricity access.

Electricity theft is a common occurrence in Kenya. It happens when a person attempts to bypass the standard electrical meter on a power line in order to obtain electricity without payment. Thieves then bypass any electrical data tracking and effectively steal power from the company and the homes in the area. Annually, Kenya Power loses about $163 million due to electricity theft alone. Safaricom’s smart meter systems in Kenya will help prevent both leakages and electricity theft.

Smart Meter Systems Save Money

Smart meters involve real-time information of voltage usage and fault reports and detect theft and potential meter tampering. In the event of power theft, the meter sends alerts to the main computer in its system, and then, the company will have the option of shutting down the power line and sending the police to apprehend the thief.

The smart meters constantly monitor two wires, the neutral wire and the live wire and the current going through the wires. Smart meters continuously compare the two wires’ energy outputs. If the output of the live wire seems excessively high while the neutral is lower, then, there may be possible tampering or leakage.

The smart meter systems in Kenya will cost approximately $300 million to install. Safaricom and Kenya Power will split the revenue earned in the first eight years with the smart meters in place.

Creating Job Opportunities

Smart meters in Kenya seem to be a small addition to everyday lives, but their financial impact is significant. Kenya Power is a relatively small enterprise in the nation. The expected revenue to come in with the installation of the smart meters in Kenya is 71.7 billion KES ($651.23 million). This has the potential to increase earnings company-wide across all salary levels. Furthermore, the project will create job opportunities for Kenyans.

How Will the Initiative Help Kenyans?

In Kenya, the cost of electricity increased in September 2021. Those with access to electricity began paying 26.57 KES (0.25 USD) per electricity unit. The last monthly pricing was 2 KES less, making this spike in cost “the highest in five years.” This price hiking has continued as Kenya Power grapples with issues of power leakages and electricity theft.

The average annual salary after taxes in Kenya based on the average job is about 2,026,995 KES ($18,536). However, the more typical salary is 765,481 KES ($7,000). Furthermore, 26.3% of workers in Kenya survive on less than $2 of income per day. If the electricity prices continue increasing, many Kenyans will lose their ability to afford electricity and first-time users will struggle to gain access to electricity.

The introduction of smart meter systems will prevent severe revenue losses for Kenya Power. The smart meters in Kenya will benefit Kenya Power, Safaricom, workers and ordinary citizens. Preventing energy theft offers economic benefits for energy companies and workers, but it can also benefit energy consumers. Large-scale changes in security and energy efficiency could strengthen Kenya’s energy sector and infrastructure.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

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. In 2013, around 28% of the country’s population had 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 to more than 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