Power Grant to Malaysia 
On January 12, 2023, the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) provided a power grant to Malaysia. Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), Malaysia’s state-owned energy company, received this grant to assist with the “utility’s digital transformation.” This grant will further the use of more renewable energy and aid in giving sound clean energy to about 2.5 million people, including those in neighboring countries who are also on the Borneo Grid.

“Around the world, we have seen the transformative impact of digital infrastructure on achieving ambitious clean energy, energy efficiency, and other climate-related goals. Our partnership with Sarawak Energy is intended to support their vision of sustainable growth by meeting the region’s need for reliable, renewable energy,” said Enoh T. Ebong, USTDA’s Director.

Diving into the Grant

The total contribution of the grant comes in at $1 million USD and will continue SEB’s, “aim of becoming a sustainable digital utility by 2025 and beyond.” The agreement of the grant came into effect during the fifth Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Tokyo, Japan.

During the duration of the grant, USTDA will evaluate SEB’s current digital landscape and “support the company’s strategic roadmap to enable the adoption of smart grid and digital power plant technologies, enhance efficiency, increase cyber security as well as meet growing connectivity commitment and service reliability requirements to drive sustainable economic growth in Malaysia.”

SEB chose the nonprofit group Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to oversee the technical study of the project and provide assistance throughout the project. “SEB expresses gratitude to USTDA for this new partnership and welcomes EPRI’s technical support,” said Datu Sharbini Bin Suhaili, Group CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad.

USTDA’s championing of the project will further the goals of both the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. “The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment will deliver game-changing projects to close the infrastructure gap in developing countries, strengthen the global economy and supply chains, and advance U.S. national security.”

A Brief History of EPRI

Founded in 1972 in California, EPRI operates as a not-for-profit-independent energy research company. EPRI has a presence in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The company collaborates with more than 450 companies spanning 45 countries by “driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.”

With regard to the USTDA providing the power grant to Malaysia, EPRI President and CEO Arshad Mansoor had this to say, “EPRI is pleased to assist Sarawak in the modernizing of its grid, as this fits with our society-based mission to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.”

Looking Forward

With the USTDA providing this power grant to Malaysia, it will not only benefit Malaysia’s renewable energy goal but it will also provide energy to millions across multiple countries who are in poverty. The goals of the grant as well as the goals of the USTDA’s other projects will see that those underserved and in need of basic needs receive proper care.

– Sean McMullen
Photo: Flickr

Floating Solar Farms
Indonesia, a Southeast Asian island nation, has developed significantly in recent years. As the government of Indonesia seeks a more prosperous life for its citizens, the demand for energy increases. Indonesia is becoming a key global economic player, not only a member of G20, the international organization which addresses major issues related to the global economy, but it also has the largest economy in Southeast Asia. However, with higher standards of living, Indonesian energy supplies are at their limits.

Developments in renewable energy technologies could provide a solution. Indonesia consists of more than 10,000 islands and huge parts of the country are simply oceans. Recent developments in floating solar farms could provide the perfect solution to Indonesia’s growing energy crisis.

Floating Solar Farms

New companies such as Ocean Sun and SolarDuck are developing floating solar farms which enable solar panels to sit on top of the water, generating electricity, while remaining afloat without taking up valuable land space, BBC reports.

The technology relies on the ability to create a floating solar panel that is robust enough to withstand ocean movement. For example, Ocean Sun creates its floating solar farms using modified silicone solar photovoltaic (PV) modules attached to a flexible membrane that floats on the ocean surface. As the panels sit very close to the surface of the ocean, people cannot view them from the shore.
>Floating solar panels could offer a renewable energy solution for numerous countries. Not only is land incredibly valuable for building, but many people feel that solar panels are unsightly and do not wish to see them in their daily lives. However, placing them far out at sea alleviates many of these problems. Given the vast ocean area which makes up Indonesia, investing in floating solar farms could offer an innovative solution.

Indonesian Energy Needs

Nearly all of the Indonesian population now has access to electricity however, what constitutes access is, by Western standards, relatively low. “Access to electricity” translates to access to basic lighting and the ability to charge a phone or power a small radio for four hours. Despite many people having access to electricity, countless on Indonesia’s islands are still not connected to the grid at all, meaning that more than a million people have to go to great lengths to gain electrical connection, BBC reports.
As the country develops and people desire the kinds of electrical devices which surround us every day in Europe and America, the amount of energy that the government must provide continues to grow. In Indonesia, energy use per capita is at just over 8,000 kWh per year. Whereas in the U.K. usage per capita is almost 30,000 kWh and in the U.S. almost 77,000 kWh, according to Our World in Data.

Innovation in Indonesian Energy

Indonesia is still hugely reliant on fossil fuels in order to produce electricity, a finite and ever-decreasing resource. Currently, only 18.66% of electricity production in Indonesia came from renewable resources in 2021.

The ocean space available in Indonesia offers a huge opportunity for renewable energy generation, whether through floating solar farms or other forms of generation. As Indonesia makes exciting strides, economically and politically, and the life of Indonesian people improves, new forms of electricity generation could create an even greater future for Indonesian citizens.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

World Bank’s RESPITE Initiative
West Africa consists of 16 countries with a population of 419 million people. West Africa’s access to electricity is one of the lowest on a global scale, with “only 42% of the total population and only 8% of the rural population having access to electricity.” The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed heavily to West Africa’s energy poverty. More recently, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has significantly contributed to the rising food, oil and energy costs throughout the world and Africa has experienced the brunt of these consequences with high electrification costs, food crises throughout the region along with adverse effects of changing weather patterns.

However, with the World Bank’s introduction of the Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE), the solution to sustainable and cost-effective and reliable access to electricity throughout West Africa will be more transparent with the introduction of solar and hydroelectric power along with answers to the issues that Africa is currently facing. Here is some information about the World Bank’s RESPITE initiative.

What is the World Bank’s RESPITE Initiative?

The World Bank in collaboration with the International Development Association (IDA) introduced RESPITE in December 2022 as a response to West Africa’s energy crisis through the introduction of renewable energy. The IDA is financing the initiative. The project has the approval for $311 million coupled with an additional $20 million in grants “to help facilitate future regional power trade and strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of West Africa Power Pool (WAAP) to undertake its regional mandate.”

The initiative involves the nations of Chad, Sierra Leone, Togo and Liberia. RESPITE’s main objective is to “rapidly increase grid-connected renewable energy capacity and strengthen integration in the participating countries.” RESPITE involves the “installation and operation of approximately 106 megawatts of solar photovoltaic with battery energy and storage systems, 41 megawatts expansion of hydroelectric capacity and will support electricity distribution and transmission interventions across the four countries,” the World Bank reports.

RESPITE’s Necessity

RESPITE comes as a necessity since West Africa suffers from the lowest access to reliable electrification, which has resulted in millions being unable to live in comfort as food is unable to be refrigerated and fans or air conditioning does not function, and children are unable to do their homework. The gravity of the energy crisis that all of Africa not just West Africa, faces is dire because, by 2030, there will be only three countries in West and Central Africa that will have the capability to supply their people with stable electricity, which means that more than 263 million people will be unable to have access to electricity by 2030, according to the World Bank.

RESPITE’s necessity also comes from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that adversely affected Africa’s development within the energy sector. The pandemic caused more than 100 million people to lose access to electricity and slowed the region’s progress toward affordable accessibility. Furthermore, with the rise of supply chain issues beginning in 2021, when countries began to recover from the pandemic, costs for batteries, solar panels and other essential parts increased significantly.

Furthermore, access to energy is detrimental to daily activities, including but not limited to education, health, hygiene and food. With the pandemic disrupting the affordability and access to electricity, by 2030, more than 2.4 billion people in Africa will be unable to access clean cooking, according to Energy Monitor. Remedying Africa’s energy poverty comes with its challenges. However, the solution to this is introducing off-grid renewable energy. Access to energy is critical to the region’s economic development.

Benefits of the World Bank’s RESPITE Initiative

RESPITE helps to create a path towards providing electricity to every person in West Africa that it is a part of because it answers the current power supply crisis that it is currently facing and simultaneously solves issues such as changing weather patterns through renewable energy and the food crisis. According to the World Bank, RESPITE was introduced as an emergency measure to address West Africa’s energy poverty by introducing renewable energy. In addition, the introduction of RESPITE in the nations of Chad, Libya, Sierra Leone and Togo creates the foundation for establishing a stable power trade since these four countries are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa, RESPITE helps enhance the existing regional integration with ECOWAS members within the energy sector. At the same time, the initiative helps “create economies of scale, increases the potential for regional trade through investments in transmission and generation infrastructure to integrate the markets physically, and develops regional public good by facilitating knowledge sharing and capacity building,” the World Bank reports.

Forward Thinking

The IDA, also known as the “World Bank’s fund for the poorest,” has supported the development of more than 113 countries. On average, it has contributed more than $21 billion, which continues to increase. More than 61% of the funds have gone to Africa alone. In addition, the World Bank over the last three years has “doubled its investments to increase electricity access rates in Central and West Africa. We have committed more than $7.8 a billion to support 40 electricity access programs, of which more than half directly support new electricity connection,” the World Bank stated.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine’s Energy Crisis
As Russia continues to wage war on its eastern neighbor, the deterioration of Ukraine’s energy sector and infrastructure has taken a turn for the worst. With a lack of access to electricity and heating, Ukrainians have to endure a particularly cold and harsh winter. Ukrainian children, in particular, are vulnerable to winter temperatures because they target their physical conditions, psychological well-being and educational opportunities.

A Cold Winter

UNICEF predicts that temperatures in Ukraine may drop to -4 degrees Fahrenheit this winter. Coupled with the fact that Russia has destroyed more than 40% of Ukraine’s power infrastructure, residents are living in freezing conditions and constant attacks this wintertime. In fact, UNOCHA announced in November 2022 that Ukraine’s current energy system was only capable of meeting 70% of citizen demands.

Considering that “45% of Kyiv currently doesn’t have access to electricity,” educational and medical facilities also face extreme issues. Online learning is facing disruption as households lack access to electricity and medical facilities are facing challenges as damaged power sources and impaired water systems hinder hospitals from providing crucial services.

Impacts on Children

Ukrainian children’s physical and emotional well-being are at high risk during this time of violence and energy destruction. According to Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, “Millions of children are facing a bleak winter huddled in the cold and dark, with little idea of how or when respite may arrive.” UNICEF reports that Ukraine’s energy crisis is particularly dire for the 1.2 million displaced Ukrainian children, who not only lack access to electricity and heating but also do not have permanent shelter.

In addition to children’s physical conditions, Ukrainian children’s psychosocial well-being is an extremely unstable situation. Approximately 1.5 million Ukrainian children may be susceptible to depression and other anxiety-related disorders. Furthermore, a lack of health services in war-torn areas prevents children from accessing the physical and emotional help they need during this time.

Help From Abroad

Fortunately, in light of Russia’s destruction of energy infrastructure, numerous international organizations have attempted to remedy the situation. UNICEF, in particular, is playing a significant role in mitigating Ukraine’s energy crisis, providing healthcare facilities to almost 4.9 million Ukrainian women and children. It also provided drinking water to more than 4.2 million needy residents and created mental health services that have reached more than 2.5 million children. Its financial assistance—in the form of direct cash transfers to households or funding for critical services in Ukraine at large—has also supported Ukraine’s continuing needs.

To combat the freezing temperatures, Ukraine and other organizations have set up “heating points,” warm tents that offer shelter and water to residents across the nation. These emergency initiatives take place in train stations and schools throughout Ukraine, helping millions of displaced households in need of shelter, Foreign Policy reports.

An Impending Future

While numerous governments and organizations continue to alleviate Ukraine’s energy crisis, Russia’s attacks still have deep-rooted consequences. Many researchers argue that Ukraine not only needs to increase its energy demand, but the country has to reinvent its energy infrastructure entirely. As such, Ukraine would need to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and create more modern and sustainable energy systems. For now, however, Ukraine will continue to face a challenging winter devoid of electricity and heating for millions.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in AlgeriaThe Algerian economy is highly dependent on its natural resources. Exporting gas and oil is a lucrative business and in recent history, the country has benefitted from periods of price increases. However, volatility in prices makes macroeconomic stability hard to achieve.

In 2022, the Russian-Ukraine conflict raised the prices of hydrocarbons, due to a decline in supply. As a result, European countries are looking at North African countries including Algeria to meet their energy needs. However, at present, Algeria’s energy sector is unable to meet this demand.

The Need for Renewable Energy

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many Algerians struggle with rising inflation and a lack of economic opportunities. According to the IMF, “inflation and volatility of hydrocarbon prices” are vital issues that require attention, in order to guarantee a more stable macroeconomic environment. These issues are commonplace globally and affect the most vulnerable members of society. Unemployment has been on the rise since the pandemic and according to recent data, the country’s poverty figure is 14.6%. of note, there is a large disparity in poverty based on location, with rural areas being “highly deprived compared with urban areas.”

The Potential for Renewable Energy

The prospect for renewable energy in Algeria is tremendous as the country is situated in the Sahara Desert, boasting plentiful sunlight year-round. The potential energy production from sunlight is estimated to be 14TWh per year. To put this into perspective, currently, the country uses around 70.11TWh per year to meet its energy needs. If Algeria manages to source more of its energy from renewables, the government budget could be less susceptible to price volatility, creating greater macroeconomic stability. In line with this expectation, the government has set out a plan to increase access to renewable energy in Algeria.

Algeria’s Renewable Energy Plan

Algeria has set a target of 15,000 megawatts from solar by 2035. This is in hopes of increasing the percentage of energy derived from the sun, which currently sits at 3%. Furthermore, off-grid installations are to produce 1,000 megawatts, which is likely to benefit rural communities, according to the International Energy Forum (IEF). Alongside increased investment domestically, the country is looking at outside investment to bolster its initiatives. The new legislature is also focused on setting requirements for foreign investors, in the hopes of diversifying the local economy. Of note, Genevieve Verdier led an IMF mission to Algeria and noted that the new legislative framework “could facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.” As part of the new laws, foreign investors will need to use equipment manufactured in Algeria. The country has solar panel factories and aims to increase its manufacturing power, by making it mandatory to utilize Algerian supplies.

Rural Applications

The Algerian plan is promising, but it will take some time to deliver large-scale results since rural communities sporadically use solar energy. In an interview with Euronews, a local nomadic breeder showcased a few solar panels near his home. The farmer spoke of the positive impact of his solar power kit, explaining that it powers his lights and allows him to live a more comfortable life. Similarly, in the small town of Aine Madhi, a school recently installed a solar water heater.

Overall, cheap, renewable energy in Algeria could make big changes in rural communities while large-scale investments would provide macroeconomic stability to the nation, diversify its economy and create job opportunities across the country.

– Matteo Pennarts
Photo: Flickr

Fuel Crisis in Europe
After years of economic downfall, increased rates of poverty and supply chain disruptions, Europe finds itself launched into a desolate fuel crisis due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian crisis. The cost of fuel and electricity is likely to increase, further impacting families as they try and survive Europe’s cold winters.

Although the fuel crisis in Europe is often accredited to the Russo-Ukranian War, the problem has its roots in years of crises and decisions that have left Europe with an acute shortage of fuel. Aside from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the backlash from the 2020 pandemic is the most immediate culprit. The pandemic saw a lower production of natural gas and inadequate maintenance, leading to problems in production now. It also has led to a sharp increase in fuel demand after the lifting of restrictions, causing a shortage in fuel.

In addition to the pandemic and sanctions on Russian exports, much of the fuel crisis in Europe has stemmed from a decrease in energy production. Many countries have been trying to phase out natural gas and coal, shifting towards more sustainable alternatives. In fact, in the past decade, natural gas production halved, with imports making up 83% of gas consumption today.

Impact of Fuel Shortages

Because many homes in Eastern and Central Europe already rely on burning coal and wood to heat their homes, the fuel crisis has exacerbated the ongoing coal shortage. Many countries in the EU have pledged to eliminate the use of coal due to its carbon footprint. In addition, Europe placed sanctions on the coal exports of Russia – one of Europe’s biggest coal producers.

The shortage of coal and other fuel sources has led to many European leaders rolling back on measures designed to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Several coal-producing countries, such as Poland and Bulgaria have increased their coal usage and reopened old cold-fire plants. Poland has also lifted bans on burning lignite and household coal, though the country fears that the lifted ban still will not meet Polish energy needs.

Wood burning is also expected to increase throughout Europe as governments encourage their citizens to burn wood to keep warm. Countries like Bosnia Herzegovina and Bulgaria have even banned wood exports, fearing that there will not be enough wood for domestic purposes.

An Increase in Pollution

With an increase in the use of dirty fossil fuels and wood burning comes concerns for the impact on people’s health and well-being. It is well-known that countries with high usage of coal and other fossil fuels have a significantly higher rate of air pollution which causes thousands of deaths. One report estimated that 18 coal plants alone were enough to cause around 19,000 deaths in nearby regions. Wood burning is just as deadly as coal, if not more. One study earlier this year found that wood-burning accounted for the most pollution-related health issues and was responsible for €17 billion in health costs across Europe.

The tremendous impact that coal or wood burning has on people’s health means that a sharp increase in usage of it will also increase health issues. This is especially concerning for impoverished groups across Europe as they are the most likely to be affected by this issue. As prices have surged, research has found that poorer households that cannot afford energy are more likely to resort to burning coal, wood or other harmful materials.

This is especially problematic considering that poorer people are more likely to have exposure to air pollution as it is. They are more likely to live in areas with worse air quality and do not often have access to health care to treat possible health issues.

Mitigation Strategies

Despite the tremendous effects the energy crisis has had on Europe, governments are working to fight it. In October, the EU introduced a new package that is intended to lower energy costs and secure energy supplies. The package intends to impose a variety of measures that would lower costs, such as negotiating prices, establishing a dynamic price limit and working to lower demand for gas.

Many other countries have introduced similar packages, spending almost €500 billion across the continent to curb prices, lower energy taxes and provide subsidies to citizens struggling with energy costs. Both packages intend to lower the burden of energy costs on families and citizens, especially low-income citizens who tend to be affected the hardest by high prices.

The Road Ahead

The impact of the fuel crisis in Europe has been tremendous on its citizens. It has led to an increase in coal, wood burning and pollution, which has particularly affected poor citizens. It is also predicted that low-income countries and citizens will continue to see an increase in air pollution and a decrease in health. However, the proposed packages to lower energy costs could not only decrease the financial burden on citizens but decrease the need to burn wood, coal and other harmful fuels.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Europe
On October 4, 2022, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) issued a report entitled “Tackling energy poverty and the EU’s resilience: challenges from an economic and social perspective.” Indeed, within the European Union, there is a need to tackle the issue of energy poverty as winter approaches. With energy inflation reaching 40% due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, many EU households may not be able to heat their residences this winter due to increasing rates of energy poverty in Europe. The European Commission estimated in September 2022 that roughly 34 million individuals in the EU are enduring “energy poverty to varying degrees.”

EU Measures to Tackle Energy Poverty

The European Union has already adopted a few policies to fight energy poverty in Europe in the last few years. With the 2019 “clean energy for all Europeans package,” the EU is establishing key measures to counter energy poverty in Europe. The package aims to increase energy security by protecting vulnerable consumers from steep energy prices and a lack of energy resources. To achieve this, the EU aims to rely less on external energy supplies by diversifying its sources of energy supplies and increasing its investment in renewable energy sources within the EU.

When it comes to monitoring energy poverty, the EU receives reports from EU Member States on the number of people suffering from energy poverty. These reports are mandatory since the implementation of the “directive on common rules for the internal market for electricity” in 2019 and enable the EU to allocate more or less support according to the numbers.

The Energy Efficiency Directive (implemented in 2012 but amended in 2018) directs Member States to implement “a share of energy efficiency measures… as a priority in households affected by energy poverty or in social housing.” With such measures, those households would consume less energy and would pay lower energy bills.

The Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union stresses the obligation of EU Member States to each establish their own “national indicative objective” to reduce the number of households suffering from energy poverty. Then, each country must update the EU regarding progress toward this goal. In addition, Member States have to provide information on the measures and policies already implemented and future measures to address energy poverty.

Other Actions

Other than the directives and policies, the EU has other tools to help Member States fight energy poverty. The Energy Poverty Advisory Hub (EPAH) is the main EU initiative addressing energy poverty through a “collaborative network of stakeholders,” the EU website says. The EPAH builds on the energy poverty reduction work conducted by the Energy Poverty Observatory. The EPAH distributes resources to stakeholders to guide them in taking action to reduce energy poverty. This includes online courses, reports, guidebooks and technical assistance. The EPAH will run from 2021 to 2024.

Energy inflation due to the Russia-Ukraine war has increased the number of households living in energy poverty across Europe. Considering this situation, it is essential for the EU to prioritize fighting energy poverty, with a special focus on disadvantaged households. The EU is committed to energy sustainability and is taking action to achieve this.

– Evan Da Costa Marques
Photo: Flickr

Energy Crisis in Germany
Thousands of Germans have received distressing letters in the mail about expensive gas bills. With utility companies such as Vattenfall, passing on the ever-increasing costs to consumers, more and more Germans cannot pay the bills. In fact, prices have increased by more than 100% since the end of 2021. Record prices of
€0.13 ($0.13) per kilowatt hour up to €0.25 per kilowatt hour by utility giant Vattenfall have become the norm. With 55% of the natural gas, 52% of the coal and 34% of mineral oil coming from Russia, Germany is as dependent on Russia as very few other Western countries. Without many alternatives, politicians fear social unrest, rationing and deep recession should the energy crisis in Germany not be under control soon.

Russian Pressure

Even worse, higher prices aren’t the tip of the iceberg. The energy crisis in Germany, due to the Russian energy sanctions that have affected the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, is becoming more and more visible. The presidential palace is no longer lit up at night, the city of Hannover is turning off warm water in public pools and gyms and the light has been switched off for 200 tourist attractions. 

Daunting Energy Predictions for the Lower-Income Classes

Much more daunting are the consequences that the population could suffer from the already existing energy crisis in Germany as well as further energy cuts. The economic and energy minister Robert Habeck predicted “mass unemployment, poverty, people who can’t heat their homes, people who run out of petrol” if Russian oil and gas became no longer available in March 2022. The German research institute IW is in agreement with the green party and warns of energy poverty” which arises when “the share of energy bills of an individual’s net income exceeds ten percent.” This was the case for 25% of all German citizens in May 2022, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Unfortunately, these figures do not favor the lower and middle classes but divide the top and bottom even further. A middle-class family household uses 18,000-kilowatt hours of energy per year on average, which cost €1,080 ($1,099) in 2021. With the price increase, the same consumption would cost a family €3,240 — an average monthly income. Citizens from the “lower middle class” that have a net income of 60 to 80% of the median income, are twice as likely to become energy poor in 2022 as in the years before. The research institute highly recommends extended social schemes to support lower-class households with their utility bills. 

Prospects of Government Relief

So far, the German government has spent €30 billion to support citizens in paying their electricity bills since the end of 2021. Chancellor Olaf Scholz added in a recent interview that the government is not planning additional social schemes but could implement them if necessary. The government is working hard to find alternative energy solutions and to get German citizens through the winter. Yet, despite requests from the Christian democratic party to cut the Russian energy supply once and for all, the government’s hands are tied and in desperate need of alternative solutions that are universally accessible to all Germans.

– Pauline Luetzenkirchen
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Energy Poverty in Myanmar
Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar stands as one of the least developed countries and has the “lowest electrification rate” on the continent. According to the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) in 2022, “80[%]of rural people have no access to grid electricity.” Considering the importance of electricity for sustainable growth, access to electricity is vital for poverty reduction. Inadequate electrification in Myanmar is a prolonged problem, recently aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 2021 coup. Myanmar needs more sustainable approaches to reduce energy poverty in Myanmar and promote economic growth.

Overview of Energy Poverty in Myanmar

Due to the lack of access to grid electricity in the rural areas of Myanmar, most of the rural population depend on “candles, kerosene, batteries and power generators” to go about their daily activities, according to the International Trade Administration.

According to the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, approximately 26% of the population in Myanmar lived in poverty in 2020. Furthermore, poverty rates in rural areas are double that of Myanmar’s urban areas. The lack of affordable and reliable access to electricity has hindered the economic growth of these areas especially.

According to the Miller Center, “Universal access to energy [can] provide an enormous boost to economic development, job creation and infrastructure improvements, particularly in rural communities.” Myanmar has set a target to expand access to electricity to 100% by 2030. However, the February 2021 coup “has thrown Myanmar into an economic crisis and put its electrification plans in peril,” The Globe and Mail reported.

Impact of the Military Regime in Myanmar

In February 2021, General Min Aung Hlaing and his junta overthrew the democratically elected government. The military takeover has led to halted cash flows, a devaluation of the currency and increasing costs for fuel and food. In addition, citizens face blackouts and “prolonged power cuts.” Not only does this impact households but it also detrimentally impacts businesses and students’ education.

When the coup occurred, many energy sector investors retracted from projects entirely or placed projects on pause. As a result, the military-run Ministry of Electricity and Energy “struggled to operate its infrastructure, honor contractual obligations, cover costs or follow through on projects,” The Globe and Mail reported.

The International Trade Administration confirmed this, stating that “Energy projects approved before the military takeover have been suspended due to the political and economic turmoil in the country.” As such, Myanmar is in dire need of foreign funding and investment in the power sector.

Actions to Address Energy Poverty in Myanmar

According to the Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP), the annual demand for power in Myanmar is rising annually from 15% to 17%. With the goal of providing “nationwide electricity access by the year 2030,” the government of Myanmar is planning to introduce a sustainable energy mix of “hydropower, natural gas, coal and renewable energy” to supply electricity to about 10 million homes in Myanmar under the National Electrification Plan (NEP).

Because of numerous electricity blackouts due to power decline since early 2022, the energy ministry in Myanmar started to focus on “damage control” and “attracting new foreign investment.”

In fact, Myanmar has an abundance of renewable energy resources to meet its energy needs. For instance, from 2016 to 2020, under the NEP plan, the Department of Rural Development (DRD) implemented “off-grid electrification” by using mini-grids and solar systems in rural communities. More than 430,000 households in 8,568 rural villages received these benefits, which provided electrical access to more than 2.1 million people. This success has encouraged Myanmar to expand off-grid renewable systems.

Nevertheless, political and economic turmoil under the military regime in Myanmar is causing power outages that directly impact the population, especially in rural areas. Also, “unsettled political and economic policies, unclear rules and guidelines and a shortage of skilled labor” as well as “corruption, lack of transparency in the tender and procurement process and banking issues” pose barriers for potential investors, the International Trade Administration said.

More investment in off-grid renewable energy sources can increase the accessibility of electricity in Myanmar. Because the national grid infrastructure in Myanmar is not well established, rural communities will benefit from the development of renewable mini-grids. The development of further off-grid renewable electrification systems will decrease energy poverty in Myanmar.

– Youngwook Chun
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Turkey
Turkey has a population of more than 85 million people which projections have determined will grow significantly over the next 50 years. Turkey is currently experiencing rapid growth in energy demand due to an increase in domestic power consumption. In order to meet energy demand, the Turkish government has prioritized the adoption of renewable energy goals. In an effort to strengthen energy security, the country is taking action to increase renewable energy in Turkey and prioritize clean energy sources such as solar power and wind energy.

Moving Away From Imports

Despite having its own deposits of oil and natural gas, Turkey sources more than 74% of its energy from imports. Local oil production in Turkey meets only 7% of its growing energy demand, which causes the nation to rely heavily upon foreign sources of oil.

In order to combat the high cost of imports, the Turkish government has made energy security and energy diversification a top priority. The country’s first nuclear power plant should open in 2023, and the government has laid forth additional plans to expand its energy sector to prioritize clean energy sources. Sustainable development will help transition the country away from its dependence on Russian oil imports, which have become more costly following United States sanctions against Russia.

Energy Poverty in Turkey

Affordable access to energy is an important part of economic and social development. Sufficient access to electricity in Turkey will help eradicate poverty within the country by ensuring its people will have access to an overall higher quality of education, food security and overall well-being. Recent data suggests that about one-quarter of households in Turkey are energy poor and nearly half of households in Turkey are at risk of facing energy poverty. Expanding renewable energy in Turkey will help these people by making consumer energy prices more affordable. Affordable electricity prices will lead to greater inclusivity for the country’s poor, placing less strain on low-income households.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

In October 2021, the Turkish Parliament became part of the Paris climate agreement, aiming to reach a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2053. Turkey has substantial reserves of renewable energy resources which have the capacity to sustain its projected economic growth and future population increases. Turkey is a suitable country for solar and wind power generation due to its mild climate and expansive coastline. Additionally, its mountainous landscape boasts many rivers, which provide the country with suitable locations for hydroelectric dams.

In 2021, Turkey invested $1 billion into increasing the country’s capacity for wind turbines. Wind and solar power plants saved the country $700 million worth of imports over the last 12 months.

A transition to fully utilize Turkey’s clean energy sources will solidify the country’s energy independence and meet its growing demand for electricity. Turkey’s investments in renewable energy continue to save the country millions of euros each month. By increasing its reliance on renewable power generation, the country is reducing its carbon footprint and preparing for a net zero emissions economy.

The Benefits

Turkey’s economy would likely benefit from clean energy expansion by attracting new renewable energy investments and eliminating its costly reliance on nonrenewable imports. The country is close in proximity to Europe, which has been facing multiple disruptions related to its energy supply in recent years. Turkey has the potential to profit from future renewable energy exports to Europe and other regions. By diversifying its energy sector, the country can boost economic development by creating new jobs in manufacturing, installation and other outlets.

The financial benefits of renewable energy in Turkey should bolster economic growth and increase clean energy government incentives. The country aims to continue its investment in sustainable infrastructure, which should increase access to affordable energy. By driving down costs and increasing accessibility, clean energy could help alleviate energy poverty in Turkey. By strengthening the country in these ways, renewable energy in Turkey should help the country sustain long-term economic advantages and increase the quality of life for its people.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Unsplash