Global Energy Poverty
Around 840 million people around the world have no access to electricity. Global energy poverty is prevalent with most living in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is twice as high.

Energy poverty or the lack of access to modern energy services, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, at the current rate of progress, 650 million people will still live in the dark. Microgrids have the potential to improve that course and eliminate global energy poverty.

What are Microgrids?

Microgrids or mini-grids are small, localized power grids. They can operate on their own using local energy generation without needing a connection to a larger power grid. Renewable resources power most along with diesel back-up and batteries.

Microgrids can power fridges, fans, irrigation pumps and other basic machinery. With microgrid energy, families can power appliances that save time on household chores, farmers can increase crop yield with irrigation and schools can light their classrooms.

Benefits of Microgrids

With low costs and high yields, microgrids could end global poverty. The price of batteries, solar and other energy technologies has been decreasing since 2010, in turn reducing the cost of microgrids. The International Energy Agency named localized power grids as the most cost-effective option to deliver electricity to more than 70 percent of the unconnected. Continued innovation will further drive cost reduction.

Microgrids are also modular, easy to transport and simple to install. This makes them especially valuable in remote and rural areas.

Use of Microgrids

In India and Sub-Saharan Africa, microgrids are already electrifying and transforming communities. SmartPower India, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, has used microgrids to power more than 100 villages and serve 40,000 people. Since the project launched in 2015, carpenters and tailors have more than doubled their productivity, farmers have built cold storage facilities to keep produce and entrepreneurs have opened small businesses. Local economies grew by $18.50 per capita.

In Kenya, a solar company is using microgrids to deliver power to villages deep in the African bush. SteamaCo’s microgrids supply 10,000 households and businesses across 25 villages with electricity. This has allowed for businesses to trade longer, students to study after dark and communities to grow more independent.

A lack of access to modern, reliable and affordable energy services hinders communities and cripples economies. It is time to turn the light on for the billions of people without access to electricity. Microgrids could end global energy poverty.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Vietnam's Economic Development Costs
Once one of the world’s poorest nations, Vietnam is now gaining global attention for having one of the fastest-growing economies, subsequently lifting millions out of poverty. From a country where most of the people rely solely on rudimentary agricultural production to secure livelihood and use the majority of lands for farming, Vietnam is now undergoing a process of rapid industrialization and urbanization. It is at the crucial stage of transition from poverty to prosperity, allowing many to enjoy higher standards of living than ever before. However, the nation is paying tremendously for Vietnam’s economic development costs from rapid economic growth. The surging energy consumption, pollution from industrialization and urbanization process and the nonrestrictive environmental legislation are taking tolls on the environment and the natural assets of Vietnam.

Energy Consumption

The demand for energy is surging in response to the massive economic growth of Vietnam, impacting Vietnam’s economic development costs. Energy consumption in Vietnam tripled just over the past decade and many anticipate that the demand will increase by 8 percent annually until 2035. To meet the increasing energy demand, Vietnam is relying substantially on coal for energy supply due to its affordability. The coal share of the total energy supply grew from 14 percent to 35 percent in 15 years. Currently, 20 coal-fired plants are in Vietnam and the government plans to increase the number of coal plants to 51 by 2050. Vietnam’s dependence on coal is raising concerns as it is seriously harming the environment and public health. A study revealed that existing coal plants can cause as many as 25,000 premature deaths annually.

Facing a rapid rise in pollution, Vietnam is making great efforts in developing renewable sources of energy such as hydropower, solar and wind energy as alternatives to coal. Vietnam’s energy plans now include a renewable energy development strategy. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently offered incentives for renewable energy by paying solar projects between 6.67 and 10.87 cents per kWh.

A report in 2017 suggests that renewable energy could generate 100 percent of Vietnam’s power by 2050. However, in the short-term, it is difficult for other renewable energy to challenge coal as the main supplier of energy. Coal is still the most affordable option available at the moment for Vietnam to meet its surging energy demand.

Water and Air Pollution

The country’s industrial production has grown 15 percent annually in the last decade. However, rapid industrialization is polluting Vietnam’s water sources and air. Only 25 percent of industrial wastewater receives treatment, while the rest, estimated at 240,000 cubic meters of wastewater daily, discharges directly into lakes and rivers without treatment. The quality of air in urban areas is also deteriorating severely in recent years as a result of traffic and industrial activities. A report in 2013 showed that Hanoi’s air pollution received grades from unhealthy to hazardous for more than 265 days of the year. The level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration was 1.3 times above the permitted levels in Hanoi, and twice the permitted levels in Ho Chi Minh City. This is detrimental to the public, especially children and the elderly.

The government and communities have started to pay more attention to addressing industrial pollution. Customers and associates are boycotting violating manufactures. Banks are also adjusting policies to avoid those clients on the environment blacklist, making it more difficult for those companies to access funding. The Vietnamese government has drafted a National Action Plan on Air Quality Management for the period of 2020 to 2025, including the plan to reduce 20 percent of NOx, Sox and particulate matter emitted by chemicals, fertilizer and petroleum production facilities. It is also drafting a separate National Technical Regulation on Emissions for the Steel Industry and the Environmental Law that includes air quality management requirements.

Vietnam’s Reforms

Vietnam has been pursuing reforms and investments to promote green growth and sustainable development with the support of the World Bank. Many projects have achieved notable results in promoting this sustainability agenda and mitigating the high environmental cost of Vietnam’s rapid economic growth. The Vietnam Renewable Energy Development Project has successfully expanded the usage of renewable energy, generating nearly 10 percent of Vietnam’s power. The Vietnam Industrial Pollution Management Project has significantly improved compliance with wastewater treatment regulations in four industrial zones in Vietnam. The percentage of industrial zones compliant with wastewater treatment regulations grew from less than 30 percent to 72 percent between 2012 and 2018.

This information about Vietnam’s economic development costs shows that despite many challenges still facing the country, the government is taking great strides to promote sustainable development with attention to ecological conservation. Raising public awareness and support for environmental conservation while strengthening the capacity for environmental development planning through legislation and investment is crucial in this stage of Vietnam’s economic development.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

 

European Energy Security
H.R. 1616, The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019, is a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to incentivize and assist European and Eurasian countries to develop and utilize diverse energy sources. H.R. 1616, that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced and nine other Representatives co-sponsored, focuses on European energy security that will incentivize American investment into European and Eurasian energy infrastructure and energy markets. According to the European Commission, European energy access is a problem for many Europeans.

The European Commission estimates that between 50 and 125 million people (at the highest estimation, 17 percent of the European population) in Europe are unable to afford the energy necessary for proper indoor thermal heating. H.R. 1616 would directly benefit these individuals, the energy poor, because of the introduction of more cost-effective energy infrastructure, an increase in accessibility in the energy markets.

European Energy Security

The Council of European Development Bank reports that energy poverty is a result of poor energy infrastructure and of the inaccessibility to energy markets. Because the majority of energy insecure homes are already poor, the lack of access to energy compounds the effects of poverty. The choice between energy and food, for instance, is a common choice for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In Europe particularly, the lack of energy infrastructure across borders is detrimental; 85 percent of those who are energy insecure live in 10 of the 32 European states. Meanwhile, natural gas is 20 percent of the energy in Europe and coal makes up 20 percent of European energy markets. Both are inefficient and the grid infrastructure makes gas and coal inaccessible.

H.R. 1616 Policy Goals and Income

H.R. 1616 would increase access to energy markets by funding the transition away from natural gas and coal through aid, increasing European access to the American energy market and funding accessible infrastructure. The bill also allocates $579.5 million to help properly create supply routes throughout Europe, and between European states, which would ensure rural access to energy. H.R. 1616 would also negotiate cross-border energy infrastructure, including negotiating environmental standards and the accessibility of an array of energy sources.

The E.U. has been diversifying some forms of energy in the status quo by increasing energy production in the Baltics on the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. However, Europe would be unable to sustain the diversification of energy on its own due to current regulatory restrictions that the U.S. put in place, as well as the economic barrier of opening new markets. H.R. 1616 would raise the regulatory restrictions and fund the new markets, allowing for Europe to continue to decrease energy insecurity in its states. 

A Lasting Effect

H.R. 1616 will decrease energy insecurity in Europe, alleviating the effects of poverty in the lowest echelons of society, and fund the transition away from unsuccessful forms of energy production. The infrastructure that H.R. 1616 would build would increase access to energy and allow cross-border energy trade, making sure that poor states have access to energy. The current European trend of diversifying energy would continue, ensuring European energy security and diversification. The House passed the bill, and the Senate has read it and referred it to the Committee on Foreign Relations for further review.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Energy in PeruAccess to electricity is oftentimes the precursor to further development of a region or country. Without electricity, there can be no significant upgrades in sanitation, health care, education, productivity, cooking, modern technology and internet access. Many of the sectors listed require development; however, much of Peru does not have access to these modern standards. As a result, Peru has begun to critically focus on energy accessibility in recent years.

Energy Access in Peru

The population percentage that has access to energy in Peru has increased from around 65 percent of people in 1992 to 95 percent in 2015. Much of the increase has come from Peru’s transition to mixing its energy sector with crude oil and natural gas thermal plants. Previously, Peru operated mainly on domestic hydropower plants.

Peru’s natural gas reserves primarily come from domestic sources. This includes sources such as the Camisea field and imports from Ecuador since the Andes have gas in abundance. Following natural gas, Peru’s oil sector is largely reliant on U.S. imports. From 2008 to 2014, the amount of crude oil imported from the U.S. has increased threefold.

Problems with Energy in Peru

Transitioning to a greater fossil fuel dependence is harmful to the environment; however, it has given the Peruvian population better access to electricity and has made energy in Peru much cheaper. Currently, the average price of electricity in Peru is around $13.4 c/kWh. Comparatively, the average price of electricity in the U.S. is about $13.19 c/kWh. Theoretically, once people have better access to electricity, their quality of life will improve. Additionally, incomes should increase, as well as further infrastructure development with greater energy access.

The biggest disparity of energy access is prevalent in the same regions with the biggest wealth disparities: rural areas. Only about 76 percent of those who live in the Peruvian countryside have access to electricity, as compared to 100 percent of those who live in cities. While 24 percent may not seem like a large number, this equates to about 1.6 million people that are still without electricity in rural areas.

Energy Improvement Initiatives

This does not mean that Peru is doing nothing to address the energy situation in rural areas. One such infrastructure overhaul initiative is the Peru Second Rural Electrification Project (RE2). This project follows up on RE1, which had already contributed to the increased regulation of the energy sector. RE1’s efforts also allowed for much more stable electricity access in rural communities. This was done through subsidizing solar home energy systems (SHS) and through developing online resources for private energy sources in order to more efficiently manage energy consumption.

RE2 expanded on RE1’s plan to increase physical electricity connections and promote self-sufficient energy sources like SHS’s. This is in addition to totally upgrading the Peruvian rural energy structure to grid extension and off-grid solar extensions. Ultimately, the plan brought electricity to more than 160,000 new people with roughly 48,000 of these people using SHS’s. The project, funded through the Peruvian government, loans/grants from NGOs and a $50 million loan from the World Bank, also takes the socioeconomic impact of increased electrification into account. Through the project’s provisions, those who have never used electricity in an extended manner before were educated on safe electricity use and how to limit consumption. In addition, 12,300 training kits were distributed to rural communities that have new access to electricity.

Future Access

Through efforts from the Peruvian government and international organizations, energy access in Peru has continued to improve over the past three decades. Not only is electricity more easily accessible for Peruvians, but it is also cheap enough to adequately distribute. By properly educating the rural population on the safe use of electricity, Peru has also better ensured a low level of electrical accidents. In this way, Peru is doing all the right things to facilitate a quicker, safe and ethical development of its rural communities that will ensure a better future for all Peruvians.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Growing Energy Sector
Zambia is improving livelihoods, especially for those residing in rural areas without electricity access, through investing in its growing green energy sector. About 70 percent of the population—more than eight million Zambians—lack electricity and could benefit from clean, affordable and reliable power. Electricity access in rural regions is less than 10 percent. Zambia is changing that statistic by focusing on providing affordable and widespread green energy to the nation. Zambia is currently one of the top 10 producers in hydroelectric power, but it is currently focused on diversifying into underappreciated areas within Zambia’s growing energy sector.

Green Energy Developments

The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) emerged in 2016. Sweden funded the BGFZ and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) manages it. The aim is to provide affordable and clean sustainable energy to Zambia. The program works with the government to provide power for rural areas. As of 2019, more than 100,000 households, reaching 500,000 Zambians, received power as part of the program.

The program’s goal is to reach 1.6 million Zambians by 2021. BGFZ and its partners have created more than 1,100 jobs, about 2.3 MW of energy and affected more than 1,400 businesses. According to a study on the BGFZ program’s impact on the population, more than 25 percent have opened new income streams thanks to electricity access. Also, 87 percent of people in the survey stated that they spend less on lighting and power. Participants in the study mentioned that not having to use candles also alleviates potential fire hazards and helps them feel more at ease with children at home.

Enel Green Power, a renewable energy business, will build Zambia’s first power plant as part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program. It will be a 34 MW solar PV plant in Ngonye and is part of Zambia’s goal of diversifying its energy sector and providing power to the entire population. Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) carries out the project. Enel owns about 80 percent of the project and the IDC owns 20 percent.

“With the connection to the grid of Ngonye in Zambia, we are reconfirming our commitment to helping the country leverage on its vast wealth of renewable resources, which poses a great opportunity for growth,” said Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Green Power. The facility should generate 70 GWh once complete.

Widespread Impact of Power

Electricity provides much more than a simple electric light in a room. It enables schools to use the technology they could not utilize without power. Computers, calculators and lights to illuminate a chalkboard are all benefits that appear simple but are important in educating and developing a country. Educating a country is yet another way of reducing poverty, yet that is hard to achieve without electricity, whether from green sources or traditional sources.

Health care is another area that Zambia’s growing energy sector impacts. Equipment, such as x-ray machines, requires some sort of power and providing electricity to almost 70 percent would affect more than 8 million Zambians. An important and basic aspect of developing a country is electricity access, as an economy cannot thrive without a widespread and reliable power source. Zambia understands that developing the energy sector, particularly green technology, is the first step to not only sustainable energy and economic development, but also the health of its people.

Outlook

Zambia’s growing energy sector is improving thanks to involvement from businesses, the government and the World Bank. One of Zambia’s largest food suppliers is constructing an approximately $42 million 50 MW solar farm, demonstrating that major businesses are also transitioning into affordable and sustainable energy sources. Zambia’s impact on providing electricity to its people has only begun in recent years, yet its progress shows promise in helping to develop the economy through increasing electricity access.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Energy Use in Sub-Saharan Africa

Energy demand is estimated to increase by 85 percent in Africa between 2010 and 2040. To compensate for growing infrastructure and population, the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly energy sources are in high demand as well. Countries within sub-Saharan Africa have taken numerous measures to improve affordable living through receiving aid and implementing programs to promote efficient energy use. However, challenges hinder the implementation of efficient energy use in these countries. For example, the trained workforce that could take on massive energy projects is very small. There is also very minimal awareness of the benefits of efficient energy use so many people prefer to stick to traditional sources. Governments and global organizations are combating these challenges as they work to advance energy efficiency and indirectly reduce poverty and over-spending in sub-Saharan Africa.

Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Training Week

The International Energy Agency and the Department of Energy of South Africa hosted the very first Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies (E4) Training Week for sub-Saharan Africa in Pretoria, South Africa from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17, 2019. The objective of the training was to educate junior policymakers from all over sub-Saharan Africa to model future politicians into environmental activists. The week included courses on the ability of energy-efficient sources to reduce extra expenses and, therefore, improve living conditions. The courses taught participants about energy efficiency policy in buildings, appliances, equipment, industry, cities and indicators and evaluation. E4 Training Week also made a key point to encourage women to apply for the program.

Numerous organizations supported the E4 Training Week, including Global Environment Fund (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) and SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project

The World Bank’s Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project (PEDASB) worked to install a 52-kilowatt plant in Zantiébougou, south of Bamako in the Sikasso region. The plant has provided electricity to 765 people and allows women to carry out other economic activities and trades as they are no longer concerned about gathering fuel, such as wood. PEDASB also implemented a hybrid electricity system that combines solar photovoltaic and diesel power in Niena. The system improved the quality of health care in local clinics and increased school performance in students. This energy sector as a whole is contributing to the economy of sub-Saharan Africa and increasing the wealth of its people.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Ethiopia’s government is taking the initiative to improve efficient energy use. Through a collaboration with the World Bank Project, the Ethiopian government introduced compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which help rural families save money. 80 fewer megawatts of electricity is used by distributing 2.5 million CFL bulbs, which quantifies as $100 million saved. Through a $4 million investment, 5 million CFL bulbs were distributed all over the country. Households under the poverty line were able to reduce their energy usage by 55 percent which significantly cut utility costs for families. Beyond lightbulbs, 2.5 million efficient cookstoves were distributed in Ethiopia, reducing 40 to 60 percent of wood fuel. This not only helps the environment but also boosts families’ lifestyles all over the country.

The Electrify Africa Act

In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Electrify Africa Act (S.2152) into law. The Electrify Africa Act ensures that the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative remains in effect, providing millions of sub-Saharan Africans with access to electricity which in turn, increases economic growth and development.

So far, the Electrify Africa Act is a great success. As of January 2019, Power Africa, with the support of the Electrify Africa Act, achieved the following results in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 20.5 billion invested in Power Africa transactions
  • 58,552,435 beneficiaries gaining access to electricity
  • 10,095 megawatts (MW) reaching financial close
  • 2,652 MW moved from financial close to operation

In conclusion, sub-Saharan countries are breaking the cycle of poverty through creatively implementing efficient energy sources. From educating young policymakers to governments distributing free equipment and implementing laws, numerous countries are able to benefit from efficient energy use in sub-Saharan Africa.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

 

Air Pollution in Nigeria
Nigeria has the largest number of deaths due to air pollution in Africa, while the country ranks fourth for air pollution across the globe. Statistics indicate that in 2016, 150 fatalities occurred per 100,000 people as a result of this environmental issue. The State of the Global Air Report that the Health Effects Institute (HEI) published determined that Nigeria’s air quality is amidst the most lethal worldwide. Atmospheric threats such as generator fumes, automobile emissions and crop burning cause air pollution.

In 2016, The HEI indicated that industrialized countries like Russia and Germany have reported lower death rates than Nigeria with 62 and 22 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reported much higher rates with 406, 207 and 195 deaths per 100,000 people.

Causes of Air Pollution in Nigeria

Air pollution emits through generator fumes which produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Automobiles with older engines are also likely to emit unhealthy fumes into the atmosphere. In households, kerosene stoves produce flames that contribute to the poor air ventilation. The nation creates over 3 million tons of waste yearly and most Nigerians burn their waste in their neighborhoods rather than discarding it, contributing more pollution to the atmosphere. Another aspect that contributes to the air pollution crisis in Nigeria is the use of firewood and coal to cook.

Additionally, indoor air pollution in Nigeria is also a big issue, as the amount of fine particulate matter levels in many households surpass air quality guidelines by 20 times. In 2012, according to the WHO, Lagos, Nigeria experienced nearly 7 million deaths caused by indoor and outdoor air contamination.

Air contamination across the African continent kills over 700,000 people annually; more people die from air pollution than unsanitary hygiene practices and undernourishment. Casualties as a result of the air pollution crisis in Nigeria has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 30 years. Nigeria has some of the highest rates of unhealthy air quality across the African continent. Overall, Nigerian cities contain the most unhealthy air quality with 10 urban areas being classified on a list of 30 cities in Africa with the most unhealthy air quality.

The Effects of Air Pollution in Nigeria

While developed countries have effective solutions in place to handle air pollution, underdeveloped countries are struggling to handle this environmental issue. Some countries have begun taking appropriate measures to handle it, though. As a result, the number of people exposed to air pollution has decreased from 3.5 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion in 2016.

The report also indicated that 95 percent of the globe’s citizens are intaking polluted air. In 2016, extended subjection to air pollution contributed to roughly 6 million deaths, all resulting from diseases such as strokes, lung disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks. Air pollution is one of the top leading causes of fatalities, particularly in underdeveloped countries, even after smoking, increased blood pressure and unhealthy diets. Exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of developing cancer.

Solutions to the Air Pollution Crisis

In order to effectively handle the air pollution crisis in Nigeria, it is important for the country to provide regular inspections of automobiles to ensure that older cars are not releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also integral that Nigeria removes cars from the road that are toxic to the environment.

The implementation of efficient electric energy will help decrease the need for generators, which produces unhealthy air pollution in households and work environments. However, Nigeria does have access to sustainable energy resources that are capable of providing power to its citizens. These methods are safer for the environment and the usage of them decreases the use of gasoline-powered generators, thus decreasing pollution.

Nigerians can reduce air pollution in the household by substituting fuelwood for biogas, which is a form of biofuel that is instinctively manufactured from the decay of natural waste. Biogas will provide sustainable options for preparing food and heating the household while eliminating air pollution both inside the household and the outside environment.

In terms of trash disposal, recycling methods will be helpful to make certain that people are not burning waste. Additionally, daily waste removal from households will also help to properly dispose of trash, which reduces the fragmentation of waste and prevents odors that contribute to air pollution.

Additionally, factories that are within metropolitan areas follow guidelines regarding sustainable practices in order to decrease air pollution in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) monitors operations to ensure that these work environments are abiding by the pollution proclamations.

In conclusion, the execution of environmentally friendly practices in Nigeria will help decrease the air pollution crisis in Nigeria that is present in households, businesses and the outside environment. In order for the elimination of air pollution to be effective, the country must pursue the regulations for all Nigerians.

Additionally, it is necessary to inform communities regarding the sources and consequences of air pollution in order for them to effectively take action in decreasing the issue. Furthermore, those that become more knowledgeable of the issue are then able to educate others and persuade the Nigerian government to continue to enforce legislation against air pollution.

Diana Dopheide
Photo: Wikipedia

Four Tech Investments
Technology advances at a blinding rate with new innovations popping up every day. People can use these new technologies to make life easier, save lives, entertain the masses in new, creative ways and serve countless other purposes. In this age of technology and instant access to information, a consumer will find dozens of different companies vying for their money with thousands of different advertisements, promising new features and faster internet. If a consumer investigates further, they will find people around the world using the bleeding edge of technology to reduce poverty by increasing access to medical facilities, providing more energy to those in need, aiding struggling farmers and innovating on the use of technology in the classroom. Here are four tech investments to lower poverty.

4 Tech Investments to Lower Poverty

  1. TEAMFund: The organization Transforming Equity and Access for MedTech (TEAMFund) invests in companies that can increase medical access in impoverished areas. TEAMFund usually invests in companies that specialize in digital health or artificial intelligence in hopes that these innovations will help with the shortages of doctors and other health care specialists. Some investments that TEAMFund has previously selected include Forus Health, an Indian organization dedicated to using technology to lower cases of preventable blindness, and digital ophthalmology, the use of technology to prevent diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. On September 18, 2019, TEAMFund closed a budget of $30 million to invest in low-income areas. As TEAMFund invests this money, many of those in impoverished areas will feel the benefits of easy medical access.
  2. The Rockefeller Foundation: Energy poverty is also a major problem around the world. Many developing nations do not have electricity with almost a billion people worldwide lacking the ability to live in comfortable temperatures or store food for long periods. On September 12, 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This commission will explore the many sources of electricity, including microgrids to provide total energy access by 2030. One method it will use to achieve this goal is setting up solar microgrids in developing countries around sub-Saharan Africa, as suggested by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
  3. BICSA: Agriculture is a necessary gamble in any community. Long droughts could cause the loss of fields of crops, and without them, people could starve. Currently, no risk is greater than planting crops in India. Many farmers in India rely on monsoon rains to feed their crops, but the rains have been patchy and unpredictable recently, raining 35 percent below the predicted amount. Luckily, organizations like the International Water Management Institute and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have combined their strength and formed the Bundled Solutions of Index Insurance with Climate Information and Seed Systems to Manage Agricultural Risks (BICSA). This organization will work with the farmers of India and try many different strategies to avoid massive crop loss and protect farmers from bankruptcy. BICSA claims that they will provide services like drought or flood insurance, more seed varieties, new methods to forecast the weather and different farming practices that suit the climate better.
  4. Education Technology: Education is arguably the most important factor in a developing country. Nevertheless, over 260 million children worldwide do not receive an education. Education Technology (EdTech) companies dedicate their resources to providing more access to quality education. They achieve this goal by teaching programming to young students, providing online college courses to those who cannot afford them, teaching foreign languages and much more in places like Nigeria and Kenya. These EdTech companies, like Andela, Coursera and Kramer have been receiving record-breaking investments in recent years. In 2018, EdTech companies received over $16.3 billion in funding from countries like the United States and China. As these companies grow and reach more people, the world should crawl closer to the total education of the entire world.

The use of technology to reduce poverty brings an age-old problem into the modern world. These four tech investments will not eradicate poverty overnight, but they show that the superpowers of the world are willing to give more for the benefit of the world’s poor. With easier access to medical facilities, energy, agriculture and education through technology, countries with a large poverty rate could move forward on the path to a developed, flourishing society, strengthening the global economy with their commerce and aiding other countries that require assistance.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Making Solar Power BetterSolar energy gives the old adage “make hay while the sun shines” a whole new meaning. Solar panels generate 227 gigawatts of energy world-wide. For reference, one single gigawatt can realistically power 300,000 first-world homes.

While a great option for anyone, alternative energy sources are especially important for people in poverty. In undeveloped areas, electricity is up to five times more expensive per kilowatt hour. The cost is higher due to infrastructure problems. The price of expanding the electrical grid in largely remote areas is often limiting, which encourages people to use fossil fuels instead. Kerosene, diesel and coal, the most common fuel sources, pose serious health and environmental risks.

Solar power is easier to install and is safer to use. Unlike wind and geothermal power, it is fit for use in essentially every climate that humans can inhabit. Reliable electricity allows impoverished areas to leap closer towards development. People can power cellphones, radios and televisions; refrigerate food, medicines and vaccines; turn on the lights; pump and clean drinking water; cook; irrigate crops and more.

While the safety and convenience of solar power are wonderful, its contributions to peoples’ lifestyles are what truly make the difference against poverty. Students who can study at night with the help of lightbulbs learn more and perform better in school. People with electronic devices can access the internet and its infinite resources. Refrigeration allows for food to keep longer and can help preserve medications for easier dispersal when they are needed.

Current Problems with Solar Power

For all of solar power’s benefits, there are still some glaring inefficiencies. While this renewable energy is cheaper in the long-run, upfront costs can be staggeringly high for people living in poverty. While dozens of outreach groups are working hard to provide help where it is needed most, it is still a hard technology to access.

Additionally, solar panels don’t always work at maximum efficiency. They generally use one of three types of semiconducting materials: monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film. Their compositions differ, and though there are nuances to the use of each type, the options simplify to this: higher efficiency panels use the more expensive materials.

Lastly, traditional solar panels simply can’t work at night. With no radiation from the sun, there is nothing to convert into useful electricity. That means that individuals who use solar power at night must ration what they could generate during the day. Multiple days with little sunlight could also make a negative impact on overall energy stores.

Ways to Improve Solar Power

Fortunately, there are many people who continue to see the benefits of this technology and who are making solar power better.

A study released in early 2019 outlined a “material defect” in solar cells’ silicon that they named “Light Induced Degradation.” Solar cells used to have a 2 percent drop in efficiency from the first hours of use, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists identified the defect, caused by an interruption in the flow of electrons and are now working to fix it. Other researchers are seeking brand-new materials for use in solar cells, including “perovskites,” which are man-made crystalline structures.

Other scientists are striving to do the improbable: make solar panels that work in darkness. Researchers at Curtin University conceptualized a “thermal battery” made of a metal carbonate and gas storage vessel. When solar radiation stops, at night or in cloudy conditions, the gas is released from storage. It gets absorbed by the carbonate, producing more heat, which is then generated into electricity.

There are also changes on a societal level. For families that can’t afford to install their own solar panels, some communities offer alternative programs. Students can charge a battery using their school’s equipment during the school day, which is used to power lanterns when they get home.

More than 12 percent of the world still has no access to electricity. With the help of this complex technology and all of the people who are making solar power better, those without electricity can soon have a brighter tomorrow.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland
Iceland, one of the healthiest European countries, lies between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Icelanders tend to outlive people from other richer, warmer and more educated countries. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland that determine what factors may help Icelanders live longer lives.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland

  1. On average, males and females in Iceland have a life expectancy at birth of 81 and 84 years respectively. Life expectancy increased from a combined national average of 78.8 years in 1994 to a combined national average of 82.4 years in 2016.
  2. Iceland has one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. The average mortality rate is 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants and the infant mortality rate is 2.7 per 1,000 live births, both below the European average of 10.2 and four. Not only do children under the age of five have better survival rates, but they also have a better chance of growing into healthier adults.
  3. Compared to the OECD average of 3.4 and three per 1,000 population, Iceland has a higher number of doctors and nurses with 3.8 doctors and 15.5 nurses per 1,000. A higher proportion of medical practitioners is a reflection of Iceland’s well-performing health care system.
  4. The health expenditure in Iceland picked up in 2012 after a dip following the 2008 financial crisis. The expenditure of $4,376 per capita is higher than the OECD average of $3,854 and accounts for 8.7 percent of its GDP. It has universal health care, 85 percent Icelanders pay through taxes. Private insurance is almost absent. This shows that health care is affordable and accessible in Iceland.
  5. The diet of the Icelandic people contains more fish and less meat. Fish is more beneficial for heart health due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthier diet choices could be one factor that helps Icelandic people live longer.
  6. Research shows that the environment is a major determinant of health, and therefore, longevity. Iceland boasts clean air and water. Its dependence on geothermal resources for energy instead of fossil fuels ensures an unpolluted environment. Further, natural hot springs occur all across the country. The cleaner and colder environment protects people from many communicable and infectious diseases which may help them live longer and healthier lives.
  7. Iceland is the eighth-most urban country in the world. Ninety-four percent of its population lives in urban areas and cities with access to basic amenities like electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Life expectancy for a country increases with an increase in urbanization.
  8. Good genetics may have played a role in higher life expectancy of Icelanders. Studies showed that those above 90 years of age share more similar genes compared to control groups. One possible explanation could be the harsh environmental conditions that Icelanders faced historically, which filtered their genes so that they would pass on the ones that helped them survive.
  9. Despite the harsh weather conditions, Icelanders have higher physical activity when compared to other European nations. Almost 60 percent of the Icelandic people perform some form of exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Icelandic people like to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing.
  10. Iceland has the lowest proportion of substance abusers among all European countries. It reduced its percentage of drug users from 42 percent in 1998 to five percent in 2016. By imposing curfews and keeping teens busy in sports and activities, Iceland was able to divert them from drugs towards healthy habits. This is an important factor when considering the life expectancy of a nation. People do not tend to die from drug-overdose and they also live healthier and economically stable lives.

Icelanders show that lifestyle can have a major effect on how long people live. Both the Icelandic people and their government made efforts to improve their health statistics by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and drugs and increasing physical activity. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland are full of lessons that people of other nations can learn and apply as successful health interventions.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr