Energy Crisis In South AfricaThe energy crisis in South Africa materializes as ongoing rolling blackouts, also known as loadshedding, which has led to crippling economic impacts. The energy crisis has resulted in the loss of jobs and disruption to businesses, leading to a diminished economy and reduced investments in South Africa. Relying heavily on imported electricity has made energy distribution expensive, economically unsustainable and unreliable. 

Loadshedding

The government began implementing loadshedding in 2007 in order to prevent total nationwide blackouts and reduce the strain on the national electricity grid. These rolling blackouts still continue today as the energy crisis in South Africa has only worsened. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated in February 2023, “We are therefore declaring a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effect.” Loadshedding refers to the deliberate and controlled process of cutting power for specific periods of time with the aim of conserving energy when the demand for energy exceeds the levels of supply.

Eskom, the current state-owned power company, faces a myriad of challenges that have impacted its operations. The company has liabilities of $26 billion as of February 2022 and relies on outdated infrastructure. Malfunctioning power stations compromise Eskom’s ability to deliver reliable energy supplies. Adding to this, strikes by Eskom workers demanding higher pay exacerbate an already precarious situation.

Government Debt Relief for Eskom

In South Africa, the economy grew 0.4% at the start of 2023; the low rate reflects the impact of the energy crisis on the economy. Crippling power cuts have been a key chess piece in the country’s weak economic performance. However, in February 2023 the government of South Africa vowed to take on the growing debt of Eskom, with a debt relief package of R254 billion over three years. The debt relief will allow the state-owned enterprise to prioritize expanding the national energy grid through renewable energy plants. This is a long-term investment to stabilize the country’s power grid. Though the debt relief will not end the power cuts short term, this commitment will help put South Africa on the path to energy stability and sustainability.

Potential Solutions and Solar Energy

Solutions to the energy crisis are complex and come with extensive challenges. As South Africa heavily depends on coal for power generation, the nation stands as the 12th largest carbon-emitting country, according to Reuters. South Africa is looking to increase its renewable energy capacity, especially through greater reliance on solar energy and is looking to China for technology and equipment in this regard. Reuters reports, “The country has up to 66 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar projects in the pipeline… more than 5,500 megawatts (MW) out of this would come online by 2026.”

The energy crisis in South Africa has affected the economy and the lives of civilians, plunging many into poverty and debt. Moreover, blackouts impact daily life in several areas and impede productivity. While there is no quick-fix solution to the energy challenges in South Africa, the South African government’s implementation of debt relief for Eskom will reduce the economic strain on Eskom and will allow Eskom to prioritize new infrastructure and increase renewable energy sources. With a more stable electricity grid, South Africa could see poverty declining and the economy growing more significantly.

– April Plenderleith
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Rural Chile
Chile stands out as a frontrunner in Latin America’s renewable energy landscape, with its ambitious 2022 commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Notably, this coastal nation has emerged as a solar and wind energy champion, capitalizing on both developmental efforts and government support to furnish nearly half of its population with clean energy sources.

Although these endeavors mark a commendable stride forward, a significant facet of energy consumption in developing regions remains unaddressed by the Chilean government: energy poverty. This often neglected concern looms over Chile. While affluent households already approach net-zero carbon emissions, a considerable 30% of households still rely on wood for heating, a proportion that balloons to 75% in rural locales.

Even as legislative efforts advocate for more stringent policies aimed at transitioning to renewable energy, the specter of energy poverty in Chile persists, underscoring the complexity of the nation’s energy transformation journey.

The Risks of Energy Poverty in Chile

As Chile approaches the 100% mark for households with access to electricity, the reality for many rural families is an inconsistent and unaffordable electrical line. About 90% of Chileans in a 2018 survey reported spending more than 10% of their monthly income on an energy bill, and even then many still lack access to essential amenities such as heating and consistent internet connection.

Lack of heating is a pressing concern for many rural communities, especially in mountainous regions. This leads to an influx of wood-fueled heating in rural areas where electrical heating is inaccessible. Wood-fueled heating produces far more CO2 emissions and is linked with increased risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in households experiencing energy poverty. Territories in Southern Chile also have increased firewood usage where energy is unavailable. Despite legislators’ claims to work towards shifting these areas towards clean energy, less than 5% of people in polluted areas participate in policy action.

Amidst these issues, Chilean policymakers plan to tighten their carbon tax policy, which disproportionately impacts those already living in energy poverty. These policies could lead to a 16.7% increase in the proportion of households paying more than 10% of their income for access to energy.

Providing Access in Rural Areas

Fortunately, communities and initiative programs alike are working towards improving energy poverty in Chile. One such program is the Energy Inclusion Program founded in 2018, which uses international collaboration and public-private funds to provide equitable energy access to vulnerable consumers. In 2021, an advocate for the Energy Inclusion Program assisted a rural Chilean village north of Santiago in providing hot water and electricity to elderly and struggling families who could not afford energy bills. A community cooperative for renewable energy helped 40 households in the village install a solar farm with a 50kW capacity. Similar initiatives have taken off in many parts of the nation, including programs funded by the Entrepreneurship and Alternative Energy Generation (EGEA) and EBP Chile. 

Moving Forward

Chile’s route towards renewable energy is commendable, and its initiatives have encouraged many other Latin American nations to pursue revised climate-centered legislation. Regardless, energy poverty in Chile negatively impacts rural and impoverished communities that possess limited resources to maintain the country’s lofty net-zero goals. 

Through community inclusion and global programs, families in poverty have renewed prospects towards pushing Chile’s emerging economy to become a global leader in climate change policies and renewable energy.

– Inaya Lala
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Fossil Fuels worsen povertyMany people around the world depend on fossil fuels for daily tasks and activities. However, emissions from non-renewable energy sources have harmful effects on health and the environment, with the most significant impacts felt in poverty-stricken countries. Nations with high consumerism, such as China, the United States and India, opt for fossil fuels due to cost-effectiveness and convenience in manufacturing. Over half of these countries’ energy is sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil and solid biomass. Several developed nations, including Sweden, Germany and New Zealand, are shifting away from fossil fuels, transitioning to renewable energy. However, even though fossil fuels worsen poverty through extreme environmental and health impacts, countries in more underdeveloped areas lack the resources or funding to finance the transition to sustainable renewable energy sources.

Non-Renewable Energy in Numbers

According to a 2019 article by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, the developing world uses more than half the world’s fossil fuels. The demand for energy has doubled over the past 15 years and is presumed to keep increasing at a 30% rate. This upward trend is helping wealthier countries drive their global trade flows but is worsening the climate crisis.

The combustion of fossil fuels releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to heat retention and ozone layer depletion. This triggers adverse effects worldwide, including heightened droughts, more intense weather events and elevated temperatures, showing how fossil fuels worsen poverty.

The 2022 Global Climate Report from the National Centers for Environmental Information confirms a steady temperature rise of 0.14°F (0.08°C) annually since 1981. According to Forbes Magazine, these extreme weather events could push 122 million more people into extreme poverty within the next few years.

Impacts on the People

As extreme weather becomes more common, communities in impoverished areas suffer the most. These communities do not have the resources or finances to bounce back from the impacts of extreme weather events and the destruction of their homes, health and livelihoods.

In Somalia, the last five rainy seasons have been below adequate for harvesting and caring for livestock. This has resulted in a significant lack of food, causing 5 million Somalians to go hungry and 200,000 Somalians to experience starvation. Unfortunately, there is no clear end in sight to the droughts plaguing Somalia.

In 2022, Pakistan experienced a “monsoon on steroids,” as described by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. This extreme weather event lasted from June to October and caused flooding and landslides at a rate 10 times greater than the 30-year national average. Overall, the monsoon-related events affected 33 million people and destroyed 4.4 million acres of agricultural land and 800,000 livestock. Because of this monsoon, the number of people going hungry in Pakistan today has nearly doubled, with about 14.6 million Pakistanis enduring severe hunger.

South Sudan is also one of the countries most impacted by extreme weather events. The temperatures in South Sudan are rapidly increasing at a rate 2.5 times faster than the global average. The weather has caused South Sudan to overflow with water in some parts and shrivel up in others. These factors have contributed to severe hunger, affecting 7.7 million people out of the 12 million population.

Active Solutions to Reduce Emissions

Greenpeace has worked to make the more environmentally sustainable since 1971. By investigating, documenting and exposing environmentally destructive activities, Greenpeace raises public awareness about these issues. By increasing awareness of how fossil fuels worsen poverty and impact the most marginalized and disadvantaged people, Greenpeace is helping to reduce the prevalence of extreme weather events in impoverished nations.

Developing nations are also taking steps. Morocco, for instance, is witnessing a shift from fossil-fuel-based products to solar, wind and hydro-powered alternatives. In June 2021, the country’s leaders pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17-18% by 2030 and will substantially decrease government support for fossil fuels. With rising renewable electricity production, Morocco stands as a leading African country in the fight against extreme weather events.

Recognizing that global fossil fuel consumption contributes to extreme weather events that disproportionately affect the impoverished, affluent nations and impactful organizations must support the transition of developing countries to renewable energy.

– Nina Donlin
Photo: Unsplash

Africa's Energy CrisisOn June 21,  2023, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced plans to invest some $89 million over a five-year period to “expand access to cleaner, reliable energy in sub-Saharan Africa.” Administrator Samantha Powers introduced the initiative at the 25th Africa Energy Forum (AEF), held in Nairobi, Kenya in June 2023. The announcement coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the Power Africa program, a U.S.-led partnership that has bolstered the AEF’s efforts to resolve Africa’s energy crisis and accelerate the implementation of reliable energy solutions across Africa.

Africa’s Energy Crisis

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the rate of electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa has slowly but steadily increased in recent years, rising from 33.3% in 2010 to 48.2% in 2020. However, with more than 50% of the region’s population lacking access to electricity as of 2020, the rate of electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa remains “the lowest of any region in the world.” This is attributable to factors including a lack of grid distribution, high tariffs, income instability and strained infrastructure budgets, which have collectively lowered consumer demand and discouraged investment in improving the outdated grids that do exist. Accordingly, the report also showed, only about 18% of the sub-Saharan African population had access to clean energy for cooking as of 2020, a remarkably low percentage compared to the world average of about 70%.

Due to the current lack of access to clean energy, women and girls have been “disproportionately affected by household air pollution,” which UNCTAD reports resulted in 700,000 deaths across the continent in 2019. Yet, Africa holds 60% of the world’s best solar energy resources, meaning that there is great potential for African countries to implement safe, sustainable, cost-effective solutions for electricity distribution.

Power Through Partnership

Established in 2013, Power Africa focuses specifically on “ending energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.” By 2030, it aims to generate 30,000 megawatts or more of clean, reliable energy and provide electricity access for 60 million homes and businesses throughout the region. Consistent with the AEF’s goals, it plans to achieve this by uniting governments, companies and financial institutions in partnerships that will help combat the African energy crisis and “enable African leaders to pave their own future.”

Currently, Power Africa has more than 170 private sector partners coordinating efforts to build the technology, infrastructure and investments needed to deliver sustainable, reliable clean energy to sub-Saharan African communities. Simultaneously, the program is working with governments throughout the region to implement power sector reforms that are critical for resolving Africa’s energy crisis.

Furthermore, Power Africa is advancing gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa by promoting women’s involvement across all spheres of the energy sector, from policy-making to private companies to power generation plants. It emphasizes adopting gender inclusion policies, offers women opportunities for education and technical training and provides leadership training to support women’s advancement in the field.

Empowerment for the Future

So far, Power Africa has enabled more than 172 million people in sub-Saharan Africa to gain reliable electricity access, thereby contributing to alleviating Africa’s energy crisis. The new initiative will provide an additional “10 million on- and off-grid connections” that will benefit around 50 million people, allowing households and businesses across the region to gain access to better, cleaner, more reliable electricity.

Significantly, this comes with positive environmental and economic impacts. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, off-grid, or stand-alone, systems employ “a combination of techniques and technologies” to lower energy consumption and costs in remote regions where connecting to the grid is not economically feasible. With an additional $4.7 billion in public and private investments slated to develop infrastructure for a further 1,227 megawatts of clean energy generation and 1,500 km of transmission lines in sub-Saharan Africa, economic and environmental reform is on the horizon.

Looking Ahead

Since its inception, the Africa Energy Forum has opened discussion on topics including mining, pipeline projects, renewable energy, electricity trading and hydrogen power plants — an industry and a solution that has been gaining global attention and becoming increasingly prevalent in Africa. By providing space and funding to advance such solutions, Power Africa and AEF are making vital progress in combating Africa’s energy crisis while creating new diplomatic, infrastructural and business opportunities that will ensure future economic and environmental prosperity.

– Lucy Cosme Vera
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Innovations in Niger
For the past few decades, Niger has been working to reduce poverty and improve economic growth within the country. For the past 20 years, the economy has grown by more than 5%, with poverty reducing from 50% to 41%. At the same time, the rapid population growth in the country has increased the number of poor people overall. On the bright side, some innovations in Niger are making a difference.

The World Bank has acknowledged the economic potential in Niger, which is why it is implementing various strategies to amplify its financial strengths and help decrease poverty rates. As of March 2023, the organization has supported the country in funding more than 30 operations to boost innovations in Niger in sectors such as agriculture, energy, education and social protection.

Advanced Irrigation

Around 40% of Niger’s GDP growth comes from agriculture, which is what the country mostly depends on. However, the country is facing “devastating effects of food insecurity” due to the inconsistent rainy seasons and frequent droughts. According to the World Bank, the implementation of agro-technologies to electrify agricultural production or “solar pumps” has aided in promoting stable, irrigation techniques and providing increasing food security. With funding from the World Bank, the Niger Solar Access Electricity Project (NESAP) has enabled Nigerien rural farmers to buy solar power pumps.

Moreover, NESAP was able to acquire $50 million in funding from the International Development Association (IDA) and offer credit to private companies selling solar-powered machines. Since 2017, 800 solar pumps have been sold and used to increase crop production and irrigation landscape in Niger.

Energy Boost

In addition to steady irrigation in rural areas, the incorporation of solar energy has also increased access to electricity for rural citizens. In the upcoming summer of 2023, NESAP will work to offer various solar-powered systems like “grid power, mini-grids and off-grid solutions,” according to the World Bank.

The program was approved funding for $800 million through NESAP to offer cleaner energy for better sanitary cooking. Ideally, this initiative will assist rural families and female-dominant households, as well as over 10,000 farmers and local businesses.

Innovations in Niger to Empower the Rural Youth

Another World Bank-funded innovation is the “Youth Employment and Productive Inclusion Project” which promotes “income-generating activities” for rural youth in Niger. The group empowers young individuals, especially girls and women, to train in job and life skills and entrepreneurship, support groups and mentorships. Currently, the program has been beneficial to around 24,000 youth and counting.

The program has had positive evaluations for women and youth by providing a sense of belonging and psychological well-being while offering a space to learn and feel empowered in unison.

Future Prospects

Working with new agricultural practices and implementing strong, sustainable management systems, Niger can look to the possibility of securing economic and human development. Moreover, with more innovation programs in Niger tailored for better work prospects and support for youth and women in poverty and other human developments, there is hope for a future of better economic stability.

– Alessandra Amati
Photo: Flickr

Electrify Senegal
Poverty ran at more than 36% in Senegal in 2022. But regardless of this fact, the nation actually has a rather high rate of electrification at nearly 80%, which is one of the highest in Africa. These high electrification rates however mask large disparities across different geographical and income groups, made most evident by the rate of poverty. Here is some information about efforts to electrify Senegal.

The Situation

Senegal’s power generation is highly dependent on liquid fuels, with only 10% of power generation from other sources. The expensive nature of liquid fuels means that the Senegalese government must heavily subsidize electricity generation and yet Senegalese consumers still pay more costs for electricity than other African nations at 24 cents per kilowatt hour. For comparison, the average cost per kilowatt in Nigeria is 6 cents.

To address these issues, the Senegalese government has put in place the Emerging Senegal Plan which aims to diversify and modernize energy sources, as well as increase private sector involvement via relaxing some sector regulations. Several international aid programs support this plan and the wider effort to fully electrify Senegal, thereby posing unique business opportunities for foreign investors.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a U.S. government-led public-private partnership that aims to double electricity access in Africa, with Senegal being one of its focus countries, according to the International Trade Administration. The initiative aims to provide resources for companies operating in the Senegalese power sector and as a possible result, increase efficiency and innovation and bring costs down.

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

A key supporter of Power Africa is the MCC, which in 2018 signed the Senegal Power Compact worth $550 million with the Government of Senegal. The compact targets three areas: improving the transmission network, increasing electricity access in rural areas and improving the governance and financial viability of the sector, all of which could electrify Senegal to a much greater extent.

If achieved, this not only will address geographical inequality but also alleviate the financial burden on the Senegalese government, potentially freeing up finances to refocus on other important areas.

The World Bank

In 2022, the World Bank approved $150 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to increase electricity access to Senegalese households, businesses and public facilities. In practice, this will see 200,000 households connected to the grid, including 40,000 households that are deemed vulnerable or previously difficult to electrify. Around 700 businesses, 200 schools and 600 health facilities will also benefit.

Business Opportunities

Lucrative investment prospects for foreign investors cover several sub-sectors of the Senegalese power industry, including but not limited to gas technologies, new plant equipment, renewable energy, transmission equipment, smart grid technology, household solar panels and energy efficiency technology, according to International Trade Administration.

Renewable energy and related technology are particularly prominent areas for investment as the government has strongly committed to this area as a means to fully electrify Senegal.

International Trade Administration also predicted that the funding from the MCC Compact will create business and employment opportunities for construction, procurement and engineering companies in the building and deploying of new power-generating infrastructure. Furthermore, ensuring energy efficiency and determining environmental impacts will create opportunities for consulting firms.

Looking Ahead

The combination of government focus, international aid and business opportunities suggests that Senegal is in a great position to achieve more widespread, if not full, electrification. Despite a current high electricity supply rate, fully electrifying Senegal could drastically improve power access in more rural areas and as a result, reduce the high rate of over 36% poverty.

– Saul Gunn
Photo: Flickr

Low-Cost Batteries
The University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom (U.K.) has developed and tested a new low-cost battery that promises to reduce the production prices of current batteries by almost 70%. These new cheaper, low-carbon power batteries could make it easier to supply more homes in sub-Saharan Africa with electricity, as well as businesses and hospitals, currently in need of power.

Working alongside Scotland-based StorTera, the researchers found that the new battery could support infrastructures such as telecommunication towers and replace the current expensive fossil-fuel-powered batteries which are keeping them active. The two groups came together on this project following the supply of a grant from the U.K.’s Faraday Institution, which is part of the institution’s Transforming Energy Access (TEA) initiative.

The testing of the low-cost battery took place in the U.K. during the nationwide heatwave in 2022, in which temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, making the researchers confident that the batteries could withstand the hot temperatures in Africa.

No Change in Recent Years

Currently, more than 578 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity. An International Energy Agency (IEA) report estimated that there will be more than 600 million people without electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

Despite the increase in population, the IEA report showed that nearly 400 million people will gain electricity access in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa if they meet investments of $6 billion by 2030. According to the agency’s findings, the largest part of the continent which will see a lack of improvement in their access to electricity will be central Africa

Lack of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa has affected the countries’ national health care systems massively in recent years, as nearly 60% of the health care facilities do not have access to reliable electricity in order to power their refrigerators.

With no electricity, hospitals are unable to keep bags of blood, insulin and other medicines in their facilities, as safe refrigeration storage systems need electrical power. Similarly, there are no working MRI machines, x-ray scanners and heart rate monitors in most healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. These issues highlight the importance of the newly developed low-cost batteries.

Maternal and New Born Deaths

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the lack of electricity has a large effect on maternal women and children, as they both need constant care in health care facilities that have stable electrical power supply. More than 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or within the first month after birth. All of these are linked largely to the lack of power keeping health care facilities’ lighting and operating tables at a minimum.

Director of the Technical Division at the U.N.’s Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr. Julitta Onabanjo said “The death of any woman or young girl during pregnancy or childbirth is a serious violation of their human rights.”

WHO also revealed that there has not been much success in reducing these numbers since 2015, as last in 2022, there were nearly 290,000 maternal deaths, 1.9 million stillbirths and more than 2.3 million child deaths within the first month of being born.

Director of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at WHO Dr. Anshu Banerjee, commented on the lack of progress saying “If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed now so that every woman and baby have the best chance of health and survival.”

Powering Up

Investments and initiatives such as Power Africa and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), are currently at the forefront of the battle to supply the whole of Africa with electricity. Power Africa established more than 18 million new power connections to homes in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. It also plans to add an additional 60 million power connections by 2030.

Similarly, in 2022, SEforALL in partnership with Power Africa and USAID guaranteed a two-year $1 million grant which supports African governments in providing electricity to the continent’s health care sector alone. This effort is also an attempt to provide more hospitals with power.

With the invention of new low-cost batteries, grants like these could have a better use to supply more buildings with electricity from the same amount of money, as the supply costs per building reduce substantially.

Power Africa’s coordinator Mark Carrato, commented on the initiative saying, “This grant supports stronger and more resilient health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa by accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy and sustainable investment in health facilities.”

Looking Ahead

Innovations like the low-cost battery developed by the University of Strathclyde in the U.K. offer a glimmer of hope for improving access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. By significantly reducing production prices, these batteries could pave the way for supplying more homes, businesses and hospitals with reliable power. Investments and initiatives like Power Africa and SEforALL are already working toward expanding electricity access, and with the introduction of affordable energy storage solutions, their impact can be amplified, leading to improved healthcare outcomes and a brighter future for the region.

– Sam Kalantzis
Photo: Flickr

Ukraine’s Energy
As the war in Ukraine approaches its one-year mark, the European Union implemented a new product ban on Russian gas to cut off Russian funding for the war. The soaring gas prices are responsible for numerous countries and their poorest citizens navigating the challenges of extreme energy poverty. The energy battle left many Ukrainians without energy for days, weeks and even months. Ukraine’s energy coming from new sources is necessary to support citizens nationwide. In the coldest months, Ukraine continues to fight for heating for homes and businesses nationwide. In early February 2023, USAID promised a new mobile gas turbine power plant to provide energy to more than 100,000 businesses and homes.

Ukraine and Its Dependence on Russian Gas

Energy prices skyrocketed worldwide, effectively pushing millions of European Union members and Ukrainians into energy poverty. Energy poverty is when energy bills consist of such a high percentage of income that they have no option but to reduce their household’s energy consumption, which then negatively impacts health and well-being. In Ukraine, 42 million cubic tons of Russian gas flow through the country daily, acting as a major source of income for Russia.

Throughout the war, Ukrainian energy supplies have been a prime target both physically and financially. Russia is a primary supplier of Ukraine’s energy. In August 2022, Russia’s Nord Stream One pipeline, a dominant gas vessel in energy transportation, shut down due to leaks and prices rose exponentially overnight.

In November 2022, Russian forces attacked major providers of Ukrainian energy and cut energy supplies by at least 30%. The energy cuts are in addition to diminished Russian gas supplies already cutting into energy sources available for Ukraine. Energy prices across Europe have increased on average by about 73%. Natural gas alone has risen in price by 122% within a few months. The rise in energy prices is forcing more and more Ukrainians into poverty. The latest estimate of impoverished Ukrainians is approximately 25% of the nation, a dramatic increase from the much lower 2% one year ago.

Sanctions on Russian Gas

Governments worldwide implemented sanctions on Russian gas to decrease potential funding for the war in Ukraine. After a year of nations changing and renewing sanctions, in February 2023, the European Union and all G7 nations, United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada agreed on new sanctions on Russian gas. The latest ban is on all Russian diesel exports, a critical export of Russia. Diesel is an import that nations worldwide depend on for powering cars, farming equipment, factory machinery, and more to earn income. With each sanction, gas and energy prices could continue rising and Ukraine could be among the first nations to feel the price impacts of the sanctions. Ukraine’s energy coming from a new source without sanctions could allow a window of opportunity for Ukrainians to regain economic footing.

USAID’s Energy Assistance to Ukraine

The mobile gas turbine power plant that USAID has brought to Ukraine is not the first instance of aid from the U.S. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, USAID has invested $55 million into energy supplies and assistance for Ukraine. The government organization has brought energy assistance in the form of generators and financial investments to lift the burden of energy poverty and traditional poverty off of Ukrainians.

The new mobile gas turbine could lessen the Ukrainian energy burden. Mechanics and engineers have rushed non-stop to bring new energy sources to Ukraine while fixing the ones the war destroyed. USAID’s efforts for Ukraine engage the public and private sectors. It is working to bring more relief and energy providers to Ukraine. One of USAID’s most promising partnerships is with G.E., a major energy conglomerate and USAID is hoping to bring more energy poverty relief efforts with G.E. energy poverty remains an issue in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s energy coming from a source where they will not be skirting sanctions could help stop or at least slow the rise of poverty rates.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Energy Crisis in Ukraine
Up until recently, Ukrainian citizens have had an unseasonably mild start to the winter, meaning energy and electricity usage has been at a minimum in comparison to previous winters. However, in mid-January, meteorologists predicted a sudden drop in temperatures to -11 C in Kyiv and even colder in Eastern Ukraine at -18 C. The lowest temperatures Kyiv experienced since those predictions were around -5 C, a sharp decrease from previous highs of 10 C. With this sudden cold, which many expect will only worsen over the next few weeks, it is only normal that energy and electricity use will increase as citizens try to keep warm, which could lead to an energy crisis in Ukraine.

Energy as a Russian Target

The Russo-Ukrainian War, which began with the Russian invasion roughly a year ago, has seen Russian forces targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Since October 2022, Russian air forces have been consistently attacking key Ukrainian energy infrastructure such as hydro plants, dams and nuclear power plants, causing the energy crisis in Ukraine. These strikes along with general shell and grenade damage to cities have caused massive damage to electricity and energy infrastructure, particularly in Kyiv. While Moscow has defended its actions by stating the targets are military-linked facilities, countries and international watchdogs are claiming Russia is committing war crimes by targeting civilian infrastructure. Amnesty International, for example, claimed that “carrying out these attacks with the sole purpose of terrorizing civilians is a war crime.”

Blackouts

Ukraine’s energy grids are having to conduct emergency outages to conserve energy and electricity. Moreover, officials are urging civilians to conserve electricity as temperatures plummet. Kyiv’s mayor claimed this was necessary as the “deficit of electricity is significant.” There is no saying how much energy each individual would need to survive if blackouts become the norm.

Communication With Family

The war has been ripping many Ukrainian families apart, with some members staying in Ukraine and others seeking refuge elsewhere. This forced families to rely on the internet and electricity to maintain contact with their loved ones via platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom. Electricity is a precious resource in more ways than one, and without it, Ukrainian citizens will not have any way to stay in touch with their families.

NGO Working to Solve Ukraine’s Energy Crisis

Ecoclub, a Ukrainian NGO focusing on sustainable energy production, recently installed solar panels for a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Zviahel. The new solar panels provide enough energy to maintain the functioning of 11 ventilators that support patients in intensive care. Ecoclub plans to install solar power plants for six hospitals to alleviate the stress of the energy crisis in Ukraine. The initiative will allow patients to continue to receive the care they need, regardless of energy grid blackouts or Russian attacks.

– Genevieve Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Access in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Africa Minigrids Program is an effort that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Using solar mini-grids, the program will work with 21 African countries up until 2027 to solve the energy crisis through renewable energy.

Energy Access and Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), sub-Saharan African nations have some of the world’s lowest energy access rates. In fact, the agency notes that “Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without access to electricity rose to 77% from 74% before the pandemic.” The most recently available IEA data states that less than half of the region’s population, some 48.5%, have access to electricity as of 2019.

That being said, the lack of access to electricity intertwines with poverty in the region. According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022, sub-Saharan Africa not only has the lowest electricity access rates but also holds the highest concentration of impoverished people.

Additionally, a 2018 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report says that policy solutions in 2018 did not “recognize the transformative potential of solar off-grid and mini-grid solutions to deliver clean energy access.” This is set to change with UNDP’s Africa Minigrids Program, which plans on using these methods to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.

How the Program Works

According to the Africa Minigrids Program’s website, the initiative will help improve electricity access across 21 sub-Saharan partner countries by “increasing the financial viability of, and promoting scaled-up investment in renewable energy minigrids in Africa, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.” By doing this, the program would also impact socio-economic development in the region since industries such as agriculture, health care and education require stable and consistent electricity access to see successful outcomes.

The UNDP is not alone in affecting change in electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) financially supports the project with funding that will help the UNDP and its program partners, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the African Development Bank (ADB), implement the program, starting with an initial phase of supporting 11 out of 21 partner countries.

According to the program brochure, the first phase began in 2022, with the subsequent two phases expected to begin in 2023. Combined, the 21 countries are home to “more than two-thirds of the total unelectrified population of Africa,” with a total combined population of 396 million individuals without electricity. The program estimates that more than 200,000 schools and clinics will gain access to electricity as a result of the program along with upward of 900,000 businesses.

Benefits of the Program

Without a doubt, the electricity that the Africa Minigrids Project provides will have a significant impact on the impoverished populations of the 21 AMP countries. According to the World Bank, improving access to electricity is “key to boosting economic activity and contributes to improving human capital, which, in turn, is an investment in a country’s potential.”

Electricity in the region would help power schools, medical facilities and businesses, allowing millions a chance to improve their lives and move one step closer to living a life free of poverty. The Africa Minigrids Program presents a transformative approach to improving electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, one that will positively affect millions of people currently living in poverty.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons