Poverty Eradication in Burundi
Ranked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations Development Program’s human development index, Burundi is amongst the world’s poorest countries with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. However, poverty eradication in Burundi is possible through the granting of energy access.

Burundians live a very agrarian lifestyle with 80% of the population having employment in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population living in rural areas. Of the population of 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity. Meanwhile, 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. This is not sustainable as 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year.

The Challenges of Burning Firewood in Burundi

Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to contribute to the sourcing of firewood. Only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation, and thus increases carbon dioxide levels. Resulting smoke contributes to poor air quality.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. In fact, 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. The cost of malnutrition in Burundi is recorded at USD$102 million per year.

The Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Initiative

For a more sustainable program, the government joined with the World Food Program (WFP) in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative that introduced fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy access for poverty reduction in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi in the following areas:

  1. About 485,000 persons and counting have already benefitted from the fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. The SAFE program has implemented institutional stoves that have already reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools in Burundi.
  3. The stoves now allow for each batch of firewood to have up to five times the utility it had before, with each Burundian family having an 11.5 kg daily reduction in the need for firewood.

Still, the country remains primarily dependent on biogas from firewood and this initiative has only lessened its costs to society rather than eliminating firewood dependence. As a result, the Burundian government has now turned towards alternative innovations to promote energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi.

Fortunately, the location and climate of Burundi lend well to renewable energy generation mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi is actively partnering with energy investors to build its private sector and grow its other industries, commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Expanding beyond a primarily agrarian society promises substantial growth for the economy of Burundi, providing a framework to lift Burundians out of the poverty cycle.

Hydroelectric Power Energy Access in Burundi

Located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region, surrounded by far-stretching rivers such as Malagarasi (475 km) and the Ruzizi (117 km), Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1,700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, Burundi is still relying on outdated hydroelectric power technologies that can only serve 9% of the population. Moving forward, Burundi has begun to make strides in energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi through the following hydroelectric power development projects:

  1. Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River (RoR) system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company (RPCL) developed it with financial support from multi-national development leaders along with the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and intended 675GWh of average energy production, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade that the Kivu Lake feeds. One of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region, Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: A partnership among Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda, the Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV has been commissioned to be a 287-MW capacity hydropower project. The African Development Bank Group has already approved a USD$8.9 million grant to support the development.

Solar Power Energy Access in Burundi

Being located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters, and an average 2,000 kWh/m2.year of sunshine, Burundi holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

Granted success, millions of households and industries in the region will have energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity should improve the quality of basic social services like health, education and security services in the region. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions, lessening of deforestation from lower dependence on firewood and thereby an increase in the living conditions of the regional population, breaking the poverty cycle in Burundi.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

SDG 7 in Costa Rica
Costa Rica ranks 35th out of 193 countries in the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Report. This is quite an impressive feat for a Central American nation of just 5 million people. Especially when compared to its southern and northern neighbors — Panama and Nicaragua, which rank 81st and 85th, respectively. While challenges remain for many of Costa Rica’s sustainable development goals, the country is doing a remarkable job of achieving and maintaining SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Costa Rica is often lauded as one of the greenest nations on Earth and is consistently viewed as a case study in the development and application of renewable energy. Below is a brief update on three components of SDG 7 in Costa Rica, i.e. affordable and clean energy.

Population with Access to Electricity

The latest U.N. estimate finds that 99.6% of Costa Ricans have access to electricity. This is great for not only the government (in their attempt to achieve the SDG 7) but for everyday Costa Ricans who have a steady stream of electricity. Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in the methods that it uses to generate power; 98% of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In breaking down this 98% figure into its parts — 72% is hydropower, 16% wind, 9% geothermal and 1% biomass/solar. This virtually universal access to electricity from renewable sources is the basis for providing affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica.

Access to Clean Fuels & Technology for Cooking

Clean cooking fuels and technology are classified by the SDG report as those that lead to fewer emissions and/or are more fuel-efficient. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kerosene is not a clean fuel. The SDG panel (composed of experts from the WHO, International Energy Agency, World Bank and other prominent organizations) estimates that nearly 3 billion people use “traditional stoves and fuels” which pose risks to human health, the environment and the climate.

Additionally, estimates point to household air pollution as the cause of death for 4.3 million people per year. Costa Rica’s nearly universal access to electricity and its foundation in renewable energy sources affords more than 93% of households access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In contrast, just over 50% of Nicaraguan homes have access to clean energy and technology for daily cooking. Among Central American nations, Costa Rica leads the way in terms of progressing towards this fully realized, key component of SDG 7.

CO₂ Emissions: Fuel Combustion for Electricity & Heating

Costa Rica is bested in this statistic by only two nations in all of North and South America (Paraguay and Uruguay). While the SDG report lists Costa Rica as “on track” toward reaching zero emissions in this category, Costa Rica’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion for electricity and heating are marginally higher than its emissions in 2000. In this regard, SDG 7 in Costa Rica has room for improvement. However, both numbers are still lower than about 90% of all U.N. nations.

A Commitment to Further Progress

Affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica is a shining example of the country’s progress and strengths within its annual SDG report. This is due to Costa Rica’s stunning foundation of renewable energy and its commitment to developing and providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy to citizens. The Ticos (native Costa Ricans) recognize the need to go even further and are dedicating themselves towards becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050 — with their recent Decarbonization Plan. Costa Rica is a model for countries seeking a shift towards clean energy amid the stark realities of the 21st-century climate situation.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Accessible Energy in TogoTogo is a country in western Africa that is bordered by Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. Togo’s government is currently working on increasing the rate of access to electricity for its citizens. The country has already made significant progress, advancing from 17% in 2000 to 35% in 2016. However, there are large disparities in electricity access between urban and rural areas. Electricity rates are 87% in urban areas and only 7% in rural areas. Currently, one million households in Togo are without power.

Togo’s government has set ambitious goals to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030. The country cites three main obstacles to this goal. First, Togo has limited experience with independent power producers. Second, there are technical issues concerning the aging infrastructure. Finally, Togo does not have a plan to integrate on-grid and off-grid connection goals yet.

Initiatives Promoting Rural Accessible Energy in Togo

A large part of Togo’s energy project targets improving access to energy in rural areas. Many rural communities are not reachable by the standard electricity grid. Therefore, the government is looking into various off-grid options to support the three million people who are not reachable by the grid.

In 2017, Togo launched an initiative called “CIZO.” This initiative seeks to increase rural electrification to 40% by the year 2022. In order to do this, the government is working with off-grid companies to offer solar power to rural communities. The goal is to build 300 small solar plants across the country and distribute solar kits to 500,000 households. So far, 35,000 households have received solar kits.

Looking Towards a Renewable Future

In addition to solar energy, Togo is invested in creating other sources of renewable and accessible energy for its communities. The country has a goal of reaching 50% energy from renewable sources.

In July 2020, Togo announced that it will begin the construction of a new biogas reference laboratory at the West African Centre for Scientific Services on Climate Change (WASCAL) at the University of Lomé. As stated by Komi Agboka, director of the WASCAL, “the future laboratory will enable Togo’s enormous biomass potential to be further exploited through the development of research capacity and the demonstration of innovative biogas production technologies.”

The construction of this laboratory is part of the larger Programme for the Development of Renewable Energy in Togo (Pdert) which launched on February 27, 2019. This project will assess Togo’s renewable energy resources, develop the storage and distribution of clean energy, and find economically sustainable models.

Togo’s government emphasis on finding renewable energy sources has garnered international attention. Togo’s Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Agency recently won third place in the Ashden 2020 Award for its renewable energy development policy. This is an award given by the British organization Ashden and seeks to highlight countries that show “systemic innovation for energy access.”

Accessible energy in Togo will take many significant steps to achieve, but with the persistence and commitment of both private energy providers and academic institutions, this goal is realistic. Togo’s renewable energy initiatives show that even without the large budgets of developed countries, it is still possible to make meaningful progress towards sustainable and accessible energy.

– Antoinette Fang
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Greece
Greece is addressing energy poverty and its variety of adverse effects on households using innovative approaches. With 58% of Greek households identified as lacking efficient energy, this issue has significantly impacted the overall physical and mental well-being of its citizens. Cardiac issues, respiratory illnesses and mental health stressors due to unaffordable energy bills demonstrate the need for innovations in poverty eradication in Greece.

Energy Poverty Among Vulnerable Populations

According to the European Union Energy Poverty Observatory, energy poverty impacts 50 to 125 million people within the European Union population. In fact, in Greece, 90% of households lack sufficient energy. The inability to obtain adequate energy to power appliances, electricity and air conditioning systems demonstrates the true impact of insufficient energy access. Due to low incomes, poor-quality housing and high energy prices, innovations in poverty eradication in Greece are critical.

Innovative Energy Initiatives Create Jobs

Since its transition to renewable energy in the 1990s, Greece has faced unforeseen obstacles due to government legislation, business regulations, investor subsidies and funding deficits. Since 2010, modifications of such initiatives have led to progressive developments and growth opportunities.

Some expect that innovations eradicating poverty in Greece through renewable energy could boost employment and economic opportunities. In fact, projections have determined that job openings including electro-mechanics, construction and energy farm installation could contribute to 50% of these potential opportunities. Job generation will increase household income and minimize the inability to afford adequate energy by reducing unemployment and creating growth.

Global Organizations Addressing Energy Poverty

Greece has demonstrated its commitment to resolving energy poverty among vulnerable households. In 2015, the state formed a partnership with Greenspan Greece to develop the Solarize Greece Campaign, which promotes renewable energy in an effort to alleviate energy poverty. This initiative involved the installation of photovoltaic systems in low-income family households. By 2018, Greece was able to increase renewable energy production to 20% of the gross energy consumption.

With hydroelectricity, wind power or photovoltaic sources generating 29% of energy, the country exhibits dedication to developing renewable energy technologies to combat environmental challenges.

Innovations in Renewable Energy Production

Plans to increase renewable energy sources in Greece are in the works. Using renewable energy production, the country will continue to progress in its fight to eradicate poverty. The Ministry of the Environment and Energy of Greece proposal, for instance, will include two production units and three reservoirs to expend energy from renewable sources. This system is expected to enhance pumping production and efficiency, performing 70.1% faster over the next 50 years.

Energy reform within Greece must remain a priority to rectify the social, economic and environmental destruction that energy poverty causes. Through the development of innovative energy technologies, Greece is making strides to achieve 60% of renewable energy sources by 2030. These actions will reduce the use of harmful coal technologies used to generate electricity by shifting to solar energy and pumped storage. Given the benefits of renewable energy in reducing household energy poverty, Greece is becoming a role model for other nations in protecting its people.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

energy, poverty and politics
Americans are burning through fossil fuels at historically high rates. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. ranks number one in top energy producers and consumers as of 2019. While the domestic effects of oil, gas and coal consumption may feel familiar, the industry’s impact reaches beyond U.S. borders, influencing energy, poverty and politics.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Bret Gustafson, professor of sociocultural anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and author of “Energy and Empire: Bolivia in the Age of Gas,” explained the interplay among energy, poverty and politics.

Socioeconomic and Ecological Consequences of Fossil Fuels

Gustafson views the connection between fossil fuels and poverty as a paradox. Large profits bolster the wealth of companies and their owners rather than those living and working near industrial hubs of fossil fuel extraction. Similarly, many of the resource-rich countries that source of much of the world’s fossil fuels seem to benefit far less than the countries they supply.

The regions involved in fossil fuel production exist as “sacrifice zones.” These zones are so named because the social and environmental rights of people nearby are forfeited for profit. Gustafson argues that corporate heads of fossil fuel companies realize their industry’s detriment. However, the “logic of the corporate CEO is that anything that is negative can be paid for.”

Fossil fuels also wreak environmental and social destruction. From extraction to transportation, drilling and mining may lead to accidents, toxic spillage and water/air pollution. Moreover, fossil fuel production involves human risk. In fact, between 2008 to 2012, 34 fatalities and more than 1,400 injuries resulted from offshore oil rigs.

The Industry’s Role in US Politics: Subsidies and Lobbying

Energy, poverty and politics intersect in the U.S. as well. Despite evidence of socioeconomic and ecological harm, fossil fuel industries enjoy favorable political support in the U.S. Credible estimates of annual domestic fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies range between $10 billion and $52 billion per year. These estimates are likely to remain high with the current administration’s goal of “energy dominance,” a term synonymous with President Trump’s efforts to ramp up fossil fuel production and end the “war on coal.”

The fossil fuel industry and some U.S. politicians maintain a symbiotic relationship. The oil and gas industry was the fourth-largest industry spender in the U.S. for political lobbying in 2019.  In addition, from 2017 to 2018, companies tethered to fossil fuels spent nearly $360 million in campaign donations and lobbying. Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Chevron were the leading spenders. In comparison, renewable energy industries spent $26 million during the same period of time.

A Sustainable Future in Energy, Poverty and Politics

Successfully addressing issues tied to energy, poverty and politics will likely require parallel streams of infrastructural change and public pressure. Experts at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute advocate for more efficient reconfigurations of the energy grid, such as a shift to electric transportation and renewable-powered buildings.

Gustafson believes awareness and protest will catalyze the political action necessary to make these changes mainstream. “It won’t happen by itself,” he says. “We need people in the street, marching, demonstrating.”

Though the fossil fuel industry operates within complicated socioeconomic and political contexts, individuals can walk, bike, vote or protest in the short-term for just, sustainable energy.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

Women in Senegal
One of the most crucial needs for countries around the world is widespread renewable energy access. In Senegal, limited energy access in rural areas has impeded economic development for years, with only 44% of households in rural Senegal having access to electricity in 2018. With such a lack of access, rural communities are limited to rudimentary energy sources such as wood-burning fires for cooking, lighting, warmth and other needs. For rural Senegalese businesses, renewable energy could dramatically improve food production and work efficiency. For example, instead of drawing water from a well one bucket at a time, farmers in Senegal could simply use a solar-powered water pump, saving a lot of time and expending far less physical energy.

Rural agricultural businesses, like market gardens, are in dire need of these technology upgrades as well as equal energy access between rural men and women. Market gardening is a popular agricultural technique utilized by smaller-scale farmers in Senegal, and most of the market gardening businesses are run by women. In fact, women in Senegal comprise 70% of the total rural employment workforce, making them the cornerstone of the country’s agricultural and livestock farming sectors. The empowerment campaign Energy 4 Impact is supporting rural women not only in their pursuit of widespread access to clean and renewable energy but also in the promotion of women’s autonomy and equality.

Energy 4 Impact’s “Energy Opportunities for Women in Senegal” Project

Energy 4 Impact is a non-profit organization partnering with local businesses to extend access to energy in Africa. It is working alongside Siggil Jigeen, a non-governmental organization that promotes and protects women’s rights in Senegal through the Energy Opportunities for Women in Senegal Project. The project aims not only to supply rural communities in Senegal with sustainable, efficient energy, but also to increase women’s contribution across the entirety of Senegal’s energy value chain. The project is active within the Tambacounda and Kedougou regions in Senegal, marked by characteristically high poverty and unemployment rates, low access to electricity, the dependence on solid fuel, the high level of working poor and the untapped potential for agricultural development.

So far, the program has empowered over “250 women-led Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs)” in rural areas. It hopes that by increasing the presence of sustainable energy sources, more economic opportunities will manifest themselves for women-run agricultural operations. The project has provided Senegalese women and women-run MSEs with reusable energy technologies (solar-powered pumps, solar lamps and freezers) and improved equipment for crop treatment. Besides supplying equipment, the project has held seminars providing women in Senegal with key entrepreneurial information that further empowers them as businesswomen. The project teaches business skills like record keeping, using financial services, networking and business autonomy, among others. Women are at the heart of Senegal’s agricultural scene, and this empowerment campaign has further secured their position as the country’s main actors along the energy value chain.

Project Impact

The project’s impact on women in Senegal is significant. A study found that married women entrepreneurs who participated in the project were more directly involved in decision-making, household investments/spending and health than other married women. Moreover, it was noted that most of the women who attended the informational seminars were more cognizant of “women’s energy needs,” their part in the energy sector and the numerous benefits yielded by actively participating in the country’s energy sector.

The Energy Opportunities for Women in Senegal Project has made tremendous progress by disseminating useful information and energy technologies throughout rural Senegal, but the country’s fight for energy is far from over. Energy access gender gaps and low female employment rates still plague Senegal’s urbanized areas. However, Energy 4 Impact has given hundreds of businesswomen in Tambacounda and Kedougou the tools needed to reach out to other women throughout Senegal, and hopefully empower them in the same way that they have been.

Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Flickr

In 2016, the African Development Bank launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa to accelerate the supply of electricity across the continent. After the African Development Bank launched its bold initiative, the president of the organization, Akinwumi Adesina, made a statement that resonated with countless communities: “Africa is tired of being in the dark.”

Fast forward to today and the vision of the New Deal has faded. All across Africa, communities suffer from frequent blackouts and grid congestion plagues slowly growing businesses. As the world becomes more tech-centered, it is critical that Africa is supported by modern technology rather than, as Adesina feared, being left in the dark.

High Population, High Demand

As the population in Africa steadily rises, so does the demand for reliable electricity to power growing communities. In sub-Saharan Africa, growing populations are overtaking electricity access, and the percentage of people in the region with access to electricity is declining. Additionally, mere access to power does not guarantee a high value in energy service. For instance, in Nigeria, it is estimated that homes and businesses spend $14 billion each year on fuel to power supplemental generators. This is because the current power grid is unable to keep up with the needs of the people.

If energy storage in Africa can be optimized, millions of people and small businesses will experience fewer blackouts. This will, in turn, provide energy, electricity and economic boosts for many struggling, impoverished communities. If executed properly, energy access could be the break in the poverty cycle that Africa has been waiting for.

Renewable Energy in Africa

With a consistently sunny climate, Africa has an incredible potential for solar energy. The cost of solar energy generation in Africa may even be relatively inexpensive compared to the current average prices for electricity. In Liberia, for example, one would have to pay a high average of $490 per megawatt-hour for electricity. However, if investors utilize the expansive supply of sunlight across the continent, the price will drop in the long run and provide more African consumers with stable energy. This could also provide more work opportunities in industry, technology and small businesses that would otherwise be unable to pay an electricity bill.

Overall, the impact of investing in new energy storage technology will be substantial. Impoverished communities will have access to reliable power, the poor can find work and countries’ economies will grow. However, the path to renewable energy integration is not as simple as one may hope.

In recent years, older and more traditional power plants have been attempting to provide stable power to communities with moderate success. It is estimated that 42% of Africans lack access to electricity in their homes because they are not in zones served by an electric grid. Additionally, frequent blackouts and massive regions without power are not uncommon in the continent.

Energy Storage

As Africa aims to integrate affordable solar energy on a large scale, the current grid capacity will not be able to respond to the high levels of demand. Without massive design changes, this issue will continue to worsen in the near future.

Energy storage in Africa allows for the integration of renewable energy on a broad scale and can address the electrical challenges found across the continent. It will also create a buffer between the limited supply and increasingly high demand. Thus, a new grid system concentrated on energy storage and more resilient power systems will be absolutely critical in guaranteeing renewable energy. Such a system will also lower the cost of electricity for Africans. With this progress, millions of families and businesses will have access to stable electricity.

Making Progress

Though there is still a great deal of work to be done, it is impossible to ignore the remarkable advancements in African energy in recent history.

When looking for companies that are investing in the people of Africa, one need look no further than the massive retailer Amazon, one of the largest and most successful businesses today. Amazon recently announced that it is hiring around 3,000 South Africans for customer service positions that are designed to be fully remote. It is a rare case in which Africans prove to have a stable-enough internet connection for the work from home lifestyle to be possible.

The potential impact this will have on the poverty rate in South Africa is outstanding. The ability to work from home opens doors for a number of people who previously did not have the opportunity to work. For example, mothers who were generally expected to be the familial homemaker can now work from home while taking care of their children. Additionally, people all across the region will be able to avoid expensive travel costs altogether.

With more investments in energy storage in Africa, more families and businesses will be able to thrive. Should these massive economic leaps continue in the future, the unemployment rate in the region will gradually decrease. Providing access to electricity also benefits families, businesses and consumers by improving education, healthcare and quality of life. At the same time, it helps to improve the bottom line for utility costs and rates of return for investors, drawing in more business.

It is evident that investing in one region can slowly bleed into the next, giving hope for a more stable future to the whole of the African continent. Through these continued efforts, Africa will no longer be left in the dark but rather will be brought light.

– Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

Energy Crisis In Kosovo
The energy crisis in Kosovo has long inhibited its economy. Already suffering from a post-war economy, Kosovo’s need for green energy has increased dramatically as a result. The following are five of the most salient facts about the energy crisis in Kosovo.

5 Facts About the Energy Crisis in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s energy crisis, as well as war, has rendered it extremely poorabout one-third of the 1.8 million people in Kosovo live in poverty; the European nation reports a 60% unemployment rate for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. After the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, its culture was left divided and its economy shattered. The additional strain of an energy crisis has only exacerbated the problem.
  2. Kosovo has historically relied on coal for energy—For most of its existence, two coal-powered plants—Kosovo A and Kosovo B—have produced 97% of its 900 MW “operating capacity,” according to the World Bank’s website. However, these plants have been in operation for a long time and rely on a non-renewable resource for power output.
  3. Kosovo’s current infrastructure has a short shelf lifeKosovo A, the older of the nation’s two plants, has produced energy from coal for 43 years, and it has been labeled Europe’s biggest pollutant. Likewise, Kosovo B has operated for 30 years and needs rehabilitation. The Government of Kosovo currently plans to cease the operation of Kosovo A and begin work to improve Kosovo B.
  4. Land disputes have worsened the problem in recent yearsIn 2017, the Kosovo government failed to seal a crucial land acquisition deal with the Sipitule village. The government desired the village’s land; the plan was to mine it for the 14 billion tons of coal thought to lie beneath it. Ultimately, Sipitule wanted more money than the government would pay, and the deal was not completed. At this time, Kosovo’s economy had already taken major blows as a result of insufficient power supply. According to Balkan Green Energy News, “the private sector of the economy suffered damages of almost EUR 300 million because of power shortages in 2016.” Since then, coal as a fuel source has become increasingly unable to support Kosovo and its people.
  5. Solar power can help solve the energy crisis in Kosovo from the inside—In 2015, in response to inflated costs of electricity, Kosovo native Fadil Hoxha started a solar panel manufacturing company called Jaha Solar. Today, Jaha Solar reports “a production capacity up to 200 MW solar panels per year” on their website. The company remains the only solar panel manufacturer in the region, but its numbers evince great success.

Kosovo still suffers greatly from poverty and insufficient energy, but companies like Jaha Solar have created new and cleaner methods of energy production that could help reduce the aftermath of coal dependency.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Energy Poverty in Italy Through Solar PV Market
Powertis, a Spanish company that focuses on the development and investment of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, has announced an expansion plan to enter Italy’s solar PV market. This shift will bring Powertis closer to its goal of reaching one gigawatt (GW) of ready-to-invest assets by 2023. In addition, it will support the National Plan for Energy and Climate (NECP), which has set a target of +30 GW of PV capacity by 2030. Powertis’ growth into the solar PV market will also serve as an opportunity to decrease energy poverty in Italy by reducing the price of electricity.

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty refers to people who are least likely to have access to energy services. This increases their likelihood of remaining poor. Energy poverty affects health by increasing the risk of cardiovascular or respiratory disease and the number of excess deaths in the winter, especially in colder areas. In 2017, estimates determined that 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and nearly 3 billion people cook meals with polluting fuels, such as charcoal, wood, kerosene and dung.

The Aim for Efficient and Affordable Energy

In 2011, the former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative to drive faster action towards achieving SDG7. SDG7 is the seventh goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is battling energy poverty by advocating for improved access to reliable, affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all. SE4ALL aims to double the global rate of improved energy efficiency and the global share of renewable energy by 2030. By working with government leaders, the private sector and civil society, SE4ALL hopes to ensure universal access to modern energy.

Energy Poverty and “Vulnerability”

The primary concern that Italy’s population faces when it comes to energy poverty is the uneven distribution of energy expenditure. The lowest 10% of Italian income-earners spend 4% of their budget on energy compared with the 1% that affluent households spend. This leads to a concept known as “vulnerability,” where the lowest 10% of Italian households have compressed purchasing power and reduced ability to purchase domestic or international goods and services.

Furthermore, as of 2017, Eurostat reported that 15.2% of Italy’s population cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. The inability of households to purchase an adequate amount of energy goods can have negative direct costs including increased stress on the healthcare system. It also has indirect costs such as a decrease in economic productivity and output in the community.

How Italy is Addressing the Issue

Italy’s government has created the National Energy Climate Plan (NECP) to address its energy poverty. The NECP aims to cover 30% of final consumption by renewable sources, reduce final energy consumption by 39.7% and aim for a 33% reduction in greenhouse gases. Italy introduced the NECP in December 2018 as a commitment and strategy to increase environmental protection and energy security while reducing polluting emissions, as the European Union put forward. So far, Italy has obtained “Medium” ratings in all of the categories after the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) evaluated it for 2020. This suggests that there has been a lack of implementing effective measures by the public sector.

Powertis’ Role in Reducing Energy Poverty

The CCPI evaluation also includes a “Low” rating for the “Renewable Energy – current trend” component, demonstrating the need to involve the private sector in producing more renewable energy for Italian markets. The inclusion of PV solar panels would improve Italy’s rating. According to Roberto Capuozzo, the Country Manager of Powertis in Italy, Powertis is one of many private firms working to address this need. It is operating as a leading company in the transition to a zero-emission economy. Powertis’ plans to develop PV projects in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio and increase its pipeline beyond over two gigawatts between Italy and Brazil.

Powertis is reducing the price of electricity by working with local community partners to structure the project’s financing and offer a lower price, in comparison to the cost of electricity for coal. Italy’s main issue is the inconsistent distribution of energy expenditure budgets for the bottom 10% of Italian income-earners in comparison with the top 1%. If prices for energy decrease, energy poverty should decrease. Powertis’ expansion to local communities in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio will offer these individuals more purchasing power and decrease their level of vulnerability. This will also benefit the economy by allowing them the ability to consume other goods and services. By increasing Italian households’ purchasing power, Powertis is increasing access to energy services and reducing energy poverty in Italy.

Powertis has expanded its reach into Italy’s solar PV market, thereby decreasing the price of electricity for Italian households. This has increased households’ access to energy services and subsequently increased their ability to dedicate more of their personal budget towards the consumption of other goods and services. The households’ lower level of vulnerability should also help to decrease energy poverty in Italy.

Natasha Nath
Photo: Flickr

Solving Energy Poverty
Access to electricity and other forms of energy is so ubiquitous in the United States and other developed economies, that it is easy to forget that energy poverty persists in the developing world. Yet, energy poverty (the lack of access to modern energy services including electricity and clean cooking facilities) remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. At the current rate of progress toward the United Nations’ goal of universal energy access, 650 million people will still be in the dark in 2030. However, people can solve the problem of energy poverty in developing nations. Moreover, they can tackle energy poverty without a significant contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Here are three sustainable technologies solving energy poverty.

3 Sustainable Technologies Solving Energy Poverty

  1. Microgrids: Microgrids are small, localized power grids that operate on renewable energy, diesel back-up and batteries. With low costs and high yields, microgrids are an affordable and sustainable solution to energy poverty. The price of batteries, solar and other energy technologies has been decreasing since 2010, reducing the cost of operation. According to the International Energy Agency, microgrids are the most cost-effective option to deliver electricity to more than 70 percent of the unconnected. By powering fridges, fans, irrigation pumps and other machinery, microgrids have saved time for families on household chores, helped farmers increase crop yield and light classrooms. In India, a project that Smart Power India and the Rockefeller Foundation launched is using microgrids to power more than 100 villages serving 40,000 people. More than 140 microgrids that this initiative has built have helped to alleviate energy poverty in the region.
  2. Biogas Digesters: Biogas digesters burn organic waste to generate odorless, clean-burning methane. Some experts consider them carbon-neutral because they offset more emissions than they create. The average home biogas system can reduce firewood use by up to 4.5 tons each year, which translates into four tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Biogas digesters are a sustainable, reliable technology for powering gas stoves and lights, requiring little maintenance and is safer than combustible tanks of liquid petroleum gas. Because of their potential to alleviate energy poverty, the government of Nepal, through its Alternative Energy Promotion Center, has helped build more than 200,000 biogas systems across the country and aims to increase that number to two million.
  3. LED Lighting: Solar-powered LED lights are delivering electricity to those unable to plug into power grids. Thanks to extensive innovation in the field, people can now also use many LED lights to power phone charging and small fans. LED has a long service life, between 10 and 20 years, which makes it a reliable form of sustainable lighting. They are also portable, easy to install and safer than fuel-based lighting. People unable to connect to an electric grid have bought more than 2.1 million LED-solar products globally. According to the IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa program, nearly 5 percent of Africans without access to electricity, around 28.5 million people, currently use LED lighting. Nonprofit organizations, such as Solar Aid, are increasing that number as well by introducing solar LED lights to other economically poor areas to sustainably combat energy poverty.

Limited access to reliable, modern and affordable energy services hinders communities and cripples economies. That is why achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of universal energy access by 2030 is so critical. These three sustainable technologies solving energy poverty are leading the way.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr