The Significance of USADF
Congress established the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), which is an independent U.S. government agency. Its mission is very simple; to fund grassroots groups and entrepreneurs, as well as small and medium-sized businesses throughout Africa. The organization began in 1980 and has helped 7 million people since its origins. Here is some information about the significance of USADF.

About USADF

The significance of USADF is that it focuses on the impoverished while prioritizing people with specific needs such as troubled youth, disabled people and others from different minority groups, such as women. For every $10,000, 79 more people obtain access to electricity, and 25 more people more workers gain jobs. In the last five years, USADF has been a key factor of The Global Food Security Act by contributing $61 million that helped 3.4 million people in 20 African countries.

USADF aids community enterprises by providing grants of up to $250,000. This allows underserved people to participate in Africa’s development story.

USADF also works with communities to understand problems at the root in order to determine the most effective solution. Some of the problems USADF is attempting to deal with are food insecurity and unemployment.

The Significance of USADF in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest energy access rates, with only around half of its population having access to electricity. Approximately 600 million people do not have electricity while 890 million people must utilize traditional fuels so they can cook. USADF’s off-grid energy grants promote market-based solutions that connect people and businesses to electricity. Since 2014, more than 130 off-grid energy projects have received more than $11 million in order to provide people with energy access.

While USADF funds energy projects, it also invests in agriculture. Close to 57% of Africa’s off-grid population works in agriculture. As a result, USADF has worked with businesses in agriculture, in order to provide them with support and reduce food insecurity. For example, through its partnership with the Feed the Future initiative, USADF has implemented projects in six African countries.

Looking Ahead

On June 24, 2021, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced a bipartisan resolution for the continued support of USADF. Since he came to Congress in 2018, Phillips has prioritized sustainable development and peacebuilding as a member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, as well as the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance. Now, he is demonstrating his active support of USADF.

“By focusing on grassroots projects and meeting real needs of people at the community level, the U.S. African Development Foundation has pioneered a successful model for development, garnering broad bipartisan support,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa who is co-leading this initiative.

This bill is crucial as it will dictate the future of a foundation that has helped millions of people. Fortunately, the future of USADF looks bright.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in KenyaWithin the continent of Africa, Kenya has become one of the fastest-growing nations. Between 2010 and 2018, the country saw annual growth of 5.9% and a GDP of $95 billion. Due to COVID-19, there have been challenges toward the attempts to continue growth. However, there is one area that continues to grow and is apparently the key to ensuring this growth prevails. This new safety net is a renewed use of renewable energy in Kenya.

Over the past decade, Kenya shifted to clean and natural energy. This change received support from the African Development Bank, the Kenyan government and European investment partners. The result has been a rise of new resources for renewable energy in Kenya and their implementation in new areas. With around 16% of the country’s population having access to electricity, the use of renewable energy has given Kenya the ability to supply it to more homes. The results have led the nation’s electrification to rise from 28% in 2013 to over 60% in 2017. Even if the issues from COVID-19 have impeded the current growth, the government still prioritizes this shift of resources. However, one of the most interesting developments is Kenya’s focus on multiple types of energy that can consistently provide electricity.

Wind

The usage of wind power had previously been prominent in Kenya and has provided a considerable amount through wind farm projects. Using wind turbines to generate electricity, this type of power has become one of the more widespread methods of obtaining renewable energy throughout the world. In Kenya, one of the most notable projects has been the Lake Turkana Wind Farm. The area of Lake Turkana was prime for this type of installation as it has consistently high wind speeds. Having 365 turbines, the farm has a power output of around 300 megawatts. The goal of the farm is to increase the electrical supply of the country by 13%. The project took 15 years to build and is the largest of its kind in Africa.

Another successful farm is the Ngong site that the company KenGen operates. Located near the city of Nairobi, the station’s output provides 5,100 kilowatts of power. Ngong was also the largest wind farm until Lake Turkana underwent construction. These projects both ensure the decreased use of fossil fuels and the growth of jobs to help maintain the farms. The Lake Turkana project alone employed over 2,500 people for its construction.

Also, the government support for these projects shows the country’s desire to have its own independent sources of power. The ability for Kenya to tap into grids and resources within its own borders provides benefits and allows for less of a need to rely on other nations for energy. While costs could be an issue, as most areas suitable for wind generation sites are far from the main grids, the benefits are tangible and the support from the government and other organizations could alleviate any financial problems concerning renewable energy in Kenya.

Hydroelectricity

Another of the most prominent types of renewable energy in Kenya is hydropower. This type of energy uses the natural flow of water to generate electricity. The amount of energy from the hydropower installations has resulted in a capacity of 743 megawatts. Due to Kenya being part of the African Great Lakes region, its potential for hydropower could reach 3,500 megawatts. The use of this energy also has a long history as small systems were present since the 1920s. The company Andritz Hydro first commissioned modern stations in 1968 with the Kindaruma Power Station. Since then, hydropower has remained a constant source of energy within Kenya.

Rural communities have consistently used hydropower. One individual who has taken advantage of this opportunity is Kenyan native John Magiro. His family raised him in a rural farming community with no electricity. As an adult, he dedicated his life to ensuring that communities like his would receive electricity and other modern advantages. This has culminated in the construction of a micro-hydropower plant along the Gondo river around 2015. The creation of plants like this, alongside support from organizations like the Kenya Environmental Trust Fund (NETFUND), shows that there is a desire in the country to easily give rural communities the benefits that renewable energy can provide.

However, as of late, there has been a consistent issue with the reliability of hydropower in Kenya. Over the past few years, there have been consistent droughts and a lack of rain. This has reduced the water going through dams and less overall production from plants. Between December 2016 and January 2017, production of energy declined from 299 million kilowatts per hour to 252 kilowatts per hour. While this does not spell doom for the future of this energy since weather is unpredictable and rain patterns could go back to their prior state, events like this show the necessity of investing in multiple types of energy. If one energy declines, another that supplies at a more consistent rate will be available. In particular, there has been one source of energy that has grown in importance in the wake of declining water in Kenya.

Geothermal

Accompanying the slight decline of hydropower has been the advancement of geothermal energy. This energy relies on the natural steam from rifts within the earth and, unlike other resources, outside influences such as weather or other natural occurrences, do not affect it. In 2017, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics found that at least 274 million kilowatts per hour come from thermal sources monthly. Through its application, geothermal energy has managed to create 32% of the overall electricity that people consumed in Kenya.

The construction of new plants has shown abundant results and higher energy outputs. In 2015, two new plants in Kenya’s rift valley, Olkaria, helped the national energy increase by 51%. The World Bank Group has backed Kenya in financing the use of this energy through its Internal Development Association (IDA). This has resulted in the region of Olkaria turning into one of the largest sources of geothermal energy in the world and one of the most prominent energy suppliers in the country. These efforts have helped geothermal energy rise up as one of the most prominent types of renewable energy in Kenya. At the moment, geothermal energy looks to be the most important source to the current efforts of change within Kenya due to the advantages it offers in output and availability.

Why This Matters

The rise of renewable energy in Kenya is important as it represents a lot for the country. The creation of new advancements represents a drive to modernize and connect Kenya to a larger global scene. Many people dedicate their lives to ensuring that those living in rural areas have opportunities that are common in other countries. In general, this is what renewable energy represents for Kenya. Not only does it supply a lot for the nation, but it also brings new innovations. They can connect electricity to places that have never had it before and all could reap the benefits of a revitalized Kenya. It may take some time, but a better future is on the horizon not just for Kenya, but also for all countries focusing on new ways to improve themselves.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

Self-sufficient Energy Production in OdanthuraiOdanthurai, a small village in Tamil Nadu, India, is the first in its region to incorporate wind, solar and biogas energy into its community. India is running out of the resources normally used to receive electricity. Since imports are expensive, using solar energy will boost the economy in the long term. Using solar energy will also help many villages, such as Odanthurai, to gain access to clean electricity. Self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai will help many villagers gain access to clean electricity and, as a result, alleviate poverty.

Why Odanthurai Converted to Self Sufficiency Energy

When farmer Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam was elected council president of Odanthurai, he became invested in the development of the community and village as a whole. Shanmugam fought for access to cleaner water, as well as better sanitation and roads. He then began realizing that implementing these additions, such as the installations of street lights, drinking water plants and filtering points, was increasing the village’s electricity bills. In an India Climate Dialogue interview, Shanmugam admitted that “the electricity bill was only INR 2,000 (USD $30) when I joined, and it increased to INR 150,000 (USD $2,220) in just two years.”

Shanmugam realized that change was necessary in order to sustain Odanthurai without causing extensive electricity bills. In the long run, clean energy would allow for a reduction in power bills. Electricity bills were making up 60% of the council’s expenses. This was a hindrance that prevented them from implementing any other developmental changes. Shanmugam began looking into alternative means of energy.

Implementing Clean Energy in Odanthurai

The first change Shanmugam made in Odanthurai was to replace the electricity-run water pump with a biomass gasifier. The resulting cost showed a reduction from the previous cost by almost 70%. This was a significant cutback from the state of the village’s electricity beforehand. Additionally, Shanmugam established two solar lights in Odanthurai. This was a step toward renewable energy that saved the village a total of 5000 INR.

The success of biogas and solar energy bolstered interest in exploring alternatives for electricity. Eventually, the council bought a windmill. The resulting energy that the windmill created was enough to sell to the state as well as pay off the local villages’ bank loans. Shanmugam’s statement on the self-sufficient energy production that he helped to effectuate was simply, “[The village councils] in India should take steps to address development on their own. If this can be done in Odanthurai, it can be done anywhere in India.”

Clean Energy’s Role in Poverty Reduction

While clean energy such as biogas, solar and wind energy is important for the environment, it also has a strong link to poverty reduction. The cost of installing electricity in the village was infringing on their budget for developmental changes. Using clean energy, which reduces power bills, can help alleviate poverty by allowing impoverished communities to focus on other necessary improvements such as hygiene and education.

According to a 2015 report by Synapse Energy, harnessing renewable energy allowed the state of California to save more than $15 million in the first six months. This can be similarly applied to other regions in the world, as the long-term costs are proven to significantly decline over time. As a result, villages can focus on areas that need further development without spending a majority of their budget on electricity bills.

Organizations Providing Assistance

While Shanmugam and the village council were able to implement self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai, other activists and organizations are also taking action toward advocating for clean energy. Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a non-governmental organization that provides solar energy to underprivileged regions around the world. SELF points out that 14% of the global population lacks energy access, which is a whopping 0.9 billion people. Since 1996, SELF has conducted its projects in about 25 countries around the world. Some of their notable projects include providing excess energy from solar vaccine refrigerators to power medical equipment. It also has been improving online learning in South America and powering telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest.

Self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai acts as a powerful example to the rest of the world. Clean energy has the power to change the world and alleviate poverty. It is time for other communities and countries to look toward self-sufficient energy options and see how they can improve the lives of their people.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in Venezuela
While poverty rates continue to rise in Venezuela, the country regularly experiences nationwide electricity blackouts. However, utilizing renewable energy in Venezuela would alleviate rising poverty rates in the country by creating job opportunities and reducing the presence of negative health impacts due to pollution. It would also ease the energy burden on the Guri dam, likely reducing the number of national electricity blackouts.

An Energy Crisis

In addition to having some of the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela also has an impressive national renewable energy infrastructure. The only problem: the government has all but abandoned the projects. For example, the administration of former President Hugo Chávez abandoned the government program Fundelec (Foundation for the Development of the Electricity Service) following the fall in oil prices in 2008 and 2014. Due to the atrophied Venezuelan energy infrastructure, between April and September 2020, there were roughly 84,000 electricity blackouts nationwide. Excessive energy dependence on the Guri dam continues to exacerbate the issue.

Nirida Sanchez, a resident of Machiques de Perijá in the state of Zulia, told Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez, a reporter for Dialogo Chino, that the blackouts have made her “a slave, because at any time when there is a downturn [she] has to run out and turn everything off so that [she doesn’t] damage another appliance.” Sanchez also told Gutiérrez that the blackouts have damaged both her microwave and her washing machine.

The Push for Renewable Energy in Venezuela

At the moment, Venezuela’s energy infrastructure depends on hydroelectric power that sites like the Guri dam generate, which is located on the Caroní River. Most estimates place the percentage of Venezuela’s electricity at the Guri dam at over 50%, while some sources claim that as much as 70% or even 85% of the country’s power comes from the Guri dam.

To counteract this heavy reliance on hydroelectric power — an energy source that, despite being renewable, can still have negative environmental and social consequences — the government began a push for a transition to other kinds of renewable energy in Venezuela roughly two decades ago. In the early 2000s, the government of former President Hugo Chávez established a program called “Sembrando Luz,” with the intention of using “micro-networks of hybrid solar-wind systems” to harness the renewable energy potential of Venezuela’s northwestern states.

However, the government abandoned the renewable energy projects following the fall in oil prices in 2008 and 2014. As a result, Venezuela renewed its dependence on the Guri dam for electricity and abandoned its hopes for a renewable energy future. That is until a 2016 report by the Scientific Institute Francisco de Miranda emphasized the “technical possibilities and the low cost of photovoltaic energy in the country.”

Despite a phase of fits and starts, harnessing electricity via solar panels and storing it in batteries is a practice that is picking up speed in Venezuela. Engineers familiar with the issue emphasize that a need exists for state involvement and investment in the technology, but, despite that financial hiccup, moving the Venezuelan power grid towards a reliance on photovoltaic power would be a definite boon to citizens like Nirida Sanchez.

Health Benefits of Renewable Energy Use

The benefits of adopting renewable energy sources like solar or wind power are numerous. One benefit is the positive health impact of a transition away from fossil fuels: renewable energy sources are safer for both individuals and entire communities.

To begin with, renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines produce little to no global warming emissions. They also lead to little to no air pollution. As the Union of Concerned Scientists clarifies, the air and water pollution that coal and natural gas plants emit has a link to “breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death and a host of other serious problems.” These health impacts make it more difficult for impoverished citizens to survive their harsh living conditions.

Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy Use

There are economic benefits to a transition to renewable energy sources as well. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that “on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.” This is because the renewable energy industry, in comparison with the fossil fuel industry, is relatively labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive. That means cleaner air, more jobs and less poverty — all thanks to renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind farms.

For a country like Venezuela, which was suffering from economic and health crises even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the creation of new jobs is vital to economic recovery. Although some experts suggest that the economic troubles in Venezuela, and the resulting rising poverty rates, are due to hyperinflation, the creation of additional jobs in the renewable energy sector would undoubtedly help ameliorate rising poverty rates in the country.

Looking Ahead

It will not be easy to transition to renewable energy in Venezuela, but it will help alleviate rising poverty rates in the country by creating job opportunities and reducing the presence of negative health impacts associated with pollution. Although the Venezuelan government at this time is not working to implement any new renewable energy projects, Venezuelan scientists and NGOs like the Committee of People Affected by Power Outages, an NGO that monitors the impacts of the Venezuelan electricity crisis, continue to push for renewable energy in Venezuela.

By fighting for a renewable future, Venezuelan citizens and scientists are nudging their government in a healthier and safer direction. However, it requires funding and international support from countries like the United States or organizations like the United Nations in order to reach full realization.

– Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Energy Distribution in Madagascar
Groupe Filatex is an energy company in Madagascar that has the goals of renewal, energy distribution and modernization through infrastructure development. The company works in the real estate, duty-free zone, energy and service sectors. Through its innovative projects, Groupe Filatex promotes job creation as Madagascar’s largest employer. It also promotes sustainable growth not only in Madagascar but also across the African continent. The company’s work has made Madagascar Africa’s leading economy in renewable energy.

Projects to Aid Energy Distribution in Madagascar

Approximately 15% of the population has access to electricity with a country-wide generation capacity of 500 megawatts. The company is working to build solar power plants that will provide electricity to four cities with a combined capacity of 50 megawatts. It installed plants in Antsiranana, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara. Groupe Filatex collaborated with DERA Energy, a Canadian power producer focused in Africa and Canadian Solar Inc. to supply the plants.

Along with power producer company Akuo, Groupe Filatex has also announced the first installation of Akuo’s Solar GEM mobile and portable solar units in Tulear. This project falls under the two companies’ collaborative initiative called Enelec. By 2022, expectations have determined that Enelec will have completed projects that would provide an additional 170 megawatts in Madagascar and 110 megawatts in Africa and Europe.

Expanding Energy Distribution Across Africa

Groupe Filatex announced multiple projects that will expand its services to other African countries including Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea and Ghana. The organization planned most projects before COVID-19. This means the projects are still in the works without too many obstacles that may have manifested with the pandemic. The main factor that would delay the projects is the travel restrictions for pandemic precautions. Plans for energy distribution in Guinea and Ghana are currently experiencing delay, although the Guinea project should still start in September 2021.

However, the project in Côte D’Ivoire should begin as soon as May 2021. Groupe Filatex’s project will recompense some of the 8% increase in domestic electricity demand as 1.8 million Ivorian households are without power. Contributing to the national plan to install 424 megawatts of solar power by 2030, Groupe Filatex will provide 66 megawatts of solar power in Côte D’Ivoire.

Other Social Development Initiatives

In addition to its main focus on energy distribution, Groupe Filatex is also a dedicated advocate for social development. The company shows its commitment to better the quality of living in Madagascar by supporting three developmental areas: childhood education, social community and the environment.

  • Childhood Education: Groupe Filatex promotes access to education by working with Malagasy schools to improve educational resources and tools. The company offers assistance in upgrading equipment and training in the classroom to modernize the learning environment. Over 1,300 children currently have enrollment in a renovated school. By providing the necessary support, Groupe Filatex’s efforts help cultivate professional development among young Malagasy.
  • Social Community: The company has started projects for essential living conditions. The projects create and renovate roads, install lighting and bus shelters, facilitate sanitation systems and increase access to drinking water. Groupe Filatex successfully carries out these initiatives with the help of private and public partnerships.
  • Environment: Groupe Filatex has shown commitment to preserving Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna. As described by the company as “natural wealth,” the protection of Madagascar’s ecological heritage makes the company’s development checklist. So far, the company has reported the preservation of 9,895 square meters of green landscape.

Although Madagascar has had limited access to energy in the past, Group Filatex’s efforts to provide the country with renewable energy are proving successful. Moreover, it is having an effect on the country’s communities even beyond improving energy distribution in Madagascar. In fact, it is helping increase children’s access to education and aiding in the building of infrastructure.

Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

Energy Vault
“Energy poverty” is a term that describes the lack of reliable, affordable sources of energy. More than one-seventh of the world’s population still lacks electricity, and in countries where it is available, it is often very expensive or unreliable. Access to energy is essential to people’s health and wellbeing, and it is instrumental in reducing poverty. Countries will not be able to engage in economic activities without modern, efficient energy. This in turn slows economic growth, which is a necessity for countries to pull themselves out of poverty. The poor will remain outcast and unprosperous, shut out from the high technology world if energy poverty persists. Here is some information about renewable energy and the Swiss startup Energy Vault that is providing low-cost energy to developing countries.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has the potential to help the developing countries that are struggling to provide power. It is sustainable and efficient, and the more efficient the energy technologies are, the more energy a country can save to use elsewhere. Renewable energy may seem like the perfect solution to energy poverty. In practice, however, the familiar forms of renewable energy like wind and hydropower pose various challenges.

Barriers to Renewable Energy Use

First, renewable energy has a high initial cost. In order to harness renewable energy, countries must build specific structures to capture it and convert it into electrical power. If using hydropower, a country must build a hydropower plant; in the case of wind energy, a country must build wind turbines. Furthermore, energy generation is dependent on the climate and geography of the area and it may be unstable. Wind does not blow incessantly, and the turbines will not generate any energy when there is no breeze.

In the example of hydropower, areas may not have water to spare to power hydroelectric plants. More than 40% of the world’s people still do not have access to clean water, and it would be unwise for countries to use the little they do have on hydropower when their own people are still struggling. While renewable energy seems like the best option for developing countries, it presents several challenges when implemented.

Energy Vault

In response to this issue, Energy Vault, a Swiss startup, developed a method to provide reliable energy by utilizing the force of gravity. It operates by lifting composite bricks, then lowering them back to the ground. The brick has kinetic energy as it goes down, which the structure converts into electricity. It uses similar principles to hydropower but replaces the water with a system of bricks. This makes the system more implementable than hydropower since it does not divert water away from the population, who need it for drinking. Any area can implement Energy Vault easily because it does not depend on geographical or climatic factors. Unlike hydropower, wind power or solar power, it can generate electricity under any conditions. Energy Vault is extremely low cost and affordable to developing countries that need it.

In addition to its reliability, Energy Vault is sustainable. It can last for more than 30 years, and its performance will not degrade at all throughout its life. Recycled waste and landfill materials make up the bricks that Energy Vault uses, and as such, they are readily available anywhere.

The affordability and sustainability of Energy Vault make it a good energy source for struggling countries. Though energy poverty is still a major issue in many areas of the world, startups like Energy Vault offer innovative solutions to combat it.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Low-Cost Power in India
Millions of people around the world own smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, all of which batteries power. Inevitably, as these devices age, their batteries degrade and lose capacity.  Nevertheless, even after one grows tired of constantly hunting for the charging cable and decides instead to buy a new one, it turns out that the old battery, the same “dead” battery that will likely end up in your garbage can, just might have some life in it yet. One start-up company has emerged on exactly that premise. With offices in Germany and India, Nunam (which means “for the future” in Sanskrit) repurposes lithium-ion batteries to produce new energy storage systems and provide low-cost power in India. Funding from the Audi Environmental Foundation has recently allowed Nunam to complete a prototype and offer its units for free to street vendors in Bengaluru, India.

Nunam’s Innovation

Founders Darshan Virupaksha and Prodip Chatterjee met in 2017 when both men were looking to apply their technical backgrounds in ways that could create real social impact. Deciding that energy access was an issue they wanted to tackle, they created their lab in Bengaluru and began testing different types of batteries. Eventually, they settled on the lithium-ion cells that power laptop computers and are easily acquirable from scrap dealers.

Containing several dozen of these “second life” batteries, each of which still possesses at least two-thirds of its original capacity, Nunam’s prototype is smaller than a briefcase. Yet these units provide enough energy for Bengaluru’s street vendors to light their stalls after dark and to charge their cell phones.

Nunam’s Prototype

Nunam has also developed a different prototype in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a research organization based in New Delhi that is concerned with energy, the environment and sustainability. This second model comprises electric-vehicle batteries and can provide energy to multiple shops at the same time. One unit inside an electrical shop, for instance, powers another 39 stores in the nearby vicinity. In addition, as the owner of the shop pointed out to The Better India, Nunam’s energy devices are cost-effective. Even for those who cannot pay for electricity, a daily supply of candles can cost upwards of 10 Indian rupees, while Nunam’s unit reaches 40 shops for one-third of the price, thus providing low-cost power in India.

Plus, by reusing batteries to generate electricity, the new devices reduce waste and pollution. Many countries currently recycle less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries; despite their remaining energy capacity, most discarded batteries simply end up in landfills. In a further effort to minimize its environmental impact, Nunan has also developed an app that allows its engineers to keep track of their energy units and to observe the battery cells’ condition. Once Nunam sees that the batteries are nearing the end of their capacity, it retrieves the unit and then recycles the fully depleted batteries.

Addressing Energy Access

Although the company is still in the process of development, its creation of energy storage systems that are both affordable and environmentally friendly has important implications for issues surrounding poverty and energy access. In India, although the government has made enormous strides in expanding the reach of power grids, roughly 2.4% of households do not have access to electricity, with most of these concentrated in rural areas. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), households without electricity pointed most often to their inability to afford the expense, while others were simply beyond power grids’ geographical reach.

Thus, one wonders if Nunam’s cheap, portable units could offer a potential solution for people who lack access to electricity, even if they live in rural settings. At present, the storage systems can power only low-wattage devices for several hours at a time, but before 100% of Indian households undergo electrification, even charging a smartphone or lighting an electric bulb can bring huge benefits.  Especially in the latter case, students are able to continue their schoolwork after dark while adults (like how it provides low-cost power in India to the street vendors in Bengaluru) can engage in productive activities to generate income.

Looking Ahead

Furthermore, Nunam’s founders hope someday to expand their operation within India and in other developing countries. Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to light, with most living in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. While households must spend valuable time and resources procuring fuel, doctors struggle to treat patients after sunset, and pollution from indoor fires and kerosene lamps causes millions of deaths.

Therefore, by providing low-cost energy and reducing waste and pollution, Nunam’s innovation tackles several of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at once. Since ending global poverty necessitates ending light and energy poverty, too, it will be exciting to watch the start-up strive to live up to the promise of its name: “for the future” indeed.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Africa
Africa is only responsible for 3.2% of energy usage within the global landscape. Africa suffers from energy poverty, or the lack of access to modern energy services, despite the natural abundance of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. With the potential to generate up to 11,000 GW of electricity, the continent has the means to utilize solar power, wind energy, natural gas, hydroelectricity and fossil fuels and eliminate energy poverty in Africa.

Challenges for Energy Access in Africa

Despite the potential energy Africa has access to, several factors prevent a permanent resolution to energy poverty in Africa. The primary reason comes from federal involvement in energy generation and distribution, or the lack thereof. Poor planning and distorted energy regulation led to persistent electricity inconsistencies in different regions, leading to the state allowing monopolies to run resources without initiating proper federal oversight. To accommodate for the lack of power, many locals turned towards fossil fuels, such as gas and oil, which are unsustainable and environmentally insufficient.

This was common throughout Africa, as many African governments reluctantly accepted the privatization of energy industries. For example, Nigeria’s government split up its central power system and divided it between two private bodies of supply chains and private investors. The government kept control of the national grid system, which receives generated power and facilitates distribution to each private sector. This essentially means that the generation and distribution of energy are privatized, but the government holds the transmission and division of that energy.

Some see this system as problematic because the government holds too much power between the two privatized entities. This makes these privatized entities seem less susceptible to market incentives and like rather corrupt political policies. It defeats the purpose of privatized sections, which should normally encourage competition between private organizations and work towards innovation and consumer efficiency. However, this system does the opposite, and limits the energy capacity to one segment, leaving any excess to waste.

Repercussions of Poor Energy Access

Considering this inefficient system of energy distribution, the repercussions have created a large contrast between certain regions and social groups. Urban areas have access to 70% of the total energy supply in comparison to the rural usage of 20% or less. Other disparities exist between genders and age groups, as women and children in Africa suffer from respiratory diseases that directly link to energy poverty. For example, poorly designed cooking devices that stem indoor biomass cooking have shown causation to health consequences.

The Effect of COVID-19

COVID-19 has also contributed to the increase of energy poverty in Africa and will continue to have negative effects on Africa’s recovery. The virus not only caused 6,524 deaths in Africa out of 175,503 confirmed cases but also continues to threaten Africa’s access to proper sanitation and clean cooking facilities. The pandemic has also halted global intervention to increase energy efficiency, because a majority of resources are largely going toward the COVID-19 response. Considering energy poverty in Africa stems from the lack of political reforms and the pandemic, how can Africa address the issue?

Solutions

John Ifediora, a professor of economics emeritus at the University of Wisconsin System, as well as a researcher, law attorney and economist, suggested several political changes to combat energy poverty in Africa. He highlighted the significance of regulating and normalizing the use of solar power and wind energy and lessening the reliance on fossil fuels to provide sustainability within local communities.

He also suggested that governments reform their cooperation with private companies, taking advantage of their economic tendencies and competitiveness. By allowing one private organization to take over sections of Africa and facilitate the generation, transmission and distribution of energy, self-regulation will develop among those companies as they keep to affordable prices, energy commerce and competitive innovation.

Dr. Vera Songwe, the U.N. Undersecretary-General and expert on Africa, also added that certain global programs are working to implement assistance to promote energy access in Africa. Global Commission to End Energy Poverty, Economic Commission for Africa and global projects such as Start-Up Energy Transition Programme are constantly working to implement an efficient energy distribution system for Africa.

Energy poverty in Africa is a major factor that hinders the progression of health, economy, education and agriculture, and fuels global poverty in general. Though it is crucial for Africa’s political policies to address and respond to this issue, more organizations are working to combat energy deficiency and implement self-sustainable solutions to help locals in the long-run.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Tanzania
Poverty eradication in Tanzania has seen success with the country’s poverty rate falling from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. The country requires more renewable energies including solar, biomass, hydro and wind in order to create jobs and lower unemployment. Agriculture is the main part of Tanzania’s economy today and is a significant consideration when thinking about renewable energies. Here is some information about poverty eradication in Tanzania.

Poverty in Tanzania

The 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment of overall poverty eradication efforts in Tanzania shows that the country has made steady gains in lowering the overall poverty rates between 2011 and the present. In fact, poverty decreased by 8% in 10 years, down from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. Most of the reduction in poverty was in rural areas and outside urban Dar es Salaam. However, the eradication of poverty in Tanzania has slowed down since 2012. For example, the economic growth on poverty reduction went from a 1% decline annually to 0.3% yearly since 2012-18. As a result, for every four Tanzanians who rose above poverty levels, three more Tanzanians fell into poverty. One reason for this is that families have a large number of dependents and less access to resources that would assist with basic needs, limiting their ability to access employment.

Poverty eradication in Tanzania has been successful based on the measures to eradicate poverty. For example, many in the country are using solar power now. While poverty and living conditions, in general, have experienced steady improvement, only 29% of Tanzania has access to electricity with 10% going to rural Tanzania and only 7% going to poorer families.

Facts About Energy and Energy Poverty in Tanzania

  1. Tanzania’s Energy: Tanzania generates its energy mostly from natural gas (48%), hydro (31%), petrol (18%), biofuels (1%) and solar (1%). Solar implementation would be beneficial to Tanzania region-wide, considering that its current sunshine hours range between 2,800 and 3,500 per year. The global radiation is 4-7kWh per m2 per day.
  2. Untapped Renewable Energy Sources: Tanzania still has a vast amount of untapped renewable energy sources that include biomass, hydropower and wind sources, as well as ample sunlight. Some of the country’s efforts to implement the use of solar power has been paying off greatly. For example, in rural areas, people are using 33% solar energy in contrast to urban areas that are only using 14% solar power. Meanwhile, the World Bank stated that “Despite some improvements, about 45 percent of households still rely on such inefficient lighting sources as torches and kerosene. Tanzania energy situation – Solar efficient energy sources for cooking has also improved slightly, but over 80 percent of all households, and more than 90 percent of rural and poor households, continue to rely on firewood and charcoal.”
  3. Biomass, Hydro and Wind: Biomass challenges facing the population include limited technical knowledge, lack of financial facilities for investment purposes into renewable energy and limited knowledge of the population’s different energy options to calculate cycle cost and make the best use of biomass renewable energy. Hydro is also a highly dependable source of renewable energy for Tanzanians, however, there is an area for growth and opportunity to utilize a different renewable source such as wind power. If, for example, the country does not have much rain, it might choose to depend on another source for energy, such as wind, although wind power has been slow to evolve.

Amplifying Employment Through Agriculture

A World Bank article looked at how Tanzania has reduced poverty and improved its economy over the last decade. However, it also uncovered that a large number of the population is still at risk of falling into poverty. Without sufficient job growth, the Tanzanian population, which is only growing larger, could experience trouble. The unemployment rate went down to 9.7% in 2020, showing considerable improvement in comparison to the unemployment rate of 10.3% in 2014. Urban areas show less stability regarding consumption inequality and inequality opportunities than rural areas. The need for increased education and general awareness to the entire population is why it is prudent to understand the renewable energy options available and get the population of Tanzania up to speed on the technology available to them, along with real resources.

The Tanzanian government’s Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and the Five-Year Development Plan (FYDP II) aim to eliminate poverty and sustainably industrialize with the goal of Tanzania becoming a middle-income country by 2025. As a result, the Tanzanian government is turning its attention to agriculture in order to increase the country’s socio-economic development, as outlined in the Second Agriculture Sector Development Program (ASDP II). Some of ASDP II’s goals are to increase commercialization, prioritize commodity value chains and mobilize capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture. Agriculture drives about two-thirds of jobs in Tanzania and three-quarters for those in poverty meaning that the improvement of the sector is necessary to the creation of more and higher-quality jobs in order to reduce poverty.

Agriculture is and has been one of the mainstays economically. It also accounts for about a quarter of Tanzania’s GDP and makes up two-thirds of the jobs. It is prudent that Tanzania takes enhanced measures to improve the strategy and ensure the creation of more jobs according to The World Bank. Plenty of room exists for innovation and increased job creation to meet the acceleration of population growth. The focus goes back to the need to help Tanzanians understand and gain awareness of how to implement “commercialization, prioritizing high-potential commodity value chains, and mobilizing capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture.”

Looking Ahead

As the world progresses globally in technology and trade, the question becomes, will the Tanzania population keep up? Many in rural areas still have employment in agriculture. Agriculture employment opportunities will continue to exist, but with more advanced equipment, thereby, creating more production opportunities to increase employment opportunities.

– Kathleen M. Hellem
Photo: Pixabay