Renewable Energy
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it aims to achieve them by 2030. The SDGs are a comprehensive overview and effort from the global community to bring prosperity, aid and development all around the world. In September 2021, a major first step toward achieving SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy occurred. Major U.N. participating countries and leaders came together in New York to discuss and present plans to move forward with the pursuit of clean, renewable, affordable and eventually universal energy for all peoples of the world. The meeting laid out financial, societal and scientific goals to help develop and prepare the world for renewable energy.

Energy Poverty

The U.N. participating countries decided that they will largely aid countries experiencing “energy poverty” clean and renewable energy sources and the infrastructure necessary to support the production of those sources largely towards those suffering from “energy poverty.”

“We have a double imperative… to end energy poverty and to limit climate change. And we have an answer that will fulfill both imperatives. Affordable, renewable and sustainable energy for all,” said the U.N. Secretary-General.

Energy poverty is defined as “a lack of or limited access to modern energy sources.” This lack of modern energy sources means a lack of technology and technical assistance; everything from transportation, to light, heat and modern medical technology is all restricted. The use of polluting and dirty fuel sources and excessive time spent collecting fuels further burdens low levels of energy consumption.

Energy Access

One cannot overstate the pertinence of energy access and the lack thereof can be severe for those struggling in poverty. About 3 billion people or 40% of the world have no access to clean cooking fuels and about 13% lack access to electricity entirely.

People in poverty spend a vastly higher percentage of their income, effort and time on the energy that they use. “In situations where people do have access to energy, it is often the poorest that end up paying disproportionate shares of their income to energy, in part because the higher upfront costs of investments in energy-efficient equipment are more difficult to bear for low-income households,” reported Policy Brief 08. Lack of access to energy services is a form, an outcome and a cause of poverty.

The U.N. Energy pledge, stemming from SDG 7, is looking to provide 500 million more people with electricity and 1 billion more people with reliable access to clean cooking fuels by the year 2025. These milestones are shorter-term goals that aim to pave a road to eventual zero net emissions and universal access to clean energy.

The Future

Various member states, NGOs and other third-party organizations interested in aiding the people of the world suffering from energy poverty, committed more than $400 billion to this cause over 40 years. Beyond the money, there has been a global acknowledgment of the importance of energy access and conservation and a surge of resources and general support from around the world.

SDG 7 and the global effort against energy poverty is just another step in the struggle to help those around the world. Although there is quite a bit of work ahead, the global community’s drive, funding and planned approach are enough to warm and light up a room.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Corled Nkosi
Yobe Nkosi is a village in the Southern African country of Malawi that now receives hydropower thanks to the work of a local innovator. However, 15 years ago, a Malawian villager, Corled Nkosi, had to do his schoolwork by candlelight. Unable to go any longer without electricity, Nkosi came up with an innovation to bring power to the village. In 2018, “Nkosi won a Point Of Light Award from Queen Elizabeth II” for his innovative work that brings electricity benefits to more than 2,000 people. Now, Nkosi stands as the “electrical engineer behind Kasangazi Hydro-Electrical Power Plant in Malawi,” which provides cost-free power to 21 houses and nine businesses in his home village.

How it All Began

It all began in 2006 after Nkosi completed high school in Mzimba, a town 25 miles away from his village, where electricity was part of everyday life. Struggling to transition back to a life with no electricity, he began experimenting with the water of a stream near his house that was able “to push the pedals on his bicycle.” With this realization, he “created a makeshift dynamo” to generate power for his home.

His invention utilizes ingenuity, which many villagers praise at the mere age of 23. Villagers would visit his home to charge their phones. As electricity demand grew, self-taught Nkosi expanded on his idea, making a water-powered turbine from a fridge compressor placed in a river to generate electricity for six homes. A local village student, Gift Mfune tells France24 that, before this electricity access, he had to study by candlelight, but “now we all have no excuse but to pass our examinations.”

Powerful Impacts

Today, the village of Yobe Nkosi uses a turbine built from “a machine that skims kernels of corn off the cob.” This machine is capable of powering 1,000 homes and is relatively free for users. Nkosi only asks for about $1 a month per house for maintenance. However, this is insufficient to cover all costs — he usually funds the rest through his personal finances.

His hard work and dedication direct him toward improving access in the surrounding areas as well. Only 4% of people have access to electricity in rural Malawi, making his contributions extraordinary. Nkosi singlehandedly brought power to schools, homes and businesses without any training. According to the Points of Light website, U.K. High Commissioner in Malawi, Holly Tett, said that “Inspiring young people like Nkosi are the future of the Commonwealth and give us all the hope that we will be able to face global challenges.”

Energy Poverty

Although the village of Yobe Nkosi now receives power, energy poverty in Malawi remains a prevalent issue. Access to electricity is vital to ending global poverty. The ONE Campaign, “a global movement” to eliminate global poverty and disease, explains the far-reaching impacts of a lack of access to electricity: “In both cities and rural areas across the continent, the lack of access to electricity isn’t just an inconvenience, it creates health risks, limits education and makes it incredibly difficult to run and grow a successful business.” Electricity access ultimately brings economic benefits, providing an escape from poverty. Because poverty has a plethora of causes and a mix of barriers that hinder people, focusing on basic necessities is the first step to addressing poverty.

Moving Windmills Project

Founded in 2008,  the Moving Windmills Project “works with local leaders” in Malawi to develop solutions to issues plaguing communities. In an attempt to address energy poverty, the organization has brought “solar-powered water pumps and energy systems” to Malawian communities. By building an Innovation Center, the Moving Windmills Project aims to develop a learning center that will inspire children to become innovators. The center will provide training, tools and resources to assist young innovators to develop their own solutions to “ease the burdens” of their communities. The center will pave the way for the youth to follow a path of success like Corled Nkosi.

With imagination, a bike and a river, Corled Nkosi was able to transform an entire village. The world is on its way to universal electricity access with the help of organizations, governments and innovators like Nkosi. Every individual can play a role in electrifying the world simply by supporting these organizations through donations, volunteer work and advocacy.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Renewable Energy in Portugal
Portugal is taking advantage of its Atlantic coast by investing in offshore wind farms. These developments occur in an effort to reverse the negative economic effects of COVID-19 and downsize energy poverty in the country. The expansion of renewable energy in Portugal has the potential to reduce the country’s expensive dependency on imports while simultaneously creating new local jobs and domestic industries.

The Issue of Energy Poverty

The United Nations defines energy poverty as a lack of “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.” Compared to other countries in the European Union, Portugal endures some of the highest rates of energy poverty, with nearly 20% of the country’s population reporting that they were unable to properly heat and cool their homes in 2018. Compared to the E.U.’s average of 6.9%, Portugal has a notably high rate. Energy-inefficient homes result in extremely high energy bills for citizens when temperatures fluctuate, especially in the winter. Recent studies show that 75% of the buildings in Portugal fail to meet the required guidelines for heating. This is an issue that has devastating impacts on the overall health of residents.

The Portuguese government does provide discounts on gas and electricity for households that meet certain socioeconomic criteria, and in 2020, nearly 753,000 households in Portugal received the electricity social tariff. Additionally, approximately 35,000 received the natural gas social tariff. However, the development of renewable energy and the subsequent reduction of overall energy costs could eliminate the need for these social tariffs altogether.

The Economic Effects of COVID-19

Like many countries, Portugal’s economy has faced huge setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its GDP decreased by 8.4% in 2020, “the largest annual decline since 1936.” In order to combat this decline, the country is making strides to expand its renewable energy sector.

The hope is that it can transition from the expensive task of importing fossil fuels to finding innovative ways to generate its own clean energy. Renewable energy in Portugal has expanded greatly in recent years, providing more than 50% of the country’s electricity needs in 2019, with hopes to reach 80% by 2030.

Innovations in Wind Energy

One area of renewable energy in which Portugal has become a leading European country is the development of wind energy. In 2019, Portugal’s Atlantic coast became home to the second floating wind farm in Europe, an alternative to onshore turbines which can disrupt tourism and generate noise complaints. Previously, offshore wind farms were limited to shallow waters, preventing countries like Portugal from taking advantage of the industry due to their deep Atlantic waters.

However, incredible innovation by the Windfloat Atlantic Project produced three wind turbines located 20 km offshore from the port city Viana Do Castelo, minimizing disruption to the local fishing industry and taking advantage of more powerful winds and deep water storms. These three turbines alone possess an installed capacity of 25 megawatts. This is “roughly equivalent to the energy consumed by 60,000 homes in one year.” The cutting-edge feat of the Windfloat Atlantic Project has captured the attention of many other coastal countries who hope to develop similar technology and presents great potential for a resurgence in Portugal’s economy.

Renewable Energy and Economic Growth

COVID-19 caused unemployment in Portugal to skyrocket by 36.2% between May 2019 and May 2020. Throughout the pandemic, workers without degrees in higher education were most affected, with an average increase in registered unemployment of 38.3% between the same dates. However, the expansion of offshore wind energy is creating new job opportunities for this demographic which do not require higher education.

Wind energy in Portugal currently employs approximately 22,000 people, and the Windfloat Atlantic Project, which Ocean Winds implemented in 2011, has created 1,500 jobs for local citizens. Increased dependence on renewable energy in Portugal will also decrease electricity bills for residents and become a pivotal agent in combating energy poverty. Many expect that the pioneer project will grow in the coming years. Portugal is in the perfect position to capitalize on that growth, improving the lives of its citizens and revitalizing its economy in an earth-friendly way.

Like many countries, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were detrimental to Portugal’s economy. However, the success of the WindFloat Atlantic project has resulted in more job opportunities for those who became unemployed during the pandemic, a decreased dependence on energy imports and the downsizing of energy poverty due to the more affordable prices that renewable energy sources are able to offer. The cutting-edge technology of Portugal’s offshore wind farm has sparked excitement in many other European nations who hope to develop similar projects along their coastlines. As a new leader in the development of renewable wind energy, Portugal will continue to innovate and pave the way for cleaner, more affordable energy for all.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in Russia
Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of natural gas and the third-largest producer of oil. These are powerful sources of energy that are not renewable. However, there is great potential to convert to renewable energy in Russia. Further, if Russia follows the trends in the United States, there is also potential for Russia’s poverty rates to decline by expanding renewable energy industries and the jobs they could bring.

Russian Oil and Natural Gas Industries

The oil and natural gas industries accounted for about 36% of Russia’s federal budget revenues in 2016. In 2020, Russia produced an average of 10.7 million barrels of oil a day.  With this sort of abundance, Europe depends on Russia’s oil production as a chief energy source. In fact, in 2016, Russia provided more than one-third of the oil that European countries imported. As for natural gas, in 2020, the Russian company Gazprom produced more than 431 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Though as an energy source, oil and natural gas can damage the environment, there is a major benefit to maintaining these industries: they provide so much revenue and so many jobs. Russia’s unemployment rate is low at about 4.5% in 2021. It seems to follow then that without the oil and natural gas industry, the Russian economy could crash. More broadly, arguments have stated that countries that depend on their nonrenewable energy sources could risk increased poverty if they convert to renewables.

Russian Wind and Hydropower Potential

Though they are much less prevalent than their nonrenewable counterparts, there are sources of renewable energy in Russia. Scientists say that renewable resources have even distribution throughout Russia’s large territory. Also, because Russia is so large and has a variety of climates and terrains, it is ripe for the development of renewable energy sources (RES).

Scientists believe that the two RES with the most potential in Russia are wind and hydropower. The electricity that these sources produce would not only provide enough power for Russia but also allow Russia to be able to export to European countries. Unoccupied land in Russia is ideal for new wind and hydropower plants.

This fall Russia began a two-stage solicitation for clean energy projects. It aims to build capacity for up to 6.7 gigawatts (GW) in solar, wind and hydropower. In particular, with 4.7 GW for wind power, this would increase Russia’s wind capacity severalfold from its current 1.4 GW.

Renewable Energy Job Potential

One of the most promising effects of Russia’s transition to renewable energy is the jobs it could bring. To understand that potential, it makes sense to look at what’s happened in the United States. A recent Clean Jobs America report noted that there were more than 3.3 million workers in clean energy in the U.S. which is more than three times that of the number of workers in the fossil fuel industries. Further, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that through 2026, the two fastest-growing occupations will be solar installer and wind technician.

The oil and gas industries currently dominate the Russian economy and job market. However, the recent push for renewable energy in Russia could be very beneficial in terms of environmental improvements and also through job creation.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Vietnam
On February 22, 2021, Vietnam released the national power development plan (PDP 8) for the 2021-2030 draft for public comment. This plan highlighted the commitment of Vietnam in the transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. Until 2020, Vietnam’s effort to continuously divest its energy sources and focus on renewable energy projects has put it in a good position to become Asia’s next clean energy powerhouse. This article will provide an understanding of renewable energy in Vietnam as well as lessons for other countries transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Vietnam’s Economic Growth and Renewable Energy Investments

Researchers and experts have pointed out that one of the critical factors in Vietnam’s explosive renewable energy growth is its economic growth. According to the Asian Development Bank, the country has seen its economy grow by 6% annually since 2014, and 7% since 2018. Coupled with the country’s population increase, Vietnam’s swift economic growth drives up energy consumption at an extraordinary rate. Consumption of electricity has increased by more than 11% a year, growing faster than the GDP of Vietnam. According to the International Energy Agency report, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s second-largest electricity consumer. The statistics affirm that if Vietnam wants to continue growing its economy and attracting foreign investors, it needs to move away from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.

Vietnam’s Green Energy Potential

Another important reason why Vietnam has gradually moved away from fossil fuels is its green energy potential capacity. A report from the World Bank pointed out that Vietnam has one of the highest numbers of installed solar panels in Southeast Asia. Recently, renewable energy in Vietnam has seen massive solar outputs of electricity and energy, with the country producing 16,500 MW at the end of 2020. According to the statistics from a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Vietnam is among the top 10 countries with the highest capacity of solar energy panels as of 2020. Vietnam has an estimated 311 GWs of wind energy, one of the best resources in the region. Accompanied by the government’s commitment to investing in renewable energy, Vietnam is in a strong position to become a leader in the world in renewable energy development and innovative energy solutions.

The Need for Green Energy Projects

The second most important element of Vietnam’s recent renewable growth is its public commitment. A by-product of Vietnam’s economic boom was its massive carbon footprint and environmental pollution. Recent severe air and water pollution incidents in major cities have created public pressure that opposes any new development of coal power plants. Vietnamese people living in urban areas have been wearing their protective facemasks long before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the increasing number of cars and motorbikes on public streets has created a hazardous environment.

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have seen pollution levels four times higher than what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers acceptable. Recent Vietnamese governmental reports said that local governments refuse new power projects because of their environmental implications. As a result, urban planners and the Vietnamese government are reshaping their energy market to incorporate more solar and wind energy in order to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Experts believe that Vietnam can become a study case for renewable energy financiers and investors, thanks to its vast solar and wind energy potential.

Vietnam’s Accomplishments in Renewable Energy

From the beginning of 2014 through 2015, the country only produced 4 MW of installed solar energy for power generation. Renewable energy in Vietnam is only 0.32% of the total electricity that the country generates. Yet, as the statistics have pointed out, in just over five years, Vietnam has produced over 7.4 GW of rooftop solar power. Its renewable energy share boasts 10% of the country’s total electricity generated.

Researchers have estimated that Vietnam would produce more than 16.5 GW of solar energy, and 11.8 GW of wind energy. The government has already prepared for more onshore and offshore wind projects by 2025, which should produce 12 GW of energy capacity. These projects include wind farms in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, which projections have determined will produce about 170 million kilowatt-hours of green energy per year, along with Bac Lieu offshore wind projects. Along with these projects, the government’s effort and policies show precisely why Vietnam is on track to become Asia’s next renewable energy powerhouse.

The Impact of Vietnam’s Growth in Renewable Energy

Vietnam’s recent accomplishments in renewable energy have contributed to combating extreme poverty both nationally and globally. With the help of a booming green energy market, the country’s yearly poverty rate has been declining gradually. Vietnam has gone from a country with a rural electrification rate of 2.5%to being able to connect millions of rural families to the national grid, and the country is on track to provide more green energy to rural areas. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, these transitions will experience enhancement, thanks to renewable energy. In urban areas, renewable energy can help combat economic inequalities by providing a cleaner environment and stable energy prices. As the country has a commitment to transforming its energy, its economy will likely benefit and reduce extreme poverty.

These factors have contributed to the fast and efficient transformation of renewable energy in Vietnam. From a country that heavily relied on fossil fuels, Vietnam has become one of the leading countries in green energy. This transition helps the country combat weather changes while also uplifting the nation’s economy and providing solutions for eradicating poverty.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

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. In 2013, around 28% of the country’s population had 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 to more than 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