Renewable Energy in PanamaPanama is part of a group of Latin American countries committing to new energy priorities that allow them to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic. Renewable energy in Panama is a key part of this success. The international COVID-19 crisis forced the leadership of many countries to rethink the status quo, from prioritizing healthcare accessibility to normalizing the virtual workplace. Sourcing power from renewable sources is part of this envisioned restructuring of society.

The Potential of Renewable Energy in Panama

Renewable energy in Panama can help drastically reduce energy poverty. Energy poverty occurs when a household does not receive enough electricity to power the home. Symptoms of energy poverty include negative health impacts as a result of extreme temperatures, stress and exorbitant energy bills. Panama has great potential to develop its renewable energy capacity in hydropower, solar, wind and more. The goal laid out in Panama’s National Energy Plan aims to generate 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Hydropower: Panama’s Powerhouse

Panama produces 54% of its energy through hydropower. An isthmus of land situated between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Panama has many naturally flowing sources of water. In the last 30 years since Panama gained control of the Panama Canal from the United States, Panama’s economy boomed, and consequently, its energy needs swelled to unprecedented levels. Hydropower is a major source of foreign investment, and thus, is a boon for the economy.

All life is drawn to water. Conflict often arises in communities along rivers in hydropower construction projects around the world. In Panama, problems include flooding, forced migration, destruction of homes and habitats, pollution and obstruction of fish migration. In 2014, the construction of the Changuinola dam forced 1,000 people from their homes.

Addressing the needs of key stakeholders such as community members has been shown to improve the long-term sustainability of hydropower projects. A study found that heavy reliance on hydropower is linked to corruption in some nations. To address these problems, Panama may be able to opt for small-scale hydropower designs that do not require big reservoirs yet still produce enough energy. To truly create a sustainable energy source, project leaders can conduct site exploration and environmental impact studies to minimize the negative impacts of this expanding renewable energy source.

Wind and Solar Power: Uncaptured Potential

In its commitment to honoring the Paris Climate Accord, Panama has made great strides in implementing wind energy. Panama is known to have the largest wind farm in the Central American and Caribbean region, built in 2015. This wind farm generates “between 6% and 7%” of Panama’s electricity from the 108 wind turbines that stand.

Solar power has less of a foothold in renewable energy in Panama than hydropower and wind, but being a tropical nation near the equator, the nation gets a lot of sun, notably in the dry season from October and March. There is potential for even further expansion and for this development in energy security to lift families out of poverty. Between 2011 and 2020, Panama took its annual solar energy production from two to 198 megawatts, an amount that can now power about 300,000 homes each year. This trajectory will help lift millions out of poverty between now and 2050.

The Road Ahead

The story of renewable energy in Panama is one of accomplishment and growing pains. There are still many issues to face. For 70% of its energy to be produced by renewable sources by 2050, Panama will need to focus on environmental impact studies for hydropower projects. Another priority will be training and paying a workforce with the knowledge and skills to implement renewables technology.

Considering Panama’s energy demands are growing by 8% every year, the growth of hydropower, wind and solar energy play key roles in offsetting the expansion of fossil fuels. This produces better outcomes for everyone in the nation, but particularly those experiencing energy poverty. The expansion of renewable energy provides hundreds of thousands of people with electricity and improves environmental outcomes long term.

– Sarah Metzel
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in SpainIn 2018, Spain announced its goals of deriving 75% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, and by 2050, increasing this renewable energy reliance to 100%. Within two years, Spain rethought its entire energy consumption pattern and transitioned to generating 43.6% of its energy renewably by 2020. Along with producing more sustainable and efficient energy, renewable energy in Spain also helps reduce poverty throughout the country.

5 Ways Renewable Energy in Spain Reduces Poverty

  1. Providing Clean Energy Jobs. In 2018, Spain made its first step toward renewable energy by closing coal mines and redirecting mining employees to clean energy jobs. Former coal mine employees were re-trained for jobs focusing on solar and wind power. The construction of renewable plants is providing jobs as well. By 2019, the switch to renewable energy in Spain created approximately 90,000 jobs in the sector. Enel Green Power’s Totana Solar Plant gave preference for employment to locals and provided training for the unemployed. The shutdown of coal mines did not bring about hardship to the country as new jobs were created through the transition to renewable energy, benefiting the entire nation.
  2. Lowering Energy Prices. Typically, renewable energy is more costly than conventional energy because it involves far less production. However, with the increased demand for renewable energy in Spain, renewable energy prices are dropping. Renewable energy also saves money in the long term due to its efficiency and sustainability. Experts estimate that the switch to renewable energy will save the average household €210 per year.
  3. Renewable Energy Tax Reform. Spain also uses taxes as an incentive to push renewable energy. Specifically, in 2019, Spain dropped its “sun tax,” which charged for self-consumption of solar energy and sharing of solar power. The sun tax made sustainable energy more expensive, essentially serving as a barrier in the renewable energy transition.
  4. Helping Economic Growth. As with the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt Spain’s economy considerably. Spain’s economy contracted by 11% in 2020, “the biggest contraction since the days of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.” Furthermore, the unemployment rate reached 16.1%, affecting tourism-dependent industries the most. In the wake of the economic consequences of COVID-19, renewable energy provides a way to stimulate the economy. In September 2020, Spain allocated €181 million to renewable energy in order to increase jobs, investment and affordable electricity access. As such, renewable energy is part of COVID-19 relief in Spain and will help repair the economy.
  5. Reducing Energy Poverty. Overall, energy poverty impacts “between 3.5 and 8.1 million citizens” in Spain. The definition of energy poverty is a lack of “access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy.” Energy poverty can occur because of the inability to afford energy or because of the lack of energy availability in certain areas. With renewable energy replacing conventional energy, however, energy is not only becoming more affordable but the efficiency of renewable power makes it more widely available.

Looking to the Future

Spain’s new energy plan has greatly contributed to the decrease in both carbon emissions and poverty. Currently, the country is inching closer to the 50% mark of renewable energy reliance. The Spanish nation is following its plan closely and is set to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Women in African energy
Energy and utility companies can play a significant role in financial growth and social progress within lower-income countries. Through employment and expansion of electricity access, these companies provide infrastructure crucial to development, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa with wide disparities in access. However, established gender inequalities have prevented women from obtaining the same opportunities as men within the energy sector. In partnership with African governments, USAID is sponsoring the Women in African Power Network, which promotes women in Africa’s energy industry and their equal opportunity to join the workforce.

Access to Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Approximately two-thirds of individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are without reliable electricity, according to USAID’s Power Africa. Limited access to power in sub-Saharan Africa has led to gender disparities because it poses a challenge to women’s health, employment and education. Access to electricity ensures safer childbirth procedures and allows for greater numbers of women to be employed or attend school. Another challenge to limited access to electricity is that women in sub-Saharan Africa frequently experience ill-health effects due to fuel-based electricity as they generally remain in the home for longer periods of time. Thus, many governments have begun to recognize the importance of including women in the implementation and decision-making of energy expansion initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gender and the Energy Sector

Studies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature occurred jointly with USAID and Power Africa in 2019, which found that women held only 6% of executive and leading roles in the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Women also comprised roughly 16% to 20% of the general power sector workforce.

USAID has stressed the importance of closing this gender gap. According to an article on its strategy to increase the number of women in Africa’s energy sector, the U.S. agency described the “strong correlation between gender diversity and a company’s financial performance.” When women enter leadership positions, this beneficial economic trend is even more pronounced: companies that ranked highest in gender diversity in administrative roles had 14% higher return on investment than other corporations. Due to gendered differences in energy usage, women have valuable perspectives as decision-makers and consumers that provide crucial insight into the design and execution of new energy technologies.

In response, governments are creating more inclusive frameworks to advance the recruitment of women in Africa’s energy sector. As of 2018, almost 75% of energy-planning frameworks address gender inequality and several recognize the capability of women to lead the energy sector in innovation, efficiency and problem-solving.

USAID and the Power Africa Campaign

As part of the Power Africa campaign devoted to bringing electricity to all in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID partnered with African governments and IUCN to launch the Women in African Power Network (WiAP) in 2015. WiAP empowers women in African energy companies through professional growth opportunities, skill development workshops and networking facilitation that encourages connections between women in the industry. These connections also facilitate important mentorship opportunities for those who wish to join the workforce or rise within its ranks. Regional networks such as Women in Rwandan Energy and Women in Renewable Energy Nigeria promote more focused conversations among women within specific nations or departments.

By fostering professional advancement opportunities, WiAP aims to increase the number of women employed in the energy sector and to empower women who already work within it. With the skill development and empowerment cultivated within the network, the USAID initiative is working to close the gender gap in the energy sector and stimulate the accompanying economic benefits.

Though there are considerable gender disparities in employment in the energy sector, governments and outside organizations have begun to implement policies and plans to promote the inclusion of women in Africa’s energy sector. The Women in African Power Network, a network that emerged under USAID’s Power Africa initiative, aims to establish women’s networking groups and to develop their professional skills. WiAP operates with the knowledge that women are critical to the energy industry as female leadership has historically correlated with economic and social development.

– Sarah Stolar
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Thailand
Championed as a success of development in the region, Thailand has achieved upper-middle-income country status due to a steadily increasing economy and substantial reductions in poverty. Thailand’s energy consumption has grown rapidly in line with this development. It has seen an 18% increase in energy consumption in the last decade. The industrial and transport sectors account for the majority of national energy consumption. Furthermore, Thailand strives to meet its energy demands through the use of emergent renewable energy technologies. 

A Burgeoning Industry

The country has increasingly relied on renewable energy sources to ensure that its steady development is sustainable. Renewable energy accounts for a whopping 10% of the country’s energy usage. This number is comparable to the U.S. rate of 12% of total energy consumption from renewable sources. Thailand is on track to surpass the U.S. in just 10 years. Renewable energy in Thailand comes from diverse sources, relying equally on hydropower, solar, biomass and wind-generated power.

Thailand imports much of its renewable energy technology from overseas. However, future emphasis on domestic manufacturing of these technologies would create jobs. This emphasis will eventually position Thailand as a world leader in the use of renewable energy. The biofuel industry alone employs more than 102,000 people in Thailand, making Thailand the fifth largest employer in the liquid biofuels industry internationally. Thailand’s unemployment rate is meager at just 1%, but a large portion of these jobs are low-paying. Renewable energy jobs have the potential to create higher earners and address Thailand’s 10% poverty rate.

How Energy Access Alleviates Poverty

In addition to the thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector, renewables are becoming more cost-effective than other sources like natural gas, so that more people have access to cheaper electricity than ever before. In fact, the World Bank states that nearly 100% of Thailand’s population has access to electricity, up from 82% in 2000.

However, this universal access to electricity comes at a cost: energy consumption makes up 10% of household spending per month, which qualifies Thailand as energy-poor. Paired with the fact that the cost of natural gas has been increasing recently, renewables are the affordable choice for decreasing the financial burden of energy on individual households.

Electricity access is vital when it comes to improving the living conditions of those in poverty. Electricity can enhance quality of life by providing refrigeration of food and increasing educational outcomes due to lighting at night, among other benefits.

The Future of Renewable Energy in Thailand

As Thailand’s demand for energy increases, it is essential that its development stems from a sustainable core. The Thai Ministry of Energy set a goal to reach 30% reliance on renewable energy by 2036. This would save an estimated $8 billion annually when considering the environmental and health costs of fossil fuel consumption.

Thailand must keep in mind the needs of its low-income citizens as it continues to integrate sustainable energy into its power grid. Further, renewable energy in Thailand should not be the only focus of sustainability initiatives. The focus should also be on reducing pollution and carbon emissions. With these accomplishments, Thailand is in an excellent position to secure a better economic future for its citizens.

– Helen Spyropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Investing in Renewable Energy in MongoliaEnergy access has surged in Mongolia in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, the percentage of the population that had access to energy in Mongolia increased from 78.5% to 98.1%. In rural areas, the percentage of people who had access to electricity in 2010 was roughly 41.9% and that number grew to about 94.6% in 2018. This increase in energy access coincides with renewable energy projects in Mongolia that the country has invested in.

Mongolia and Energy

Mongolia relies on imported coal for most of its energy. In 2018, 93% of all power generated from the country’s Central Energy System came from coal plants. However, the coal sector cannot maintain the country’s energy demand for the growing population. Fortunately, the potential for wind and solar energy in Mongolia is believed to be 2,600 gigawatts. This would provide enough energy for all of Mongolia and even Northeast Asia.

The Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP)

One of the first projects to capitalize on renewable energy in Mongolia was the Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP) which was completed from 2007 to 2012. The goal of the project was to provide herders access to electricity by selling and installing solar home systems (SHSs). At the time, herders were among the most impoverished people in the country. Fortunately, the SHS units provided under the REAP project greatly improved more than 70% of herders’ electricity access in Mongolia.

Photovoltaic Solar Energy (PV)

In 2017, the Second Energy Sector Project (SESP), presented by Mongolio’s Ministry of Energy, was approved by the World Bank. The project’s objective is to renovate and expand Mongolia’s energy infrastructure. The $54.4 million in funding would help supply nine of the country’s provinces and install Mongolio’s first large-scale build photovoltaic solar energy (PV) plant.

Mongolia’s investment follows the successful implementation of PV systems in China. According to Nature, “Of China’s 10 poverty-alleviation projects, its development of photovoltaic-based solar power has been one of the most successful.” In just three years, the solar installations helped 800,000 impoverished households in China. In Lixin, a county in China, the PV systems provided about $440 in extra yearly income to families.

Looking Forward

The government continues to invest in renewable energy in Mongolia. In April 2020, funding was approved to install the world’s largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). The project is set to be completed in 2024 and will “supply 44 gigawatt-hours of clean peaking power annually, and support the integration of an additional 859 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity into the CES grid annually.” The PV systems and BESS are just two new installations of many that are set to tap into the potential of renewable energy in Mongolia and help improve the quality of life for many.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Poland
Over 1.3 million Polish households struggle to pay for electricity, hot water and heating. Energy poverty, broadly defined as the inability to secure basic energy needs, forces people to choose between risking adverse health effects from poor living conditions and reducing their consumption of basic goods, such as food and drink. Spurred by the E.U.’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 (from 1990 levels), Poland’s green transition will alleviate energy poverty within its borders. At first, the transition away from fossil fuels may increase energy costs and leave Poland’s 80,000 coal workers unemployed. Over time, however, renewable energy will lead to cheaper and cleaner energy and create more jobs than it makes obsolete. Investment in and support of renewable energy in Poland brings not only commercial benefits but also healthier and more affordable living conditions.

Energy Poverty in Poland

Energy poverty has been decreasing in Poland over the last decade and a half, but the COVID-19 pandemic risks temporarily reversing this trend. From 2007 to 2017, the percentage of people who were unable to adequately heat their living space decreased from 22.7% to 6%. From 2014 to 2017, the percentage of people falling behind on utility bill payments dropped from 14.4% to 8.5%. These figures are promising.

However, increases in Polish incomes, rather than updated energy infrastructures alone, also drove these trends. The “Family 500 plus” program, for example, has helped many Poles meet energy costs. The Law and Justice party established it in 2016 to provide 500PLN per child in monthly childcare benefits for all multi-child households and poorer single-child households. Energy sourcing patterns prevent a less rosy outlook: from 2013 to 2016, the share of electricity produced through renewable energy in Poland actually decreased, and coal still generates over 75% of Polish electricity.

Against this backdrop, COVID-19 and the government’s lockdown response have and will continue to strain people’s energy budgets: increasing the time people spend in a home in need of heating and decreasing people’s incomes by stalling the economy.

Policies and Programs in Poland

Poland has enacted a number of policies and programs in response to its over-reliance on coal. Through the Clean Air program, launched in 2018, Poland plans to invest $30 billion in clean heating. Many Poles still heat their homes through coal-fired furnaces, which emit harmful gasses into the air. Polish households use up 12 million tonnes of coal annually, around two-thirds of the E.U.’s total consumption. Every year, as many as 48,000 deaths in Poland result from poor air quality. By the end of 2020, the program had only removed about 70,000 of Poland’s three million coal-fired heating systems, but its investment efforts will continue until at least 2029.

There have also been social initiatives that have addressed the burden of polluting heating systems. The “FINE Power Engineering – Civic energy” initiative, for example, sets up social energy cooperatives that enable rural regions to become more energy independent. Launched by the Schneider Electric Foundation and Ashoka, an organization promoting social entrepreneurship, this program provides services such as helping communities set up solar panels for local energy production.

Renewable Energy in Poland

Although Poland still contains 36 of the 50 most polluted cities in Europe, recent foreign investment in renewable energy in Poland suggests a bright future for its green transition. The U.S., France and South Korea are in talks with Poland about investing in nuclear energy, one of the cleanest forms of power. A Danish company, Orsted, is jointly developing two offshore wind farms with PGE, Poland’s biggest power group. Internal politics have sometimes and may continue to complicate Poland’s shift away from coal. However, in the long term, Poland’s changing energy landscape, facilitated by domestic and foreign policies and investment, will lift many Poles out of energy poverty and raise their economic and health-related standards of living.

– Alexander Vanezis
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The GCEEPA whole 940 million people, or 13% of the global population, do not have access to electricity. This is the central challenge that The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP) is facing.

The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP)

The GCEEP is a smorgasbord of innovators and leaders composed of utility companies, off-grid companies, multilateral development banks, academics and individuals across many different sectors. Drawing from key decision-makers such as former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and Africa Development Bank president, Dr. Akinwumi Adisina, the GCEEP is in a unique and leveraged position to influence governments around the world to take a better-informed approach at tackling energy poverty.

The Global Impact of COVID-19

Operating under the leadership of the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, the GCEEP issued a report in early December of 2020, stating that COVID-19 has resulted in a new wave of complications in the fight against energy poverty. COVID-19 could result in an additional 100 million people losing access to electricity because of exacerbated financial hardship.

Defining Energy Poverty

Energy poverty is defined as a lack of access to reliable and affordable energy sources. Energy is the foundation through which a place can build a healthy, financially stable community. As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, energy is at the core of modern health care and treatment. Countries that lack access to electricity, or the financial capabilities to afford electricity, struggle to recover in several aspects. Access to energy is a key indicator and crucial aspect to eradicating global poverty.

The GCEEP’s 2020 report on electricity access calls for governments around the world to consider energy poverty a serious issue that demands an expeditious and large-scale response.

Boasting an MIT-led research team and a practical, on-the-ground approach, the GCEEP’s strategy directly engages government leaders, investors and stakeholders in the power sector.

This approach is the Integrated Distribution Framework (IDF). Focusing on what the report calls the “weak link” in power systems across the world, the IDF aims to address problems in distribution and large-scale electrification through business models that are feasible and actionable.

Key Principles of the IDF:

  • A commitment to universal access. This requires the permanence of supply and the existence of a utility-like entity with the responsibility for providing access in a defined territory.
  • Efficient and coordinated integration of on- and off-grid solutions like grid extensions and mini-grids.
  • A financially viable business model for distribution.
  • A focus on development to ensure that electrification produces broad socio-economic benefits such as better delivery of critical public services in health and education.

The GCEEP believes that ending energy poverty is an achievable goal. As the GCEEP co-founders sum it up, “Only by ending energy poverty can we end poverty itself.”

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Energy Projects in MozambiqueOn September 9, 2020, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) approved two energy projects in Mozambique. The recent decision resulted in a loan of $200 million to Centra Térmica de Temane for a power plant and $1.5 billion in risk assurance to support the commercialization of Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The purpose of these projects is to create access to energy and an opportunity for economic growth fueled by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The DFC energy projects in Mozambique constitute a substantial investment by the U.S. that will make good on the Prosper Africa pledge which aims to increase U.S. investment in Africa.

Keeping its Promise to Africa

The Prosper Africa initiative serves to create business opportunities in Africa and increase two-way trade and investment with the intent to benefit companies, investors and workers in the U.S. and Africa. Dennis Hearne, U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, spoke highly of the two projects stating, “These projects will have a significant development impact in Mozambique, improve lives and create a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the country to build a more prosperous future for all Mozambicans.”

Jumpstarting Economic Growth

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of less than $500. It is the job of the DFC to prioritize projects in areas that are low income. DFC investment for energy projects in Mozambique could create a lot of private capital in the country and jumpstart economic growth.

The DFC will provide up to $1.5 billion in political risk insurance to advance the development, construction and operation of an onshore liquefaction plant that will commercialize Mozambique’s natural gas reserves in the Rovuma Basin. This project could turn the country into a major energy exporter and increase the GDP by an average of $15 billion per year, creating long-term economic growth. The development will envelop the entire country, boosting sectors aside from oil and gas.

Diversifying Power Resources

Those in Mozambique who are lucky enough to have electricity rely almost entirely on one colonial-era dam called Cahora Bassa. The dam provides more than 2,000 megawatts out of the approximate 2,800 megawatts installed capacity. Due to extreme weather conditions, the Zambezi River, which powers the dam, flows irregularly, “putting the country’s entire power system at great risk.” The DFC’s proposed power plant will be powered by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves, providing a different source of electricity that is also reliable.

Creating a Power Infrastructure

Only 29% of Mozambicans have electricity in their homes, making it an energy-poor country. Companies with a grid connection still rely on diesel 17% of the time and biomass (wood and charcoal) accounts for 60% of the country’s primary energy use.

In order to develop, construct and operate a 420-megawatt power plant with a 25-kilometer interconnection line and 560-kilometer transmission line, the DFC will loan Central Térmica de Temane up to $200 million. Not only will the power plant diversify the country’s power resources but will also reduce the cost of electricity. Furthermore, it will allow Mozambique to use its own natural gas supply to increase power generation and support the government’s plans to develop the national electricity system.

Balancing Exports and Domestic Use of Natural Gas

Mozambique’s natural gas reserves are abundant and will provide the country with an incredible income. However, Mozambique is uninterested in exporting all of its natural gas to Europe and Asia. The DFC will help Mozambique attain the generation infrastructure that will allow the country to use natural gas to power its homes and businesses and it will support large-scale liquified natural gas export facilities in order to bring revenue into Mozambique.

The completion of the DFC energy projects in Mozambique will take Mozambique from one of the poorest countries with regard to revenue and energy to a major energy exporter with long-term economic growth. These projects will help the economy grow, provide the country with a diverse power infrastructure and balance its natural gas usage. These investments will also fulfill the Prosper Africa pledge in which the U.S. vowed to increase investment in Africa. Overall, U.S.-Africa relations will benefit, and more importantly, a prosperous future will lie ahead for the people of Mozambique.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Global Poverty
While every country in the world is diverse and faces a number of different problems, the struggle to fight against global poverty is something all nations can relate to. According to the World Bank, 10% of the world lives on less than $1.90 a day.

Evidently, all nations must find a way that fits their specific needs when addressing poverty. However, there are some governments that lack the resources and therefore the ability to reduce poverty in their respective nations. Because of this lack of resources, the rates of poverty in these undeveloped countries are only getting worse. In fact, according to the Human Development Report, 54 countries in the world are poorer now than they were in 1990. As a result of this recurring issue, the governments of many developed countries have taken on the burden of addressing poverty not only in their own country but in the aforementioned developing countries as well. Specifically, the United States has done a lot of work to fight against global poverty.

The United States’ Role in Fighting Global Poverty

The United States has the world’s largest national economy and is a highly industrialized nation. Therefore, it makes sense that the country has taken on the responsibility of helping to fight against global poverty. The United States has been a major player in the fight against global poverty for a very long time. President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech largely addressed the United States’ role in diminishing global poverty and his pledge to help do so.

There are a number of ways the United States has contributed to eradicating worldwide poverty. One major way the United States has helped feed the world is by feeding farmers and their families. Farmers of the world are vital to the world’s economy as well as the world food supply. However, these small plot farmers that the world’s agricultural system depends on often struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.S. program Feed the Future has helped close to 7 million farmers boost their harvests and keep their families fed.

The United States has also worked to fight against global poverty by encouraging banks to loan to “risky borrowers” through its work with Feed the Future. Being able to borrow money allows farming families the ability to make investments that will help them grow. For instance, the U.S. government worked with Feed the Farmers to help about 17,000 farmers and small entrepreneurs benefit from rural loans and grants in Senegal which led to access to better seeds and modern equipment, as well as weather-indexed crop insurance and helped negotiate favorable contracts with commercial mills.

Criticisms Over the United States’ Handling of Global Poverty

On the other hand, the United States has received some criticisms claiming that it can do much more to help fight against global poverty. Many Americans incorrectly estimate that about 20% of the United States’ federal budget goes to combating global poverty when in reality, less than 1% of the budget goes towards this cause. Consequently, the U.S. government receives a lot of criticism for not making the fight against global poverty a greater priority since it seemingly has the resources to do so. In fact, according to the Baltimore Sun, the United States has the ability to prevent 25,000 children from dying each day and should make efforts to do so.

How the US Could Provide Energy

There are many ways poverty experts believe the United States could be doing more to reduce global poverty rates. For instance, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of energy, producing 12.16 barrels of oil every 24 hours. This could provide an opportunity to help fight global poverty. For example, in 2019, over 1 billion people did not have access to electricity worldwide and life expectancy for those without electricity was 20 years less than those who did have electricity. Since the United States has become a leader in energy production, many citizens take having electricity for granted not realizing that access to electricity connects to so many other aspects of a human’s well-being such as child and maternity mortality, public health, economic growth and education, etc.

With technological advancements, the United States is increasing its reserves of energy resources faster than it is depleting them, and therefore, has the power to bring great numbers of people out of poverty worldwide. Over 3.8 million people die every year from indoor pollution due to burning wood, kerosene and/or animal dung for cooking or heating homes. Half a million people die each year from contaminated water and even more die each year from preventable illnesses that emerge due to a lack of heat in the winter.  If the U.S. were to export its excess supply of energy sources, all of these numbers would likely decrease along with rates of global poverty.

Looking Forward

It is clear that as a leading world power, the United States has a responsibility to help in the world’s efforts to decrease rates of global poverty. While many praise all that the United States has already done to combat this issue over the country’s history, there are many people who criticize the government’s lack of funding towards lowering rates of global poverty. This leaves the United States with the option to use proposed ideas, such as using its abundant energy sources to lower rates of global poverty, to increase its efforts to reduce global poverty or to disregard their critics and continue to help in the manner that they have been for years.

– Danielle Wallman
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