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
Photo: Flickr

German Companies
In an effort to place German companies at the center of Africa’s rising market, Germany has allocated $1.1 billion in the Development Investment Fund. According to the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, using German companies’ technology and capital will allow Africa to build a sustainable energy model.

Three Pillars of the Development Investment Fund

The Development Investment Fund comprises of three components. These components are AfricaConnect, AfricaGrow and the African Business Network. Each project aims toward a different aspect of growth for German companies as well as the African market. One aims toward larger businesses, one toward small and medium enterprises (SME) and one towards SMEs as well as foreign investment and development.

The isolation of individual African countries due to COVID-19 has caused them to start building necessary gas and power projects. These projects provide energy to those who are out of reach. More than 600 million Africans lack access to electricity. This prevents them from utilizing all the resources available to pull them out of poverty. The investments come at a time where the continent is already working to reshape its energy infrastructure. The AfricaConnect program has incorporated additional provisions due to COVID-19 in order to boost the African and German economy.


The AfricaConnect initiative contains 400 million Euros to go toward German businesses for projects in Africa. Companies receive loans between $845,000 to $4.5 million if the projects are ecologically and socially sustainable. German companies have to benefit African markets by creating jobs, introducing new technology or doing other groundwork.


Additionally, AfricaGrow aims at SME businesses in Africa. This fund aims at African businesses rather than German businesses along with African venture and equity funds. With around $188 million in the fund, it is meant to close the existing financial gap. It also allows the African economy to comprise of many SMEs that will create sustainable jobs for the future.

African Business Network

Furthermore, the third prong of the Development Investment Fund is the African Business Network, which aims at trade promotion. By boosting development cooperation, German SMEs are able to participate in the African market, expanding the role of German businesses in these fields. This initiative provides support to German companies through advice by stakeholders. It also acts as a means of holding SMEs in the market. The African Business Network focuses on 12 African countries in particular. These countries are Ethiopia, Egypt, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.

German Companies and Energy Poverty

Due to the lack of a sustainable energy source in many parts of Africa, African businesses in the energy sector have struggled with maintaining power. In South Africa, the electricity company Eskom had to fly out German technical experts to help with building sustainable energy grids due to the fact that around 80% to 90% of their power came from coal power plants, according to The South African. As a result, South Africa turns to solar energy. It launches an Integrated Resource Plan which calls for six gigawatts of solar by 2030.

How Germany is Helping Africa

This lack of sustainable energy is exactly what German companies entering the energy industry look to solve, thereby harnessing the full power of the African consumer market. Senegal was one of the first African countries to begin this, seeing German support for around 800 SMEs. Germany has more than 200 million Euros invested in projects focusing on providing electricity throughout the country. This electricity is provided through renewable energy and better harnessing pre-existing energy sources. Power plants that produce 25 megawatts of energy are placed outside of Dakar. This pushes African energy sources forward.

The funds also gave rise to multiple German companies in the energy sector including Pfisterer Unternehmensgruppe. Pfisterer Unternehmensgruppe has already begun placing offshore wind farms and building a variety of generators to hold the power in smaller spaces. Smaller companies such as AfricanSol aim to build solar panels across the continent with the initial panels built in Eritrea. However, these efforts slowed down as countries shut down due to COVID-19.

Energy poverty is one of the largest obstacles that Germany and a number of African countries will work together to tackle. However, the funds will also give rise to better technology for a growing market that is involved in the larger world. As Africa’s trade deals connect it to the global market, millions of consumers enter and a trillion-dollar economy opens up. For both Germany and Africa, investing now will lead to huge payoffs. With the rich natural resources of the country combined with front-running German technology, poverty in Africa might see huge decreases in the near future.

Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

Coldfront: Energy Poverty in Portugal
One of the latest trends in the development of anti-poverty measures in the EU is the focus on “energy poverty” or “fuel poverty.” It encompasses two dimensions. The first is the incidence with which a household provides adequate environmental conditions (heating and cooling) for its residents. The second relates to the ability of individual members to get fuel for their vehicles. Perhaps surprisingly, Portugal is one of the worst-affected states in the European Union despite its relatively mild climate in comparison to EU states further north. This article will examine details from the type of housing prone to energy poverty to the adverse health conditions. It will then offer potential means to address the sources of energy poverty in Portugal.

On the Ground

Unsurprisingly, energy poverty in Portugal does not comprise a neat package. Factors ranging from local climate, homeownership and the home’s architecture influence energy poverty. The methods a household employs to sustain its environment also impacts whether it experiences energy poverty. Additionally, researchers show that these factors can influence whether a home is energy-poor:

  • Location: Typically homes located in the north and/or the countryside were more likely to be energy-poor (though one could find many in the south as well).
  • Age: Homes designed before the 1970s were more likely to be energy-poor. This is due to a lack of thermal insulation and less advanced forms of internal temperature controls.

Similarly, there is also a general profile that tends to fit the people that live in this type of housing, such as:

  • Gender: Respondents to the study in question were overwhelmingly female.
  • Age: Half of all respondents were over the age of 50.
  • Education: Half of all respondents received only primary education or lower.

Yet, all of this merely helps to describe the problem, not substantiate it. What are the practical consequences of energy poverty for the people who have to struggle with it? And what are its implications for broader society?

It All Starts at Home 

Studies that researchers have conducted worldwide demonstrate that members of energy-poor homes tend to suffer higher rates of diseases and higher rates of mortality. A study from 2014 found that Portugal had nearly twice the EU average of excess deaths in winter. Disputes have emerged as to how much excess morbidity one can ascribe to just cold housing. However, one cannot deny that the high prevalence of insufficiently-heated homes exacerbates other causes of excess death in the winter.

Moreover, homes that struggle with energy poverty tend to shelter people who are more vulnerable to these illnesses in the first place. For example, the elderly have more vulnerability due to having weaker immune systems in comparison to the young and the poor possessing fewer resources to advocate for themselves. Under international law, adequate housing is a human right that the state has an obligation to secure for its citizens. Therefore, this is a social problem that requires a societal response.

How to Respond?

Among social scientists who study energy poverty, a disagreement exists on whether the solution to this problem lies with addressing household income or through renovating and/or replacing existing structures. In contrast, the main reason people shelter themselves in energy-poor houses is that they are affordable. Providing people with additional income to go towards rehousing could be an easy solution to this problem. Another solution could be augmenting people’s current living space.

In fact, the Portuguese government passed social tariffs on electricity and natural gas in 2010 and 2011. Respectively, the income passed on to populations the government deemed to be vulnerable to energy poverty in Portugal. While the extra income was marginally beneficial for the recipient populations, many consider it an inefficient answer to the problem of energy poverty.

On the other hand, the issue of housing itself also exists. Many of the homes these studies discuss are old public housing units that have not undergone renovations to meet the present standards. Retrofitting these structures with modern designs that incorporate better insulation and repairing existing heating and piping systems are labor-intensive and expensive. Yet the results of a successful renovation could lift more people from energy poverty than simply hoping that the markets will provide an adequate answer.

One can see the practical effects of this in nearby Barcelona, where a 2016 study found that there was a significant decline in cold-related mortality rates for public housing unit residents when housing interventions (i.e renovations) occurred on the building they lived in. Renovations are not a cure and they do not address privately-owned energy-poor homes, but they could mean a world of difference for public housing residents’ quality of life.

The Upshot

Energy poverty is an emerging field of study that has yet to experience full contextualization between its environmental, economical and socio-psychological aspects. Nevertheless, it is the new frontline in the war on poverty in Europe. Even in sunny Portugal, cold indifference costs lives yearly. Better is possible, so long as Portugal puts in the effort.

Aidan King
Photo: Flickr

Solar Electric Light FundThe Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) advocates that energy access is a human right. Beginning in 1990, founder Neville Williams worked to build solar-powered home systems in regions where families lacked electricity. Expanding from an individualized approach to the “Whole Village Development Model” in 2001, SELF began installing solar-powered electric systems into community infrastructure. SELF combats energy poverty with clean, empowering solutions. These solutions include powering homes, schools, street lamps, healthcare facilities, water pumps and providing education on photovoltaic (PV) technology.

What is Energy Poverty?

SELF defines energy poverty as an inability to acquire modern energy sources. The U.N.’s 2020 Energy Progress Report stated that 789 million people across the world did not have access to a dependable source of electricity in 2018.

An unbalanced percentage of those living without energy access reside in rural areas due to the “last mile” problem. This refers to the difficulty in providing energy access to isolated individuals lacking proximity to a power grid. Approximately 85% of those without energy access live in rural areas, and 16 countries across the developing world recorded 5% or less of their rural populations had access to energy.

What Are its Effects?

Energy access is crucial for a community as it affects food, clean water, medical care, employment and education access. Without electricity, water pumps are unable to provide safe drinking water for consumption and irrigation. Also, without electricity, modern medical machines cannot operate and temperature-controlled vaccines are unavailable.

Lack of access to modern conveniences, such as the internet, also hinders the progress of businesses and educational institutions. Additionally, light is unable to illuminate studying or working activities after dark. Those using kerosene lamps are in danger of a malfunction explosion. For females of all ages, lack of light also heightens the threat of sexual violence when going outdoors. It also compromises maternal health for those who go into labor after dark.

SELF: Blazing The Trail

SELF works to create energy-efficient, cost-efficient, sustainable and replicable solar-powered systems. Utilizing PV technology to transform sunlight into electricity, SELF has operated in 25 countries, building 550 solar-powered energy systems. Currently, the organization is working on the following projects:

  1. Benin: In the Kalalé District, one clean water source might provide for 550-9,500 people. On the other hand, larvae or animal carcasses can infest unclean water sources. SELF recently received a grant to install 24 solar-powered water pumps that rely on energy during daylight and gravity at night to provide clean water for 82,000 people.
  2. Uganda: At the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF), SELF will install a solar micro-grid. This grid will provide electricity for social, educational, cooking and food refrigeration initiatives. RHF is an organization that grants victims and children of rape the necessary support. Furthermore, SELF built street lamps and water stations in the Bukyerimba area to mitigate sexual assault risks.
  3. Haiti: In the rural Southwest, SELF is rebuilding a solar and diesel hybrid micro-grid that was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 so that 2,120 homes can have energy access. SELF also founded the National Solar Training Center at Haiti Tec in order to strengthen solar energy installation education. Also, SELF pioneered an “energy harvest device” that is able to store solar energy to power refrigerators for vaccines. Refrigerators with this technology are being observed in Haiti and three other countries with the intention of submitting a progress analysis to the World Health Organization in 2021.

Past, Present and Future Progress

Other highlights in previous years include providing electricity to 62 health facilities in rural Ghana and Uganda, electrifying the indigenous village of Katamsama in Colombia, powering a school in Port au Prince, Haiti and providing electricity to the Xixuaú-Xipariná Ecological Reserve in the Amazon.

In each of these operations, SELF strives to provide income generation strategies to account for the cost of upkeep in the 20-25 year lifespan of solar modules. An article in the Global Citizen emphasized SELF Executive Director Robert Freling’s belief that enabling local inhabitants to care for these installations and empowering newly-electrified communities is a vital component of their work.

Over the past two decades, energy efficiency and the presence of renewable energy sources has increased worldwide. With these developments, the cost of PV solar technology decreased by 66% in the commercial sphere from 2010 to 2018. SELF hopes to capitalize upon these improvements in order to provide sustainable, reliable energy for those facing energy poverty. By providing integrated, innovative solutions, the Solar Electric Light Fund is illuminating a path for a more sustainable, connected world.

– Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Off-Grid Solar TechnologyEnergy poverty refers to people who lack access to modern energy services. They aren’t able to use an array of technologies, primarily electricity. Gaining energy access is a gateway to additional resources, and having it can lift families and communities out of poverty as a whole. Access to energy is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to eradicate energy poverty by 2030. Off-grid solar technology is regarded as one of the promising ways to achieve this.

Off-Grid Solar Technology

Currently, there are 840 million people who lack access to electricity and 573 million of those people reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. While 153 million people a year have been gaining electricity, remote areas have proven to be especially hard to reach. In areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa that are far from cities, off-grid solar technology is being used to generate electricity where it was previously unobtainable. Additionally, off-grid solar technology is now also being used to power water pumps, irrigation systems and refrigeration, making off-grid technology more promising than ever to solve energy poverty.


One company that has made extraordinary strides in increasing energy access is Bboxx. Bboxx’s mission is to aid developing countries through their decentralized solar-powered systems. To do so, they design, create, distribute and manage this off-grid solar technology. So far, Bboxx has positively impacted over one million people. It has allowed 350,000 solar home systems to be installed.

The technologies Bboxx creates are safer and cheaper than the kerosene-powered systems traditionally used in homes without electricity. Bboxx estimates the switch to using their clean, solar energy saves customers $200 a year. Additionally, it allows customers to pay for only what they actually consume, which is a cost-effective system that is monetarily achievable for its targeted customers.

To make their company as accessible and effective as possible, they created a system called Bboxx Pulse. This platform makes it easy for a utility company to monitor and serve all Bboxx customers. This even applies to the customers who live in rural areas that were previously hard to communicate with. To implement this and all of their other technology, Bboxx has formed partnerships with some of the countries’ governments it operates in. Doing this ensures that its technology is stable and supported.

Solar Electric Light Fund

Another organization dedicated to providing energy to communities in need is the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). It uses solar projects to increase healthcare, education, water and food security and economic development in under-resourced areas globally.

One of SELF’s programs is installing solar-pump water stations to areas that contain heavily contaminated water. It is currently working to install 24 of these stations in the Kalalé District of Benin in West Africa. This will provide clean water to 82,000 people. This is a life-changing development for this community, as 19% of deaths in this area are due to contaminated water. Access to clean water will drastically improve overall health in the area. It will also increase the safety of girls and women who usually had to travel long distances to obtain water for their families.

Additionally, SELF has extensively worked on installing solar-powered technologies in Haiti to improve public health and energy access. However, these systems are unsustainable unless they can be maintained by trained workers. To solve this issue, SELF formed Haiti’s National Solar Training Center (NSTC). This program trains students to become solar technicians, which in turn provides well-paying jobs to Haitians while making their solar infrastructures sustainable. Overall, organizations such as Bboxx and SELF are increasing the safety and health of thousands of communities around the world by providing them with off-grid solar technology.


Hannah Allbery

Photo: Flickr