Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

Energy Use in Sub-Saharan AfricaEnergy demand is estimated to increase by 85 percent in Africa between 2010 and 2040. To compensate for growing infrastructure and population, the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly energy sources are in high demand as well. Countries within sub-Saharan Africa have taken numerous measures to improve affordable living through receiving aid and implementing programs to promote efficient energy use. However, challenges hinder the implementation of efficient energy use in these countries. For example, the trained workforce that could take on massive energy projects is very small. There is also very minimal awareness of the benefits of efficient energy use so many people prefer to stick to traditional sources. Governments and global organizations are combating these challenges as they work to advance energy efficiency and indirectly reduce poverty and over-spending in sub-Saharan Africa.

Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Training Week

The International Energy Agency and the Department of Energy of South Africa hosted the very first Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies (E4) Training Week for sub-Saharan Africa in Pretoria, South Africa from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17, 2019. The objective of the training was to educate junior policymakers from all over sub-Saharan Africa to model future politicians into environmental activists. The week included courses on the ability of energy-efficient sources to reduce extra expenses and, therefore, improve living conditions. The courses taught participants about energy efficiency policy in buildings, appliances, equipment, industry, cities and indicators and evaluation. E4 Training Week also made a key point to encourage women to apply for the program.

Numerous organizations supported the E4 Training Week, including Global Environment Fund (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) and SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project

The World Bank’s Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project (PEDASB) worked to install a 52-kilowatt plant in Zantiébougou, south of Bamako in the Sikasso region. The plant has provided electricity to 765 people and allows women to carry out other economic activities and trades as they are no longer concerned about gathering fuel, such as wood. PEDASB also implemented a hybrid electricity system that combines solar photovoltaic and diesel power in Niena. The system improved the quality of health care in local clinics and increased school performance in students. This energy sector as a whole is contributing to the economy of sub-Saharan Africa and increasing the wealth of its people.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Ethiopia’s government is taking the initiative to improve efficient energy use. Through a collaboration with the World Bank Project, the Ethiopian government introduced compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which help rural families save money. 80 fewer megawatts of electricity is used by distributing 2.5 million CFL bulbs, which quantifies as $100 million saved. Through a $4 million investment, 5 million CFL bulbs were distributed all over the country. Households under the poverty line were able to reduce their energy usage by 55 percent which significantly cut utility costs for families. Beyond lightbulbs, 2.5 million efficient cookstoves were distributed in Ethiopia, reducing 40 to 60 percent of wood fuel. This not only helps the environment but also boosts families’ lifestyles all over the country.

The Electrify Africa Act

In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Electrify Africa Act (S.2152) into law. The Electrify Africa Act ensures that the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative remains in effect, providing millions of sub-Saharan Africans with access to electricity which in turn, increases economic growth and development.

So far, the Electrify Africa Act is a great success. As of January 2019, Power Africa, with the support of the Electrify Africa Act, achieved the following results in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 20.5 billion invested in Power Africa transactions
  • 58,552,435 beneficiaries gaining access to electricity
  • 10,095 megawatts (MW) reaching financial close
  • 2,652 MW moved from financial close to operation

In conclusion, sub-Saharan countries are breaking the cycle of poverty through creatively implementing efficient energy sources. From educating young policymakers to governments distributing free equipment and implementing laws, numerous countries are able to benefit from efficient energy use in sub-Saharan Africa.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

 

Four Tech Investments
Technology advances at a blinding rate with new innovations popping up every day. People can use these new technologies to make life easier, save lives, entertain the masses in new, creative ways and serve countless other purposes. In this age of technology and instant access to information, a consumer will find dozens of different companies vying for their money with thousands of different advertisements, promising new features and faster internet. If a consumer investigates further, they will find people around the world using the bleeding edge of technology to reduce poverty by increasing access to medical facilities, providing more energy to those in need, aiding struggling farmers and innovating on the use of technology in the classroom. Here are four tech investments to lower poverty.

4 Tech Investments to Lower Poverty

  1. TEAMFund: The organization Transforming Equity and Access for MedTech (TEAMFund) invests in companies that can increase medical access in impoverished areas. TEAMFund usually invests in companies that specialize in digital health or artificial intelligence in hopes that these innovations will help with the shortages of doctors and other health care specialists. Some investments that TEAMFund has previously selected include Forus Health, an Indian organization dedicated to using technology to lower cases of preventable blindness, and digital ophthalmology, the use of technology to prevent diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. On September 18, 2019, TEAMFund closed a budget of $30 million to invest in low-income areas. As TEAMFund invests this money, many of those in impoverished areas will feel the benefits of easy medical access.
  2. The Rockefeller Foundation: Energy poverty is also a major problem around the world. Many developing nations do not have electricity with almost a billion people worldwide lacking the ability to live in comfortable temperatures or store food for long periods. On September 12, 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This commission will explore the many sources of electricity, including microgrids to provide total energy access by 2030. One method it will use to achieve this goal is setting up solar microgrids in developing countries around sub-Saharan Africa, as suggested by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
  3. BICSA: Agriculture is a necessary gamble in any community. Long droughts could cause the loss of fields of crops, and without them, people could starve. Currently, no risk is greater than planting crops in India. Many farmers in India rely on monsoon rains to feed their crops, but the rains have been patchy and unpredictable recently, raining 35 percent below the predicted amount. Luckily, organizations like the International Water Management Institute and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have combined their strength and formed the Bundled Solutions of Index Insurance with Climate Information and Seed Systems to Manage Agricultural Risks (BICSA). This organization will work with the farmers of India and try many different strategies to avoid massive crop loss and protect farmers from bankruptcy. BICSA claims that they will provide services like drought or flood insurance, more seed varieties, new methods to forecast the weather and different farming practices that suit the climate better.
  4. Education Technology: Education is arguably the most important factor in a developing country. Nevertheless, over 260 million children worldwide do not receive an education. Education Technology (EdTech) companies dedicate their resources to providing more access to quality education. They achieve this goal by teaching programming to young students, providing online college courses to those who cannot afford them, teaching foreign languages and much more in places like Nigeria and Kenya. These EdTech companies, like Andela, Coursera and Kramer have been receiving record-breaking investments in recent years. In 2018, EdTech companies received over $16.3 billion in funding from countries like the United States and China. As these companies grow and reach more people, the world should crawl closer to the total education of the entire world.

The use of technology to reduce poverty brings an age-old problem into the modern world. These four tech investments will not eradicate poverty overnight, but they show that the superpowers of the world are willing to give more for the benefit of the world’s poor. With easier access to medical facilities, energy, agriculture and education through technology, countries with a large poverty rate could move forward on the path to a developed, flourishing society, strengthening the global economy with their commerce and aiding other countries that require assistance.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Energy in AfricaRecently The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation expressed their passion for increasing energy in Africa in an eco-friendly manner. In partnership with other organizations, Africa is aiming to turn its waste into electricity.

Africa is a large continent containing a surplus of mineral resources, fossil fuels, metallic ores and other biological resources. Despite this abundance of natural resources, Africa’s economy still struggles to thrive. Most of the country’s economy comes from agriculture and sustenance farming which occupies 60 percent of the population.

Background

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequality around the globe. Work includes advances in health conditions, decreasing infant mortality rates and empowering the poorest. The foundation is also working towards bringing more electricity to Africa. Currently, it is projected that there are 500 thousand people with no power. However, there is evidence of improvement as 600 million people were without electricity in 2014.

Ken Silverstein, senior Forbes contributor writes that by 2050, Africa’s population and the economy will grow. The country’s population expects to see an increase from 1.1 billion to 2 billion and the economy by 10 percent a year.

The growth in population, economy and electricity will aid Africa immensely, but it also brings new projections for how much energy the country will need. Silverstein also records that “the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require $400 billion by 2035 to modernize its energy foundation.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations (UN) are planning a project in response to this.

Initiated Projects for Sustainability

The UN has initiated the Sustainable Energy for All project. The program works with government figureheads, businesses and the civil sector to works towards Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7).  The project “empowers leaders to broker partnerships and unlock finance to achieve universal access to sustainable energy.”

In line with the goal of achieving SDG7, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation instituted the Breakthrough Energy Venture. The Breakthrough Energy Venture is an investment lead fund whose aim is to “make sure that everyone on the planet can enjoy a good standard of living, including basic electricity, healthy food, comfortable buildings, and convenient transportation, without contributing to climate change.”

These projections signify more energy in Africa and a higher rate of demand for energy. Both projects, by the UN and The Gates Foundation, are aware of the harm that the rising demand for energy will have. More energy creates more waste, and these projects are working towards a cleaner planet as well as providing energy to the world.

Waste-to-Energy

A type of biomass referred to as waste-to-energy uses garbage to provide electricity and heat. Alternatives include burning or recycling the garbage, but providing clean energy to Africa is the number one priority.

Electricity issues in South Africa have led to “brownouts” that was thing preventing a transmission grid loss. The country’s provider, Eskom also cannot meet demands. There are hopes that waste-to-energy will be the solution to problems like these. The Climate Neutral Group introduces the Joburg Waste to Energy offset project.

The project will clean up Johannesburg municipal sites as well as provide clean electricity. The Climate Neutral Group hopes to use the waste and methane gas from the hazardous municipal landfill site and transforming it into energy. It is anticipated that there will be a 19MW of electricity produced. This is enough to power 16,500 medium households.

The Gates Foundation, the UN and the Climate Neutral Group are placing a strong focus on improving energy in Africa. They are taking it one step further by helping provide electricity and energy through waste in partnership with other organizations such as the UN.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

access to electricityA common joke in Nigeria is that the acronym NEPA, for the National Electric Power Authority, actually stands for “Never Expect Power Always.” Indeed, less than half of people in Nigeria have access to electricity, and even people who do have power frequently get it for only a few hours per day. The government has estimated that lack of access to electricity costs the economy more than $29 billion each year.

“I cannot help but wonder how many medical catastrophes have occurred in public hospitals because of ‘no light,’ how much agricultural produce has gone to waste, how many students forced to study in stuffy, hot air have failed exams, how many small businesses have foundered,” writes Booker Prize-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “What greatness have we lost, what brilliance stillborn?”

Post-Colonization and Lack of Electricity

Nigeria is not the only African nation to suffer from electricity shortages. In the last few months, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all rationed electricity due to shortages. Difficulties with providing access to electricity are common in post-colonial countries. Colonization made countries poorer in general, due to the exploitative relationships between colonized nations and their colonizers. For instance, on the eve of its independence from Britain in 1945, India’s GDP per capita was lower than it was in 1600. This theft of resources has made it more difficult for post-colonial nations to invest in electrification. And even when colonial powers did implement electric grids, they frequently only bothered to electrify areas populated by colonists and settlers, rather than the native population, according to a 2018 study by Ute Hasenöhrl, a professor of history at the University of Innsbruck.

Finding Solutions

Luckily, there are solutions to these problems. A study by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Samuel Ayokunle Olowosejeje, at University College Cork found that switching Nigeria’s electric grid to solar energy could make it significantly easier to distribute electricity by reducing costs. In particular, the study found that switching to solar could reduce costs by up to 132 percent.

Even if resources can’t be invested in traditional electric grids, new technology provides opportunities to electrify in new ways. Prof. Hasenöhrl gives the example of an initiative by the government of Bangladesh that has provided almost four million people in rural areas with home solar panel systems. These allow people to enjoy the benefits of electricity without requiring as much investment in infrastructure.

The initiative in Bangladesh, called Solar Home Systems (SHS), has had a big impact: 12 percent of the population – more than one out of every ten people in Bangladesh – have benefited from the plan, according to an evaluation of the program by the Centre for Public Impact. Before the beginning of SHS in 2003, a common method that some people in rural Bangladesh used to light their homes was kerosene lamps, which are expensive to power and produce relatively little light in comparison to electric lighting. The Centre for Public Impact report also highlighted how the program’s engagement with existing grassroots community organizations was key to providing legitimacy to the project. The organizations’ pedigree helped overcome initial skepticism on the part of many rural residents.

Harnessing the Sun

Dr. Olowosejeje also points to solar panels for individual households, in addition to more traditional grid-based solar energy, as a potentially beneficial move in Nigeria. “[S]olar-based power generation…is the most technically feasible and cost-effective solution to the challenge of extending electricity to 80 million people [in Nigeria] who are currently without access to energy,” he writes. In addition, solar panels could even be a source of income: “Renewable technologies could also help to develop an electricity market where those producing surplus energy can sell it to those who have a shortfall.”

The damage wrought by colonialism has made it difficult for many countries to create adequate electrical grids. The recent spate of electricity rationing in several African nations is just one example of this problem. However, the good news is that solutions exist. One of them is single-home solar electricity systems. These systems can provide access to electricity, overcome the limitations of traditional power grids, and even create an additional revenue stream to help struggling families by enabling them to sell electricity to others.

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

sustainable energy in africaSustainable energy has become one of the most significant challenges and focuses worldwide over the past several decades. As most of the world begins to shift away from traditional biofuels, like coal and gasoline, other sources of energy, such as wind, solar and hydropower, have taken up a more significant share of the world’s energy production. The share of traditional sources has decreased from its peak of 81 percent in 2000 to roughly 65 percent by 2016; meanwhile, the share of wind energy has increased from 0.2 percent in 2000 to closer to 6 percent. Though this is a slow rate of progression, it demonstrates that most of the world is steadily moving further towards renewable energy sources. Sustainable energy in Africa is growing as governments push for more sustainable energy and is helping impoverished communities by increasing employment.

Pushing for Sustainability

Sustainable energy in Africa has seen significant boosts in recent years. One country making particularly significant strides in sustainable energy in Africa is Kenya. With a renewable energy rate of about 73 percent, Kenya is making efforts to retain sustainability. In fact, the largest wind farm in Africa just recently completed construction in Lake Turkana, Kenya. The facility has been under construction since 2014, and with a total of 365 wind turbines, it will mark a significant boost toward sustainable energy both in Kenya and in Africa as a whole.

In fact, Kenya is making an official, concerted effort towards becoming 100 percent green energy powered by 2020. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has made clear his commitment to expanding renewable energy in Kenya and has gained support from other developed nations to help invest in those projects in Kenya. Investments have led to increases in wind, solar and hydroelectric power projects over the past 10 to 15 years, with many such facilities doubling in number. Reliance on low-emission geothermal energy has also risen sharply, with Kenya ranking ninth in the world in how much power it generates from geothermal energy.

Sustainable Energy and Fighting Poverty

Aside from being environmentally conscious, renewable energy facilities also markedly increase employment. More sustainable energy in Africa can help people out of poverty. Kenya’s pushes towards wind and solar energy have led to the direct employment of 10,000 workers. Not only that, but access to electricity from these projects has also allowed some 65,000 additional people to seek out and obtain jobs elsewhere, which they could not have found without the use of electricity. The number of workers employed in the sustainable energy sector is also expected to increase by 70 percent by 2022-2023. Similarly, in Nigeria, it is expected that sustainable energy will create 52,000 jobs by that same timeframe.

It is evident that sustainable energy in Africa will drive the future of countries like Kenya and Nigeria, and assist with uplifting people both directly via increased employment and indirectly due to expanded access to clean electricity. These industries will increase not only sustainable sources of energy, but will create a sustainable economy and a sustainable population that will not succumb to the negative impacts of unemployment and poverty.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Garbage for Electricity

Addis Ababa, the rapidly growing capital of Ethiopia, has had only one dump site for garbage. The Koshe dump site developed into a giant landfill over many years of unregulated dumping. A very literal mountain of garbage built up, filling roughly 36 football fields worth of land with waste. This problem came to a head when a garbage “landslide” wound up killing 114 people, many of them scavengers who had come to the dump in the hopes of finding something useful.

The dump was more than an eyesore. It was also a health hazard due to its creeping into populated areas, limiting living space where rapid expansion was a constant. The landfill also polluted nearby rivers, as well as the air with methane gasses from rot and decay.

The Reppie Power Plant

To solve this problem, Samuel Alemayehu put forth an idea for a way to transform the dump into a useful energy source. He proposed a plan to create a garbage incineration plant specifically for the purpose of creating electricity by burning the offending garbage. The Reppie Power Plant is meant to be the first of its kind, with others to follow as similar solutions in other cities.

“We believe these plants will create for African megacities a modern, multipurpose infrastructure… which will enable them simultaneously to dispose of waste, generate sustainable energy, clean, and reuse water, recycle valuable resources, generate industrial grade steam for use by other businesses, and, most importantly do all this in one facility located safely within city limits,” Alemayehu said.

A coalition of Ethiopia’s government and several international companies funded the Reppie Power Plant. It was modeled off similar plants from Europe and France, and the project was officially launched in 2017. The plant officially went operational the following year. The Reppie Power Plant is designed to process 1,400 tons of waste every day, which comes to roughly 80  percent of the city’s waste, all while producing 30 percent of the city’s electricity. It does this by burning the garbage to boil water, and the resultant steam turns massive turbines to produce the electricity.

The Reppie Power Plant is still operating, despite being shut down for three months in 2019 due to a dispute between contractors and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP). It has also succeeded in inspiring other nations to adopt the same model. In Kenya, an incineration plant has been greenlit which is modeled directly off the Reppie Power Plant, with the equivalent of 197 million USD dedicated to the project. It is no surprise, since such plants simultaneously clear living space, eliminate sources of pollution and disease, eliminate eyesores and produce electricity. So long as it continues to operate properly, the Reppie Power Plant is likely to have a lasting positive effect in its own city and, as others follow its example, in other countries and cities around the world.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Centers of Excellence
Egypt and the United States have recently become dependent on each other in order to assist in each other’s growth, developments and establishments, showing a strong partnership between the two countries. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has collaborated with Egypt to create three academic Centers of Excellence that will focus on research about agriculture, energy and water. In order to begin the process of these academic Centers of Excellence, universities in the United States and Egypt had to form partnerships to focus on each focal point.

Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture

The United States’ Cornell University and Egypt’s Cairo University are partners for the Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture (COEA). This is a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project that will enhance curricula and research in order to train and equip Egyptian students with the right tools to improve agricultural production in Egypt’s future.

There are three main components of this specific center. The first is the instructional innovation and curriculum development of the academic center. The partnership will establish a new interdisciplinary Master of Science program that will be work-force oriented. This center will also grant opportunities to youth, women and disadvantaged students. The second component is to engage in high quality applied research. The last component includes exchanges, training and scholarship programs.

Academic Center of Excellence in Energy

The next $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative partnership is between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ain Shams University. This will be the Academic Center of Excellence in Energy (COEE). MIT and Ain Shams University will work to build research, education and entrepreneurial capacity to address Egypt’s most pressing energy-related issues.

This academic Center of Excellence has four major components to it. The first is the teaming up of Egyptian faculty and students with interdisciplinary researchers across MIT to develop renewable energy solutions. The next component is to advance and scale up sustainable projects. These universities will also use their partnership to facilitate connections between university researchers and key industrial players in the region to expand Egypt’s solar and wind usage, in addition to other forms of clean energy. Lastly, there will be an emphasis on involving Egyptian women and people with disabilities in the university and providing programs and education for them.

The Center of Excellence in Water

The Center of Excellence in Water (COEW) is a partnership between the American University in Cairo and Alexandria University. The COEW is also a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project. These universities are still developing their partnership.

The Centers of Excellence was designed by the USAID and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research with the goal of driving public and private sector innovation, modernization and competitiveness. This $90 million dollar investment will create partnerships between Egyptian public universities and U.S. universities, update university curricula and teaching methods, establish undergraduate and graduate level scholarships and implement exchange programs to foster cross-border learning. This is a breakthrough in education and the professional industry which will work to enhance Egypt as a whole.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

 

Energy Poverty“I see a lot of problems in the world, and I think that engineering provides a platform to fix them. I really want to help people; that’s my goal.” –Hannah Herbst

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty is defined by the European Union as the lack of energy-powered services that guarantee a decent standard of living, like adequate cooling and warmth, lighting and the energy necessary to power appliances. Energy poverty can result from a variety of issues, such as high energy expenditure, low household incomes, inefficient buildings and appliances and specific household energy needs.

Insufficient energy sources are one aspect of poverty that often goes ignored or underestimated by the general public. An estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity; over 600 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. But Africa is not the only continent contending with energy poverty:

  • Asia (622 million of 3.6 billion without power): Of all individual countries, India has the largest population living without electricity with over 304 million in the dark.
  • Middle East (17.7 million of 214.8 million without power): Since energy poverty has a direct correlation to income, Yemen (one of the poorest nations in the Arab world) houses the majority of Middle Easterners who live without power.
  • Latin America (23.2 million of 466.1 million without power): Haiti suffers the most from energy poverty, with only 29 percent of its population having access to power; even those with electricity only receive power an average of five to nine hours per day.
  • Europe: It is estimated that 50 million households in the European Union are experiencing some form of energy poverty.
  • North America (United States): Although most Americans have access to electricity, the inability to afford utility bills is the second reason for homelessness; outranked only to domestic violence.

The Teen Transforming Ocean Energy into Electricity

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Herbst from Florida was first introduced to the idea of energy poverty at age 15 by her nine-year-old Ethiopian pen pal Ruth. Ruth lived without lights—a simple luxury that Herbst had taken for granted all her life.

“I never realized how impactful her problems could be—not having lights to study by at night, not having sanitation systems, having limited medical treatment. Those problems really stuck out to me living in the United States, so I wanted to do something to help her,” Herbst explained.

Her willingness to help in tandem with her interest in engineering inspired her to investigate how engineering could be utilized to address energy poverty. What resulted was a prototype of an invention she dubbed Beacon (Bringing Electricity Access to Countries through Ocean Energy), a device that captures energy directly from ocean waves and transmits it as electricity.

Herbst focused on water energy because she noticed that populations tend to settle around bodies of water. In fact, only 10 percent of people live further than 6.2 miles from a freshwater source that does not require digging to get reach.

The Beacon consists of a hollow plastic tube capped with a propeller on one end and a hydroelectric generator on the other. As tidal energy drives the propeller of the Beacon, it is converted into useable energy by the generator. Since its creation, Herbst has tested the prototype and calculated that with enhancements, the Beacon could charge three car batteries simultaneously in one hour. She has also suggested to the BBC that her invention could be used to power water purification technologies or blood centrifuges at hospitals in the developing world.

Herbst plans on eventually open-sourcing the design after some further refinements, meaning that people around the world can create a Beacon for themselves and their communities.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: UPenn

Energy Poverty in BangladeshBangladesh was recently promoted from a lower income country to a lower middle-income country as per the World Bank’s GDP per capita benchmark. Bangladesh’s economic growth rate remained around 6.5 percent in 2012 to 7.3 percent in 2017.

The demand for electricity rose, as a result, thrusting the government into focusing on eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. However, misuse and improper management of energy contributed to the shortage of electricity and load shedding became a daily phenomenon.

Here are some additional facts about energy poverty in the country:

Only around 59.60 percent of the people in Bangladesh have access to electricity with 180 kilowatt-hours of energy per capita in use, which is very low compared to other countries. Rural areas tend to suffer more as they face more load shedding than urban areas.

Bangladesh heavily relies on natural gas and furnace oil, followed by coal, for electricity generation. As of February 2017, the installed power capacity shows the reliance on natural gas is of 62 percent.

This raises concerns over energy security due to the increasing fuel imports and high dependence on coal and gas for electricity generation. Yet, the country has been failing to meet its electricity demand. Therefore, it is trying to focus on meeting its energy needs and providing access to electricity all over the country.

Progress in Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

In September 2018, there was significant progress in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh when the country managed to meet its energy production target of 20,000 MW. Bangladesh also set a new target of generating 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021, 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041.

As of 2018, the number of power plants amounted to 108, a significant increase from the 27 power plants in 2009. Bangladesh ranked 90th among 115 nations on the global Energy Transition Index (ETI) which benchmarks countries on how well they balance their energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.

Bangladesh made progress due to a strong political commitment, a stable policy regime, the use of grid expansion and generation sources and an investment-friendly environment in the infrastructure sector.

Some Upcoming Projects for Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

  • Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant – Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) project, is being constructed in Rooppur, a remote village on the western side of Bangladesh in the Pabna District. The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) implemented the project under the Ministry of Science & Technology. The project is apart of an intergovernmental agreement between Bangladesh and Russia. The nuclear power plant of 2,400 MW capacity, with two reactors of 1,200 MW each, is one of the major efforts in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. The project’s expected completion is by 2024.
  • Matarbari Coal Power Plant – The 1,200 MW Matarbari coal-fired power plant project, implemented by the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Ltd (CPGCBL) and assisted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, will use imported coal to generate power. The plant will have two units, each having a production capacity of 600 MW. The project will also include a deep sea-port.
  • Rampal Thermal Power Plant – This 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in Bagerhat district of Khulna is a joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board. It is expected to be the country’s largest power plant.

Expansion of Renewable Energy

On March 1, 2019, the World Bank approved $185 million to add up to 310 MW renewable energy generation capacity and also to mobilize around $212 million from the private sector, commercial banks, and other sources to meet the increasing demand for electricity. The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Project in Bangladesh by the World Bank will build the first 50 MW segment of a large solar panel energy park in the Feni district. This project should provide better access to clean energy and cut emissions by an equivalent of 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

With the rapid economic growth in the country, Bangladesh has made some notable progress in addressing its growing electricity demand. Through increased diversification of its energy mix and more ambitious projects on the way, major accomplishments are expected in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Creative Commons

Energy for GrowthEnergy for Growth Hub is a nonprofit that began last year that seeks to bring power to developing economies. The organization believes that one way to eradicate world poverty is through providing affordable access to electricity in order to increase economic development, focusing on the regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Energy for Growth Hub believes helping developing economies become strong will increase jobs, wealth and overall wellbeing, all of which are scarce when the economy is weak and lacking basic necessities, such as electricity.

Energy for Growth Hub’s Purpose

According to their site, Energy for Growth means “affordable reliable energy” to power all manner of businesses. The lack of energy in developing countries holds back the inhabitants from prosperity. It’s difficult for an economy to prosper when a hospital or school can’t be powered in order to use its equipment because it doesn’t have access to electricity.

It’s hard for those in first world countries to imagine a country where less than fifty percent of a population has access to electricity. In Chad, for example, fewer than 10 percent of residents in the sub-Saharan country had access to electricity in 2016. Chad is one area in sub-Saharan Africa that would be positively affected by widespread electricity.

Todd Moss, Executive Director of Energy for Growth and previous the chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development, believes the future of countries like Chad is tied to widespread electricity and not just electricity for use in households but also for businesses, farms, hospitals and schools.

Energy and Jobs

Job creation is just one positive result of powering a country that lacks affordable and widespread electricity. The nonprofit states that energy is the foundation with which modern economies thrive. Without electricity, there wouldn’t be power in homes, hospitals or schools. There wouldn’t be computers or medical equipment or even phone lines in order to call for emergencies. Vehicles would be sparse, as many gas-powered vehicles depend on a functioning battery to operate.

Batteries also power public transportation and improve agricultural practices, such as utilizing a basic farm tractor or timed irrigation equipment. The nonprofit believes all industries and energy sectors require or can benefit from electricity. In each of those industries, there are possibilities of employment. Power is the foundation of development.

Grid Modernization

Without a functional electrical grid, it would be difficult for a developing country to thrive. Energy for Growth Hub is interested in both off-grid and on-grid living. The nonprofit’s main focus is not on household energy, as most nonprofits. It focuses on reliability, cost, large-scale energy operations and working with the available resources of each country, such as untapped coal. Though the nonprofit believes sustainability is a wiser choice long-term, Energy for Growth Hub understands some countries could utilize cheaper solutions rather than the cleaner and more expensive counterparts, such as wind and solar power.

Focusing on households leads to small solutions, whereas a large-scale approach has a spillover effect since the grid will also move towards households. A strong economy, at its most basic level, has some form of an electrical grid. An affordable grid that is used not only for urban but also rural residents leads to further development and reduced poverty. This is another important goal for the organization.

In 1990, only 16 percent of residents in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity. In 2016, the number had increased to 42 percent. The Rockefeller Foundation, Chevron, General Electric, Pritzker Innovation Fund and others have funded Energy for Growth Hub and believe in its vision of helping “developing countries achieve the high-energy future they need to become prosperous and economically competitive.”

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr