Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

Energy Poverty
Eliminating global poverty will not be accomplished strictly through emerging opportunities and resources for the world’s most vulnerable people but will be done by redefining ideas about poverty. Instead of defining poverty by a purchasing power baseline, Rajiv Shah, the current Rockefeller Foundation President, thinks we should define and measure poverty in terms of power connectivity and electrification, in other words, energy poverty.

Rajiv Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, suggested this idea at the Affordable and Clean Energy for All event in Washington, D.C. Shah points to the idea that poverty is traditionally measured by a “basket of goods” stemming from a “total calories mindset.” Energy poverty defines poverty by the extent of the lack of access to modern energy.

Poverty Definitions Today

Currently, poverty is defined with a mere dollar amount. Extreme poverty is defined as a daily income of less than $1.90, and moderate poverty is living on less than $3.10 a day. The idea of moving from defining poverty from purchasing power to energy accessibility has some weight to it. For example, India in the 1970s defined poverty as the ability to purchase 2,100 to 2,400 calories of food per day depending on if the person was living in the city or in rural areas. In 2011, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee, a namesake for the late economist Suresh Tendulkar, defined living below the poverty line as spending between 27.2 and 33.3 Indian rupees (or between $0.38 and $0.46) per month on electricity, food, education and health.

This measure is thought to be far too conservative, but it does touch on the expanse of resources and services, specifically electricity, that factor into basic living standards. India is said to have 300 million people with little or no access to electricity. That is roughly 23 percent of its population. By taking energy poverty into consideration, a much clearer picture of global poverty rates can be analyzed.

Providing Energy to Areas In Need

Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation are not just providing mere lip service to the conversation on extreme poverty but also real energy service. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsors Smart Power for Rural Development, a $75 million program launched in 2015 that brings solar power to villages. This program has already powered 100 Indian villages with mini-grids that supply renewable energy to over 40,000 people.

Investments in mini-grids such as Smart Power for Rural Development or the $20 million raised from Husk Power Systems (the largest for an Indian mini-grid company) are thought to be the most efficient solutions for securing energy goals for sustainable development. Without reliable energy connectivity, almost half Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 cannot be achieved. Two of such goals are “no poverty” and “affordable and clean energy.”

Energy is vital to attaining Development Goals such as health, education, inequality and food security. “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty,” says Gerth Svensson, chief executive at Swefund, a Swedish development finance institution that works to eliminate poverty by establishing sustainable businesses.

Metrics to Define Energy Poverty

Defining poverty through the proxy of energy poverty can leave vague perceptions. Yet, one metric illuminates the reality of what it means to be energy poor. Energy poverty is being quantified by the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI). The MEPI measures energy deprivation, as opposed to energy access. It is made up of five dimensions: cooking, lighting, services provided by means of household appliances, entertainment/education and communication.

Each dimension has one indicator to measure the importance of the activity, with an exception to cooking, which has two indicators. Each indicator has a binary threshold that indicates the presence or lack of a product or service. Energy poverty defined through the cooking dimension is measured by cooking with any fuel besides electricity, natural or biogas since it would leave a family vulnerable to indoor pollution. The lack of several other products or services complete the index—the lack of access to electricity (lighting), a refrigerator (household appliances), a radio or television (entertainment/education), and a landline or mobile phone (communication).

Measuring Poverty Through Energy

According to BRCK, a Kenyan organization that works to furnish internet connectivity to frontier markets, 18 of Africa’s 54 total nations have at least between 50 and 75 percent of their population without access to electricity, and 16 have more than 75 percent of their population lacking. On the measure of communication, only four of those nations have mobile-phones access for more than half their population, the highest being South Africa at 68 percent.

Using the current standard, roughly 736 million people worldwide are considered to be living in extreme poverty, yet 1.1 billion people were still living without access to electricity in 2017. The means for microeconomic power and poverty alleviation via education, healthcare, business and communication seem to be less about cash flow and more so concerning reliable energy flow, redefining poverty with the idea of energy poverty.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Cryptocurrency provides access to energyAccess to energy is necessary for daily life in most countries in the world. Electricity allows for economic development and innovation as well as securing basic human rights such as health and security. However, there are more than 1 billion people living without access to energy.

Solar Power and Cryptocurrency

One negative effect of not having secure and affordable access to energy is the expenditure that goes into coal. This leads to impoverished people being forced to buy expensive coal which further leads to environmental and health problems.

As a response to the scarcity of energy, the International Energy Agency confirmed that decentralized energy systems such as solar power would be the lowest cost option for electrification across sub-Saharan Africa due to its geographical location as well as the accessibility and practicality of the solar panels. With solar power, impoverished communities could use the electricity from solar panels to improve education, healthcare and socioeconomic developments.

Crytoeconomy Fueling Solar Energy Initiatives

This is where The Sun Exchange, a solar micro-leasing marketplace, and Powerhive, a rural mini-grid solutions provider, are partnering up to use crypto-economy to create a fully decentralized, blockchain-based global economic system that could distribute the full potential of solar power to impoverished people.

Sun Exchange states its purpose as buying solar cells and leasing them to schools and businesses in areas with a lot of sunlight. Fortunately, this lines up perfectly with the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Powerhive states that its purpose is to develop off-grid utility solutions to create a future where everyone has access to energy.

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty,” said Abraham Cambridge, Founder and CEO of Sun Exchange. “Our partnership with Powerhive underscores the SUNEX token sale opportunity to support a crypto project geared directly towards reducing global inequality and climate impact.”

For example, the new joint initiative plans to fund up to 150 new Powerhive rural mini-grid projects which will provide access to energy for 175,000 people in Kenya.

“At the heart of our projects are the communities we serve,” said Christopher Hornor, Founder and CEO of Powerhive. “By providing the power platform first and then layering in productive use programmes, we create a virtuous cycle of economic and personal empowerment that provides steady profits for both our customers and our investors. Our partnership with Sun Exchange will now give almost anyone the opportunity to invest in innovative low-carbon development projects in Africa and beyond.”

This partnership allows for the international community members to help improve lives across the world and make a small profit. This is possible because through Sun Exchange, individuals across the globe are able to purchase and own remotely-located solar projects set up by Powerhive.

The buyer would now earn a return for the power generated by his or her solar asset while the energy would undeniably improve the life of whoever received that energy in rural Africa. Also, because the payments are done through cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, there are no complications that result from international transactions.

Hornor sums up this partnership as a positive step towards the future for renewable energy and universal access to energy. “The crypto-economy is the best tool we have to fight poverty, hands down. Our customers are hard-working people who have been excluded from the global economy. Now, we are able to bring them onto a platform of modern, clean power and to offer support for new businesses and opportunities for personal and intellectual enrichment.”

– Jenny S. Park
Photo: Flickr

Egypt's Energy NeedsEgypt, a nation once plagued by frequent power blackouts, may have found a remedy to its power needs. The discovery of the Noor natural gas field, the largest offshore field in the Mediterranean Sea, could prove a permanent solution to Egypt’s energy needs and put it on the road to self-sufficiency. This discovery could help Egypt become an exporter of natural gas as well as encourage more foreign investment.

To contextualize what kind of impact this discovery is, one need only compare the Zohr natural gas field, which had been Egypt’s largest natural gas field until 2015, and the Noor natural gas field. The Zohr field is approximately 60 square miles and contains around 30 trillion cubic feet of gas. Noor, on the other hand, is about three times the size of Zohr and could contain as much as 90 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Egypt’s Power Problem

The dual threat of ballooning demand and declining production have put a constant strain on the Egyptian energy sector. In 2014, when Egypt endured one of its most dire energy crises, parts of the country experienced six power cuts per day lasting about two hours at a time. Electricity demand was 20 percent greater than power stations could provide.

In large part, gas shortages were due to an uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Divisive political struggles deterred investors and tourists, which in turn caused foreign currency reserves to decline. In order to meet demand, Egypt was forced to sacrifice important gas exports.

Solution to Egypt’s Energy Needs

Noor is instrumental in reducing the gap between total gas consumption in Egypt (4.9 billion cubic feet per day in 2016) and total daily production in Egypt (4 billion cubic feet). In order to meet its energy needs and compensate for excessive consumption, Egypt has been forced to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) at high costs.

In 2015/2016, Egypt purchased 89 cargoes of liquefied natural gas at a staggering $2.2 billion. With the Zohr field, in addition to the newly discovered Noor field, Egypt could end these purchases by the end of next year, according to Egypt’s oil minister Tarek El-Molla. This will enable Egypt to become independent in their natural gas production and make them a net exporter.

How Does This Help

By satisfying local demand, Egypt can spend significantly less on energy. Using those savings, Egypt can invest in improved infrastructure, healthcare and education. By turning to grid-connected gas, Egypt can avoid the fuel subsidies associated with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) use. Fuel subsidies have accounted for anywhere from 18-20 percent of Egypt’s expenditure, an amount equal to 5-7 percent of GDP.

According to the World Bank’s Country Director for Egypt, Hartwig Schafer, “Conversion to piped natural gas will help give households a safer, more reliable and cheaper supply of gas.” As households make the transition from high-subsidized, imported LPG to locally-produced natural gas, the government will save $201 per household per year. 

The Noor gas field will not only facilitate Egypt’s transition from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter, but it will provide the much-needed solution to Egypt’s energy needs by allowing Egyptians to have a reliable source of power at a much lower cost.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

Global Infrastructure
One of the key challenges facing developing nations is the lack of available infrastructure. Proper infrastructure can help a country build itself up by improving health, transportation, energy, education and a myriad of other vital institutions. Global infrastructure initiatives are a vital form of potential aid that can improve the quality of life for developing nations.

How Energy Infrastructure Helps Emerging Countries

USAID currently works around the world to improve the infrastructure of developing nations. In Afghanistan, the organization helped develop a national electric company that reduced energy loss in the country from 60 percent to 35 percent. Likewise, in the Philippines, USAID was integral in providing energy to 13,000 rural households via solar and hydroelectric plants. Similar projects are taking place in countries such as Jordan, Vietnam and the Ukraine.

Infrastructure is important to a country’s development because without it growth becomes difficult. Without the energy to power development projects of their own, foreign aid ends up catalyzing a nation to empower itself. By providing clean water, countries can save on healthcare costs and invest in other issues. This makes infrastructure one of the most cost-effective ways to invest in the future of a country.

How It Can Be Improved

Unfortunately, there’s a gap between infrastructure development funding needs and its availability. Erecting fundamental structures and corruption are both costly and difficult projects for governments to overcome.

In order to combat these issues, some experts have suggested acquiring funding from the private sector so as to help aid some of USAID’s massive energy project proposals. The theory is that by selling projects to private contractors, governments can cut costs and prevent corruption. However, others such as W. Gyude Moore suggest that actions like these do not resolve the core issues. In either case, it will take a combination of private investors and foreign aid to solve the problem for good.

According to Moore, there are a few key things to keep in mind while thinking about global infrastructure.

Global Infrastructure

  1. Not Every Country is the Same: It seems obvious, and yet current global infrastructure planning could do a better job of differentiating between countries. The G20 Global Infrastructure Hub Pipeline aims to help alleviate this problem by providing investors with comprehensive data on each project. With unique and accurate information, investors will be able to better match their skills and resources with each project.
  2. Private Investment is too Risky in its Current Form: With imperfect information and little standardization, many investors stay away from global infrastructure initiatives unless they can be guaranteed a profit from governments; this issue is then also combated by the G20 Global Infrastructure Initiative. By providing comprehensive information, investors can better prepare for their jobs, thereby reducing costs for themselves and the governments they work with.
  3. Different Types of Infrastructure are More Profitable than Others: While energy infrastructure attracts a large number of investors, more fragile sectors like water and transportation do not. Part of USAID’s infrastructure initiative is to help build these important systems. In Jordan, these efforts supported a water treatment plant that now provides clean water to two million citizens.

While tough challenges do exist for foreign infrastructure in the future, progress can be made via a combination of foreign aid and private sector investment. USAID is currently working to help foreign governments establish infrastructure, and the G20 Global Infrastructure Hub Pipeline helps investors make informed decisions. While there is always more that can be done in regard to global infrastructure, this is a promising start.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Indian Village Powered by the Sun
The words “energy crisis” are more common and less panic-inducing than ever before. In life, days for most people end the same way they begin 
― by flipping the light-switch.

Solar Initiatives and Climate Change

The National Solar Initiative was a global contribution in one of many efforts to combat the slippery slope of climate change. The 2008 initiative was created by the United States government with several targets in mind, one of which included solar power.

According to the National Action Plan on Climate Change, “India is a tropical region where sun is available for longer hours per day with great intensity,” so India had seen a reason to establish responsible and smart change. Also, another global agreement for change include the Paris Agreement signed in 2016, which sought to curb rising global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since these action plans, India has taken strong global action in becoming one of the leaders in alternative energy sources.

History of Diu

The village of Diu, an island in western India, is quaint compared to its neighboring counterparts. With a population of 50,000 people, Diu is now known as the Indian village powered by the sun and provides electricity for some of India’s poorest populations.

Mostly known for its holiday tourism, Diu became a territory in 1987, and is one of seven Union territories located in India. While 60 percent of Indian poverty is located on the eastern side of the country, alternative energy sources will continue to aid economic growth in Diu. Data for Gujarat, India (just above Diu) indicates that although the state is heavily manufacture-based, the nation never managed to reach economic growth.

Energy Implications

Despite this status, strong new data suggests many positive implications regarding higher living standards. The first is increased local communication. Solar power in Diu has established communication and economic relations with its neighboring state, Gujarat, due to the fact that most night-time energy stems from this ally.

In 2017, Diu imported only 26 percent of its electricity from Gujarat; the other 73 percent came from their own solar power. Such communication and negotiation is useful for global trade advancements in the future.

Alternative energy has also provided education. Non-governmental organizations — such as The Barefoot College — train and educate solar engineers. The students go on to repair solar lighting and heat in an effort to increase electrification, which is especially helpful in rural areas similar to the Indian village powered by the sun.

Perhaps the most positive ramification to modernizing electricity is the exponential economic effect. According to The World Bank, global powerhouses would be able to focus more attention on alternative sources in places like Diu by ending fossil fuel subsidies. Furthermore, researchers would have more access to data regarding the benefits of solar energy alleviating poverty.

What Do the Panels Look like?

The answer to this question lies within the middle of India’s Eastern hills. The expansive panels cover almost 50 acres, and fuel all of the village’s daytime power needs. With a smaller population, 10.5 megawatts (MW) of energy are created but only 7 MW are used; thus, rapid population growth is a proven problem. Fortunately, though, generating greater resources allows the population to both increase and receive adequate power.

By 2019, the Indian village powered by the sun will welcome wind power to the island. The government will create 6.8 MW of wind power that will then be used for day and night energy.  

Change On the Horizon

With other alternative energy sources on the horizon, it’s safe to say that Diu will no longer be the only Indian village powered by the sun. Diu, and many other countries in 2019 will take on the needed role of environmental leaders with exciting new sources of energy.

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy Sector in India
In a deserted, rocky and barren land with temperatures up to 80 and 90 degrees Celsius, millions of silver-grey solar panels glimmer in the sun. This is a start of what is said to be the biggest solar power station in the world in Pavagada, a town located in southern India. This city is where a massive solar park is set to be built and is expected to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 700,000 households. This is the start of a clean-energy revolution in the renewable energy sector in India.

The Renewable Energy Sector in India

The renewable energy sector in India is now the leader in creating a new revolution in solar energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government aims to achieve 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar installations by 2022, of which 40 gigawatts is expected to come from rooftop installations. This emphasizes India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and its strong will to push for solar energy generation in countries with huge potential.

Solar energy serves as a clean and affordable form of the renewable energy sector that would help India cut down its carbon emissions as well as reduce its dependency on the import of crude oil (at least to some extent).

Although India has committed to going solar, challenges still remain. Infrastructure development, technological know-how, attracting foreign investment, procuring raw materials for solar panels and a lack of access to existing storage technologies remain huge obstacles. Despite these concerns, India has taken an initiative to make solar energy the focus of clean energy.

Foreign Direct Investment in India’s Solar Power

The boom in the renewable energy sector in India has attracted investors from abroad. The ambitious target of 100 GW by 2022 is tough, and to achieve this mission, India solar sector requires investment from foreign countries.

In 2015, the solar sector had secured more than $278 million through various avenues. The international business consulting firm KPMG forecasts that the market share of solar power in India would be 5.7 percent (54 GW) and 12.5 percent (166 GW) in 2020 and 2025, respectively.

Several countries look at investing in the renewable energy sector in India. In 2016, the U.S. and India partnered to launch the U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance (USICEF), an initiative to help promising distributed solar projects develop into viable investment opportunities via essential early-stage project preparation support.

Job Creation Through Renewable Energy Sector

The massive push for solar energy opened up ways of employment with hopes to reduce the poverty rate in India. In fact, 22 percent of the population or 270 million people live below the poverty line in India. Clean-energy jobs are seen as a game changer in India’s rural and urban areas.

There are various positions of job profiles that have opened up due to India commitment to go solar. Jobs like installation, operations and maintenance, sales and more. Many of these jobs provide steady incomes, healthcare benefits and skill-building opportunities for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

A report by World Resource Institute ‘Can Renewable Energy Jobs Help Reduce Poverty in India?’ states that in addition to improving energy security, enhancing energy access and mitigating climate change, renewable energy may be able to help reduce poverty by creating good jobs that poor people can perform.

The findings of WET report suggest that:

  • The majority of jobs in the sector are contractual and do not offer benefits or job stability.
  • Permanent jobs in the sector have the potential to reduce poverty, but they need strengthening before they become “good” jobs.
  • Most poor people face barriers to entry to training and the job market.
  • Few programs include features that help reduce poverty, such as capacity building, development of ownership opportunities or the inclusion of women.
  • The absence of data makes it difficult to establish connections between jobs in renewable energy and poverty reduction.

India depends heavily on fossil fuels. Energy production and consumption accounts for 58 percent of India’s greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to grow exponentially in the coming decades due to a rising energy demand associated with urbanization, better living standards and economic modernization. As a result, clean energy is the main focus for the government of India in the coming years.

Commitment to Positive Change

In order to meet the commitment under Paris Agreement, India must dramatically boost solar and wind power to light up millions of houses that still lack electricity. Due to the initiatives by the government of India, India is looking at renewable energy options and acts as a home for the  largest solar plants in the world.

The government schemes and policies have contributed in transitioning from fossil fuels to clean and green energy in India, and with solar tariffs falling to a record low, new government schemes to encourage rooftop installation has put India on the map in the renewable energy sector. Being a part of this renewable energy sector has the potential to create jobs, reduce poverty and propel India into the ways of the future.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered appliancesElectricity is difficult to come by in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other places in the world. In 2016, an estimated 588 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 239 million people in India were without electricity. Slowly, more people are gaining access to electricity, specifically through solar-powered appliances and lighting.

Current Issues with Electricity

A lot of the rural cities or areas do not have electricity because they are not nearby to an electricity grid. People in Tanzania, like Lusela Murandika, power TV sets with diesel generators and other parts of their homes with charcoal, wood and other biomass.

Using resources like coal, charcoal, dung or wood as a source of electricity pollutes the breathable air that is needed to survive. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die from illnesses that are tied to air pollution.

Kerosene used in lamps is also a dangerous product to use. It produces soot and toxic smoke that “damages lungs and causes other serious health problems,” according to National Geographic. The use of kerosene lamps, especially ones that are homemade, are dangerous because thousands of children and adults die or are burned from them.

How Solar-Powered Appliances Are Changing Things

Technological advancements have made it easy for solar-powered appliances to become more readily available to purchase. Something as simple as a solar bottle light bulb runs around $2-3.

The solar bottle light bulb is “made out of a plastic bottle of purified water and bleach, [that] is sealed into the roof,” according to National Geographic. The water allows for light to be spread out in the room and the chlorine keeps mold from growing. The solar bottle light bulb not only works with the sunlight but it also works when the moonlight is strong as well. It allows for the people in the home to be able to do more within the household, like study, read or work inside.

Connecting people that live in rural areas to an electrical grid sometimes is not possible or it becomes too expensive to be able to afford. Electricity then becomes a luxury that people cannot afford. Sometimes, people wait years for a grid to be built near them, but having solar-powered appliances allows for them to have access to that technology much sooner.

Organizations Assisting the Distribution of Solar Power

In 2016, four U.S. foundations announced an initiative “to support efforts to bring reliable ‘off-grid’ or ‘mini-grid’ power—fueled by solar energy—to people in India who now are without it,” according to Think Progress. The foundations include Hewlett, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All four foundations have initiated a $30,000,000 initiative to fund the program and the Indian government is set to match this.

Furthermore, a company by the name of Easy Solar is helping provide electricity to the residents of Sierra Leone. This company is lead by Nthabiseng Mosia, Alexandre Toure and Eric Silverman. Easy Solar began in 2015 as a response to energy accessibility in Sierra Leone. In an interview from Business Report with Nthabiseng Mosia, she stated, “It’s often widely publicized that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. But in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of people (and 99 percent in rural areas) don’t have any electricity.”

With Easy Solar, appliances are set up so that consumers are on a rent-to-own basis, providing weekly payments. Some of the devices that the business offers are lights and mobile chargers as well as solar lanterns that have the capability of charging phones and offer more than 24 hours of light. The company’s appliances are not just limited to households but are also for businesses as well.

There are many organizations on the ground that are helping individuals obtain the necessary materials to be able to survive that will not cost them their lives. Solar-powered appliances are one solution that is helping eradicate poverty.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

SunSalutor: Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished CountriesWorldwide, there are about 1.5 billion people without electricity and about 750 million people who do not have access to clean water. These are life’s basic necessities and people are unfortunately lacking in these resources. Thankfully, there is a new piece of technology called the SunSalutor that is providing energy and water to impoverished countries.

Solar panels are a popular solution when discussing how to bring energy to those in poverty. Solar panels have been successful but they are not as energy efficient as many would like them to be. Eden Full Goh, the founder and creator of SunSalutor, has made it possible for solar panels to track the sun which allows for more energy to be collected.

How the SunSalutor Works

A single axis tracker with a water weight at the east end and a counterweight on the west end allows for a solar panel to track the sun. The tracking is powered by gravity and water. The water weight drips water throughout the day, making itself lighter.

As the water weight becomes lighter, the solar panel begins to shift thanks to the counterweight. With the appropriate adjustment on how quickly the water weight drips water, the solar panel will track the sun throughout the day and collect more energy than it would if it was standing still.

But that is not all the SunSalutor does. The dripping water can also be filtered to create clean drinking water. So, not only is the SunSalutor providing energy to impoverished countries, it is also providing water.

Benefits of the SunSalutor

One of the great benefits that come with the SunSalutor is the low cost. At most, an entire SunSalutor costs around $10 to $15. The main frame is built from local materials such as bamboo or wood. Because of this, the SunSalutor can be maintained and fixed locally. The cost for a SunSalutor set is 30 times cheaper than traditional panels.

The SunSalutor also eliminates the need for kerosene gas generators. Buying kerosene gas can become expensive over time and generators can create a lot of noise. Furthermore, they produce CO2 emissions which can end up polluting the air. The SunSalutor eliminates all of these issues.

Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished Countries

According to the official SunSalutor website, in Mpala, Kenya, there was a village that did not have electricity. The inhabitants had to rely on kerosene gas to have electricity in their village. Villagers had to travel two hours round-trip to receive the necessary kerosene gas. They also had to do this to charge their cellphones. Thanks to the SunSalutor, these villagers can now stay within their village and produce electricity locally.

Providing energy and water to impoverished countries can have a lot of benefits. Thanks to the electricity gained, children can now study for longer and be prepared for school the next day. If these children do well in school, they can possibly break the cycle of poverty that they have been in. The SunSalutor is not only providing energy and water to impoverished countries, it can also provide people a way out of poverty.

– Daniel Borjas
Photo: Flickr

powering Africa
Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. With better access to electricity, Africans will have the opportunity to grow socially and economically. Power Africa, a five-year initiative launched by former president Barack Obama, aims to increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable power in Africa and in turn support Africa’s economic growth.

The initiative is powering Africa by facilitating the cooperation of governments around the world, the private sector and technical and legal experts to increase Africans’ access to power by using the natural resources of the sun, wind, streams, lakes and natural gas.

Powering Africa Key to the Continent’s Economic Development 

Access to electricity is an opportunity for economic and social growth. Power Africa aims to generate 30,000 more megawatts of electricity and electrify another 60 million homes and businesses. Since 2013, Power Africa has closed 90 power transactions valued at more than $14.5 billion, which are expected to generate more than 7,500 megawatts of power in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although 7,500 megawatts seems minuscule compared to the goal of more than 30,000 megawatts, Power Africa’s deal tracking tool application is publicly tracking 440 transactions totaling 33,444 megawatts, and it is internally tracking 800 transactions that have the potential to add another 75,000 megawatts. Additionally, it has facilitated more than 10 million electrical connections, bringing electricity to more than 50 million people. 

Power Africa is connecting homes and businesses through off-grid and small-scale renewable power projects. Beyond the Grid, a sub-initiative launched in June 2014, is powering Africa by working to unlock investment and growth in off-grid energy and electricity access projects across the African continent. Power Africa has funded off-grid companies and projects that have enabled tens of millions of people to gain access to electricity for the first time. 

Power Africa’s Reach Extends to Many Aspects of the Global Economy

Power Africa also focuses on the role of women in Africa’s power sector. The USAID 2017 Power Africa Report revealed the correlation between workforce diversity and performance and showed that companies that invest in women outperform their peers. Power Africa strives to promote gender equality and female empowerment by supporting projects, programs and policies that promote the engagement of both men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Additionally, Power Africa is one of the largest public-private partnerships in history, with more than $54 billion in commitments and more than 150 public and private sector partners. While it strives to power Africa by sustaining economic growth, it also provides economic opportunities for American taxpayers, workers and businesses. As the five-year initiative came to a close, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced Power Africa 2.0, a continuation of the original Power Africa. 

Green stated, “Under Power Africa 2.0, we will be expanding beyond our previous targets of increased energy generation and access and looking to make gains in the areas of distribution and transmission. And perhaps most importantly, we will be taking on the enabling environments that allow private enterprise to grow and thoroughly flourish.” 

In its next phase, this initiative powering Africa will focus on improving environments and making sure utilities are stable. It will also target U.S. outreach to help U.S. companies see the opportunities that exist in Africa.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

indoor air pollution in Burkina FasoIndoor air pollution from burning biomass is one of the 10 most significant threats to public health worldwide. Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries most affected by indoor pollution. The country’s government has rolled out the National Biogas Program as part of its green economy initiative to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Globally, more than three billion people cook with wood or charcoal. Exposure to indoor smoke from burning biomass is linked to pneumonia in children and chronic respiratory diseases in adults.

About 86 percent of Burkina Faso’s energy comes from burning biomass like firewood and charcoal. In rural areas, this percentage is often even higher. Approximately 16,500 deaths per year can be attributed to indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

The National Biogas Program has the potential to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso. The government of Burkina Faso, led by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, is working in tandem with Dutch NGO Hivos and Dutch development organization SNV to install 40,000 biodigesters by 2024. The government of Burkina Faso subsidizes the biodigesters so that the technology is more affordable for poor households. 

Biodigesters are enclosed structures that break down animal dung and food waste into methane gas. The biogas can be piped into a stove for cooking. The nutrient-rich compost left over can be used as fertilizer. So far, 8,000 biodigesters have been installed.

Each biodigester creates 3.62 tons of CO2eq emission reduction per year. Transitioning to biodigesters is particularly impactful for women and children, who often spend hours collecting biomass to burn and who are typically responsible for household cooking. Biodigesters protect this vulnerable group from the harmful health effects of indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Approximately 85 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives in rural areas and works in agriculture. For these agrarian households, biodigesters produce economic benefits. Farmers with biodigesters produce natural, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating the need to buy chemical fertilizer. One 6m3 biodigester produces 20 tons of compost per year. 

Fields fertilized with slurry from biodigesters produce greater yields. The slurry also increases the soil’s capacity to hold rainwater, which is particularly important during droughts. 

Additionally, some regions of Burkina Faso have experienced wood scarcity. Biodigesters protect owners from increasing wood fuel prices.

Biodigesters also create tangible environmental benefits. About 46 percent of Burkina Faso’s territory suffers from soil degradation. Harvesting wood for energy has created a deforestation rate of 105,000 hectares per year. Biodigesters replace wood-burning stoves and thus reduce the amount of wood that must be harvested for energy each year. 

The U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism has issued the first carbon credits in Burkina Faso. The World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) program is now purchasing carbon credits created by the biodigesters. Ci-Dev will purchase 540,000 certified emission reductions through 2024. This revenue stream is used to lower the price of biodigesters and to extend the warranty on the devices. With the numerous benefits of biodigesters, they are sure to have an impact not only on air pollution in Burkina Faso, but on may aspects of its people’s livs.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr