Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

Electrification to Reduce Poverty in AfricaLack of infrastructure in Africa has continued to perpetuate its impoverished state. Poverty in Africa is caused by dozens of factors which contribute to intergenerational poverty, but a key issue is access to electricity. Although access to electricity has advanced, there are still many more improvements to be made.

In Africa, access to electricity has been a serious challenge. Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. In total, there are over 600 million Africans without connection to an electrical network. Reports from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Africa Outlook state that on average, electricity consumption per capita is not even enough to power a 50-watt light bulb continuously.

Even with electricity, reliability is low. Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa report frequent power crises including outages, irregular supply and high electricity costs. This creates numerous problems and constraints for individuals and businesses.

Investments in Africa’s electrification offer many benefits beyond the important direct job creation in energy infrastructure. Evidence suggests that household electrification also increases job opportunities due to its ability to allow people more working time, and enables the growth of rural micro-entrepreneurship. Improvements appear to be underway, with a variety of recent initiatives aimed at investment in electrification.

Africa’s demand for electricity is also growing. With a current growth rate of 6 percent per year, it will likely exceed GDP growth until 2040. This has sparked private investment and stimulated more diversified project financing. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa has seen power generation increase by 21 percent, with Chinese contractors accounting for 30 percent of this growth, to reach 115 gigawatts between 2010 and 2015.

Investment interest in Africa’s electrification has continued to increase since 2011. Of the 38 sectors reported in the Financial Times fDi Markets database, which monitors investment projects, capital investment and job creation, the alternative/renewable energy sector was the third most attractive for companies who invested in Africa in 2015 and 2016.

One major investment highlight was the $21 billion for new projects, many of which focus on renewable sources of energy. Investment trends in the renewable energy sector continue to be especially impressive, further combating poverty in Africa. Ethiopia has been seen as a leader in clean energy infrastructure, having generated the bulk of its energy needs from hydropower and other investments in geothermal, solar and wind. Its recent creation of the Ashegoda wind farm has the capacity of generating 120MW.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the development of the Grand Inga Dam has the potential to generate 40,000MW of electricity. Both of these provide Africans with not only more access to electricity but also ways make it more affordable.

Improving access to electricity is essential to decreasing poverty in Africa. It provides households and businesses with a tool for successful operation. There have been great strides in solving this problem in Africa, yet much work still needs to be done. Estimates from the World Bank concluded that 93 percent of Africa’s economically viable hydropower potential remains unexploited.

Persistent challenges need to be addressed by the government. A Greenpeace South Africa report found that two main challenges are changing misconceptions about renewable energy’s capabilities and developing the political will to invest in clean energy infrastructure. There is no doubt that through the electrification of Africa, many new opportunities for its countries will be brought to light.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

 https://www.dropbox.com/home/Gramatvediba/Izdevumi
Ethiopia is on the cusp of completing a development milestone. The United States’ $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be over 500 feet tall and generate more than three times the hydroelectric power created by the Hoover Dam. After its completion, it will be the largest dam in Africa and generate more power than any other dam on the African continent.

Wide-Reaching Benefits

The World Bank’s examinations of this project determined that millions of citizens will benefit from this Ethiopian development milestone. According to the World Bank, nearly 75 million individuals in Ethiopia — approximately 70 percent of the country’s population — lack access to reliable energy sources. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate an estimated 6450 MW of energy to civilians, improve infrastructure and ultimately lead to more modern job opportunities in the country.

Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity claims that the dam is not being built to control the flow of the Nile river politically; rather, it is being built to provide the country with energy development opportunities. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam serves as the flagship of many strides in Ethiopian economic development. Another notable recent achievement is the equitable public transit system in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.

National Pride

Moreover, Ethiopians are taking great nationalist pride in the development milestone. The country emphasizes that it is paying for the dam itself, without any international help or investment. The country is funding the dam through intense taxation, selling of bonds and a lottery to incentivize citizen investment.

Accordingly, Ethiopia’s progress in The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has positive and negative effects for its downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, respectively.

Sudan

Sudan expresses a positive view of the dam as it will reduce the amount of flooding farmers endure during particularly high flows of the Nile; the construction project will also contribute to reliable flows of water during the drier seasons. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam construction will also allow for cheaper electricity to be sold into Sudan as the dam is being built close to the Sudanese border.

Egypt

Egypt on the other hand, is increasingly worried about the Ethiopian development milestone. Egypt is concerned that Ethiopia is placing controls on the Nile, which Egyptians have controlled for millennia. Egyptian officials also worry that Ethiopia now has a tap that could significantly reduce the flow of water into their country.

Egypt’s concerns are justified given that the country is subject to face water shortages as soon as 2025. Officials in Egypt explain that if water levels decrease in Egypt by just two percent, then the nation will lose 200,000 acres of viable farmland, which families depend on for subsistence crop growth.

Given that, the Geological Study of America explains that the Nile’s water levels could drop by 25 percent for up to 7 years as the dam’s reservoir in Ethiopia fills up. As a result, Egyptian officials worry that nearly 1 million of the 100 million people living in Egypt will suffer from changes in the Nile’s water flow.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

At this point, Ethiopia and Egypt are only in the early stages of negotiations as tension between the countries increases. Overall, Ethiopia is not going to stop development of the dam; as a result, diplomacy and collaboration are the only means of solving the contentious issues and preventing a water war between Northeastern and East Africa.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

Energy Infrastructure in Tanzania Must Meet Growing Needs
Tanzania, located just below the equator in East Africa, is rich in natural resources, has a vibrant, diverse culture, and is making positive leaps in economic development. The global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCooper published reports stating that if infrastructure in Tanzania improves, the nation has the potential to be a leader of development in East Africa.

The energy sector in Tanzania is currently under expansion, and aims to meet the growing power needs of its citizens. According to a World Bank report in 2011, only 15.5 percent of the 55.5 million people that make up Tanzania’s population had access to reliable power sources; since then, the country has made serious progress in developing its energy sector. Listed below are three of the growing sources of energy infrastructure in Tanzania.

 

1. Natural Gas

As of 2016, 49.8 percent of energy produced in Tanzania comes from natural gas infrastructure. The Tanzanian government continues to expand its natural gas projects in an attempt to ensure reliable power to its citizens. For instance, in 2016, repair of three gas turbine plants and construction of a new gas plant at the Songo Songo gas fields near the country’s largest city, Dar Es Salaam, contributed to a 30 percent growth of natural gas production in country.

Overall, natural gas expansion is increasing electricity access to urban civilian populations within the country.

 

2. Hydroelectric Power

Approximately 34.2 percent of power generated in Tanzania is created using hydropower. Multiple hydroelectric dam expansion projects were approved in 2017 by Tanzanian president Jon Magufuli to help provide power to Tanzanian communities in serious need.

These infrastructure projects also have a history of creating joint energy production throughout the East African community. In 2013, the World Bank approved a $340 million dam project in the Lake Victoria region that boosted the electrical power grids of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

While they do reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hydroelectric dams are at times extremely unreliable. During a drought year, major cities in Tanzania endure severe rolling blackouts, as the lack of water prevents the expected amount of electrical generation. For now, hydroelectric dams serve as a relatively effective way to provide Tanzanians’ power, while simultaneously capitalizing off of resources available in the country.

 

3. Solar Power

According to a Rural Energy Agency of Tanzania report in 2016, 65 percent of rural communities with access to electricity utilize some form of solar generation. One NGO in particular has been seriously successful in improving the solar energy infrastructure in Tanzania — Energy 4 Impact is a Sub-Saharan non-profit, that provides technological and financial solutions to improve solar infrastructure in rural parts of the country.

With the help of NGOs such as Energy 4 Impact, rural communities as well as some urban Tanzanians are becoming more energy independent over a shorter period of time, skipping the formal procedure of connecting to the nationalized power grids. This technological leapfrogging is not only connecting rural Tanzania to communities within the country, but also the rest of the world.

 

Electricity, Energy and Tanzania

Overall, electricity is vitally important to economic development and global access will continue to open up some of the last untapped markets on Earth. Energy infrastructure and access to reliable energy will benefit Tanzania greatly, as an estimated 28.2 percent of the country is “below basic poverty needs,” by the World Bank’s standard.

Given that status, researchers have determined that increased access to energy and technology will continue to bring economic growth and social hope to the continent. It is clear that Tanzania has infrastructural obstacles to overcome before it can reach its potential as the leader in East African development, but in spite of these obstacles, there are significant and interesting energy sector projects currently underway within the country.

– Danny Levy

Photo: Flickr

Shell and GravityLight Illuminate Off-Grid Regions in KenyaWhile access to electricity does not yet span the globe, the force of gravity is universal. The GravityLight Foundation has taken advantage of Newtonian physics to create a cost-effective light source that runs on gravity. Simply by lifting a weight and letting it descend, GravityLight can provide light and transform impoverished homes.

In 2015, GravityLight’s inventive engineering earned it the Shell Springboard Award, a grant of nearly $200,000 used to fund innovative businesses with low carbon footprints. Together, Shell and the GravityLight Foundation have successfully put GravityLights into production and introduced them to 50 communities in Kenya.

Kenya, which has one of the largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, has expended considerable effort to create an impressive power sector. In just four years, Kenya has increased the amount of households with access to electricity from 25 percent to 46 percent. Kenyan companies such as KenGen are working to utilize renewable energy sources, and geothermal energy looks promising.

A capacity of approximately 2,295 MW is available on Kenya’s power grid. However, off the grid, in remote areas of the country, only 11.5 MW are currently available. The Shell and GravityLight partnership intends to provide electric light to those off-grid regions in Kenya.

Electricity is crucial to improving the lives of the world’s poor. Access to light alone improves education and the economy by allowing people to study and work after daylight hours. However, the resources required to produce light can be extremely expensive, especially for those living in poverty. The world’s poor spend an estimated 30 percent of their income on kerosene needed to burn in lamps. GravityLight eliminates the need for kerosene to produce light, which is not only cheaper but also safer. Kerosene fumes are known carcinogens that are toxic for both humans and the environment.

Because the GravityLight Foundation uses local people and businesses to organize the sale of its product, marketing for GravityLight supplies Kenyans with jobs. By providing employment, GravityLight is bringing bright futures as well as bright homes to off-grid regions in Kenya.

Shell and GravityLight are not the only groups seeking to improve energy accessibility in order to aid impoverished populations in Africa. In 2015, the same year GravityLight won the Springboard grant, the U.S. government passed the Electrify Africa Act. The act aims to provide 60 million households and businesses throughout Africa with electricity.

Around the globe, 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity. If GravityLight’s debut in Kenya is successful, the foundation plans to continue spreading light throughout the world.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

How to Solve Energy PovertyThe entirety of human civilization uses 14 terawatts (14 followed by 12 zeroes) of power per year. Developed countries consume the majority of that total. The United States, although only 5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 25 percent of its energy consumption. The lack of available power in underdeveloped countries fosters more demand for power at an unrealistic cost for families living on $2 or less a day. Low incomes combined with expensive and non-renewably sourced power fosters a cycle of energy poverty.

Nearly two billion people worldwide do not have access to modern energy. In less developed nations with prominent health crises, a lack of reliable energy sources can cause business owners to lose customers or even lead to the loss of life-saving vaccines. These communities rely heavily on burning coal, waste or wood for cooking, heating and light. To equip the underdeveloped world with modern energy options and enable the use of exuberant amounts of energy in the developed world would require roughly 30 terawatts of energy by 2050, according to experts.

The best formula to solve energy poverty has been widely debated. Some argue for coal plants, citing China as a success story. According to the U.N. Development Programme, China has helped millions of people out of poverty and to join the middle class by burning more coal. However, China is now also the leading nation in greenhouse gas emissions. The effects of burning coal are not limited to the environment. Smoke from burning coal and other biomass cause respiratory diseases that kill over 3.5 million people each year.

Alison Doig, the senior adviser on climate change at Christian Aid, warns that the poor are hit the hardest by climate change. An analysis by Cafod, Christian Aid and thinktank The Overseas Development Institute explains that the perpetuation of current coal-reliant energy policies risks leaving one billion people without access to electricity and three billion without access to clean cooking facilities by 2030.

The next options pit centralized distribution against distributed generation.

    • Centralized distribution follows the current electrical power management model with a central plant dispatching energy through transmission lines.
      CONS: The implementation of centralized power requires the construction of transmission lines and steep capital investments.
    • Distributed PV (photovoltaic or solar energy) has the capacity to supply power closer to the demand, eliminating transmission loss that might occur with transmission lines.
      CONS: Panel output intermittency cannot be directly managed and it is unclear how much distributed PV can be supported by an electrical grid.

Although arguing the cost-efficiency and sustainability of various solutions has made implementation of any one option near impossible, here are some suggestions to solve energy poverty:

A study released by the International Energy Agency and two U.N. bodies, the Development Programme and the Industrial Development Organization, states that energy poverty can be solved without breaking the banks of nations or contributing to the growing climate change issue. The study emphasizes “parts and patterns” as opposed to “packages and services”; that is, giving communities the capacity and training to solve their own energy problems. Providing energy to the poor as outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals program would require only .06 percent of global GDP. Aiding the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity and the three billion who rely on burning biomass could be simpler than once estimated. According to the study, by 2030, electricity generation would only increase globally by 2.9 percent, demand for oil would increase by less than 1 percent and carbon emissions would be 0.8 percent above current projections.

Thomas Taha Rassam Culhane is a co-founder of Solar CITIES, a nonprofit organization that works with residents of poor neighborhoods in Cairo, Egypt and other African nations to install rooftop solar water heaters and small-scale biofuel systems. Culhane suggests that aid organizations use their financial clout to buy materials needed for small energy projects and distribute them at radically reduced costs.

The Sierra Club Energy Scorecard cites four key recommendations in response to failed energy poverty alleviation efforts by multilateral development banks (MDBs):

  1. Banks should increase funding for energy access projects to account for at least 50 percent of energy portfolio financing until the regions affected have 100 percent energy access.
  2. Banks need to increase funding for off-grid and mini-grid clean energy projects.
  3. The MDBs should establish clear criteria for defining “energy access” to improve consistency when measuring the efficacy of energy access projects.
  4. MDBs should commit to clearer reporting on energy access at the project level. Currently, project descriptions can be vague in regard to expected outcomes, using inconsistent measures that make it difficult to establish an understanding of activities and funding levels.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2014 to 2024 the “Decade of Sustainable Energy for All” and established the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2011. Research is still being conducted to determine the best methods to solve energy poverty, but with the help of aid organizations and the U.N., SE4ALL has made supporting universal energy access a priority.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in NauruSurrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Nauru struggles to find secure potable water sources. The island has no rivers and the groundwater is limited due to increasing salinity and contamination, problems that make rainwater collection and desalination plants the only reliable sources of water for almost 10,000 Nauruans. As a result, the water quality in Nauru has suffered.

Utilizing Rainwater

People in Nauru can take advantage of rainwater thanks to a system installed on the roofs of domestic and commercial buildings. A structure of tubes directs rain towards a small tank in which Nauruans store water, which can later be used for drinking and cooking.

However, between rainy seasons groundwater is the major source of water on the island. Unfortunately, the low water quality in Nauru means that groundwater is clean in few areas.

In the remaining areas, groundwater quality in Nauru is affected by wastewater disposal from houses, shops, commercial buildings and the refugee camp. In addition, some zones have an increasing salinity rate, which makes the water inadequate for human usage.

To resolve this problem, Nauru’s administration launched an expansion of the national water storage capacity in order to improve the water supply. The project consists of building more water tanks which will prevent water shortage during periods of drought. This solution also protects the environment since the desalination plants are energy-intensive and use fossil fuels for power.

Desalination Plants

Nauru’s secondary source of water are the four desalination plants throughout the island. However, the desalination plants require high quantities of energy for power. The desalination process is also expensive and affects the beach environment.

In 2014, water quality in Nauru took a remarkable turn with the development of a project by the Nauruan government to install a solar PV system and desalination plant. It is expected that this project could produce 100 cubic meters of safe water per day. In addition, the PV system will generate 1.3 percent of the energy demand in the island, doubling the existing energy production of solar energy. With these advantages, the project would also reduce water delivery to only three weeks.

Refugee camp

Nauru has a refugee camp that holds about 400 refugees that tried to enter Australia by boat. This camp requires water and other basic necessities such as shelter, food and clothes. As a result, when people in Nauru face water shortage, refugees also experience the same difficulty.

The camp often faces water shortages, resulting in serious water restrictions.

The PV system desalination plant and the new storage tanks that the Nauruan government is planning to implement are good solutions to addressing water quality and supply in Nauru for both citizens and refugees alike.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable DevelopmentWhen it comes to solving global poverty issues, it is often the poorest nations in the world that are among the most underdeveloped. There are several issues that researchers, policymakers and non-governmental organizations are seeking solutions to which may be solvable through sustainable development.

Sustainable development refers to meeting current life-sustaining needs while also keeping future generations in mind. Sustainable development also seeks to tackle a few main goals in developing nations such as poverty reduction, the creation of new, sustainable markets and in general, a longer-lasting, more diverse environment within which communities can continue to thrive. With these goals in mind, sustainable development can be a potential solution to global poverty.

Economic development, education and access to healthcare are of primary focus when it comes to ending global poverty, which involves some kind of development, be that in the form of schools, hospitals or urban centers within which governments can better develop social reforms and make policy decisions. However, there are some inherent consequences to development, including pollution from waste materials, production of raw materials and energy outputs, as well as the effects of corruption and unstable governments. Sustainable development, unlike other solutions, has the potential for lasting positive effects on the communities that utilize it as well as in international relationships.

While sustainable development may seem like a fast track solution to ending global poverty, there are obstacles that need to be overcome. Technology innovations can be expensive and difficult to come by, making sustainable development difficult. However, groups such as the United Nations are committed to learning from the past and setting stringent goals for poverty reduction that include sustainable development by beginning with basic needs such as equality for women, empowerment in poor communities, social reform support and working with donors to supply impoverished areas with what they need to grow sustainably.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Energy in TanzaniaAlong the coast of eastern Africa sits Tanzania, home to the continent’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Beside Kilimanjaro resides a population of 45 million people; the majority of them live in a rural setting- a full 74 percent. Yet, despite this rural majority, only two percent of rural residents have access to electricity – an issue which has contributed both to the rise of environmental issues and the cementation of cyclical rural poverty. A disconcerting 93.6 percent of rural residents are forced to use wood as fuel for cooking, which is a time-consuming necessity that has enabled deforestation and robbed individuals of time that could be spent in other ways had there been a different and viable energy option. Consequently, the issue of energy in Tanzania is one which requires efficient and diverse solutions.

Into this scenario walks a Dutch energy company called Devergy, whose innovative approach makes clean energy accessible to rural Tanzanians across the nation. Devergy works on a pay-as-you-go model, relying on mobile banking – a financial practice which is already widely used across many African nations.

This model allows consumers to control their energy consumption and their financials; one uses as much or as little as necessary based on his or her need and financial situation. It is a financially accessible option – energy “credits” cost as much as phone credits and less than kerosene lighting – that gives the consumer complete control. This ultimately empowers individuals by giving them the (literal) power to light their homes and businesses as much or as little as they need, all within the confines of their personally-dictated financial arena.

Importantly, the energy provided is also clean. Most rural areas do not have access to electrical grids, and the cost of expanding those grids is currently not economically feasible, which is why 90 percent of all energy consumption comes from biomass materials such as wood. Instead of trying to create access to the general energy grids already in place, the company instead installs solar micro-grids in villages. These micro-grids generate renewable energy, which is connected to homes by locally-trained technicians and accessed by the village inhabitants through the aforementioned model.

In the last two years, more than 150,000 lives have been impacted by implementing these micro-grids across the nation. Though there is still much work to be done to solve the energy issue in Tanzania, the future is looking bright as Devergy paves the way by providing clean, efficient energy to citizens of the country.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

PoaPower Provides Energy to Rural CommunitiesAccording to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity globally. Over 95 percent are located in either sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia, and 80 percent live in rural communities. Access to clean energy sources directly affects health, education and income, putting rural communities at a severe disadvantage.

The Global Innovation Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to investing money in new innovations that combat poverty issues in the developing world. One of their recent investments aims to combat the clean energy disparity in rural communities in Africa. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities at an affordable “pay-as-you-go” rate. The Global Innovation Fund has invested £150,000, or just over $191,970, in a pilot program based in Kenya that has brought energy to over 100 households.

In 2015, over 34 million Kenyans lived in rural communities throughout the country. Located in eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, Kenya’s primary energy usage is industrial. According to PoaPower, 80 percent of Kenyans lack affordable electricity, with data showing that 75 percent of families have children that require adequate lighting to finish homework. Another issue is the use of kerosene lamps in homes that have risks of indoor air pollution and fires.

By signing up with local PoaPower agents in their area, Kenyan households are able to receive enough energy to run their homes on an affordable “pay-as-you-go” model through the pilot program. The model allows for PoaPower to sell energy at a metered rate with no upfront costs. This allows even the lowest income households to receive energy quickly and when they need it. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities in Kenya that would otherwise be completely off-grid.

Testimonials provided by PoaPower include that of Samuel Mwangi, who stated, “Although power lines run over my house, I could not afford the connection fee. Now with PoaPower I have all the electricity I need – it’s even enough to run my laptop!”

In 2015, PoaPower received recognition for its efforts from Menorca Millennials, who invited the team to a 20-day focus program in Spain highlighting startup innovations that focus on tackling world issues on a global scale with new business models such as their pay-as-you-go program.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr