Renewable Energy in IcelandAs the world continues to modernize, there are still several regions with no access to energy and no chance for development. Finding solutions for the inadequate and unequal distribution of energy is more urgent than ever. Amid a global pandemic, 25% of hospitals in “Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Niger” have no electricity. Electricity is essential in fighting this crisis (or any other). Taking a closer look at the struggles of energy poverty, renewable energy in Iceland provides an example of a nation that overcame these issues.

The Importance of Energy

The United Nations recognizes the importance of energy for development with SDG 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Reliable energy systems benefit all sectors, including businesses, medicine, education and agriculture. Inadequate electricity creates obstacles in situations that citizens of developed countries take for granted. For example, without electricity, clinics cannot store vaccines and students cannot do homework at night. SDG 7 states that affordable and clean energy is necessary to raise any developing nation out of poverty.

Energy Poverty and Off-Grid Energy Systems

The World Economic Forum defines energy poverty as conditions that “lack of adequate, affordable, reliable, quality, safe and environmentally sound energy services to support development.” Currently, 13% of the world’s population (one billion people) lack access to electricity. The vast majority live in Africa and South Asia while 57% of the sub-Saharan African population (600 million people) live without electricity. Any form of sustainable development requires access to energy. Nations suffering from energy poverty cannot afford the energy that could propel them out of poverty. This locks them in the cycle of poverty.

Geography stands as one of SDG 7’s biggest obstacles. The countries in the most need typically cannot access grid electricity. In developing countries, expanding the electricity grid is neither financially nor logistically realistic. These rural areas need off-grid or stand-alone solutions to their energy problems. Renewable energy can provide off-grid energy and “give developing countries the opportunity to erase the electricity gap without passing through a phase of fossil fuels, that would be hard to sustain in terms of cost, natural resources and global environment.”

The Success Story of Iceland

At the beginning of the 20th century, Iceland was ranked as a developing country. In 1970, the largest share of Iceland’s energy consumption was derived from imported fossil fuels and the United Nations Development Program labeled the nation as a developing country. As of 2018, Iceland was the fifth most prosperous nation in Europe, acquires nearly 100% of consumed electricity from renewable energy.

Iceland has always been very spread out, making an interconnected energy grid too costly. This combined with fluctuating and unsustainable oil prices drove the Icelandic government to seek alternative energy systems. Through government funding and incentive programs, geothermal and hydropower energy systems took over the Icelandic economy.

The link between energy and poverty reduction is evident and undeniable. Renewable energy in Iceland transformed an impoverished, developing nation, dependent on imported coal and local peat into a prosperous, green energy leader. Many people believe the green energy movement is exclusive to wealthy nations, businesses and individuals. This is understandable considering the price of electric cars and solar panels. However, Iceland proves this idea wrong. Iceland completely transformed into a green economy as a small, developing nation.

One might argue that Iceland is a unique and unrepeatable example because of its proximity to renewable resources; however, this is far from the truth. Iceland overcame the two biggest obstacles that every energy-poor nation faces: poor funding and excessive off-grid populations. Iceland’s success does not provide a one-size-fits-all solution for every nation facing an energy crisis; however, developing countries around the world should gain hope and inspiration from renewable energy in Iceland.

Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr

Geothermal energy in KenyaAccess to electricity in Kenya has steadily improved over the last decade and a substantial part of this progress is due to the country’s impressive geothermal power plants, the first of which formed in 1981. By prioritizing ways to expand electricity access and by harnessing the potential of geothermal power in Kenya, the government plans to achieve 100% access to electricity for its population by 2022.

Geothermal Power in Kenya

The geothermal energy in Kenya comes from Africa’s Great Rift Valley, a natural geological phenomenon created by tectonic plates, where the Earth’s mantle of molten rock comes closer to the surface. Geothermal energy plants produce electricity by harnessing this heat and creating steam to power turbines. Approximately 38% of Kenya’s electricity now comes from geothermal power rather than other non-renewable sources such as coal or natural gas.

Kenya’s primary geothermal power plants are contained in the Olkaria Geothermal Project, which has the potential to produce 791.5 megawatts of total energy, accounting for 27% of all energy in Kenya. The project sources its experts and employees locally, producing jobs and encouraging higher education. Renewable energy in Kenya is an integral part of helping the country maintain its pace as one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.

How Geothermal Power Can Help Poverty

Despite its substantial progress, Kenya still struggles with poverty and access to electricity is still unavailable for a quarter of the population. An estimated 15.9 million people were living in poverty in 2020, which equates to about a third of all Kenyans. Rural areas have the highest concentration of multidimensional poverty and nearly half of those living in multidimensional poverty are children. Access to power, which often correlates with poverty, can help efforts to reduce poverty and improve access to education and healthcare in underserved areas. The reliable nature of geothermal power can also reduce the likelihood of blackouts and make electricity more dependable.

Geothermal energy also produces significantly fewer carbon emissions than traditional fossil fuels, “just 2.7% as much as burning coal or 5% as much as natural gas.” The reliable nature of geothermal energy, and its lack of continuing fuel costs, also keeps its costs of operation and maintenance low and predictable. After the initial costs of discovery and development of a geothermal power plant, it remains cost-efficient and it can produce energy at a stable and affordable price.

Another advantage of this type of renewable energy in Kenya is its minimal use of land. The Olkaria Geothermal Project, which is located in the Hell’s Gate National Park, takes up less space than other sources that produce the same amount of energy. This allows more of the surrounding natural landscapes and ecosystems to thrive without interruption.

Increasing Access to Energy

The Kenyan government outlined a goal to provide universal access to electricity by 2022. The Kenya National Electrification Strategy, which was created in 2018, incorporates multiple strategies to expand access to rural areas and strengthen existing power infrastructure. A focus on renewable energy will also help Kenya meet its goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 while continuing to develop. Through partnerships with the World Bank and other institutions, the government is working to keep electricity affordable, clean and reliable. Kenya now has the highest rate of electricity access in East Africa and it continues to improve dramatically. With further investment and a focus on geothermal and renewable energy, Kenya can continue its pace and develop sustainably.

Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in New ZealandNew Zealand, an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean, has an economy propelled by agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and geothermal energy resources. The government sees renewable energy as the future, and in accordance, it has taken major steps to expand renewable energy in New Zealand.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in New Zealand

  1. New Zealand has a history of being innovators in energy. The first hydroelectric power plant in the Southern Hemisphere was built in New Zealand in 1885. Since then, the country has been a leader in renewable energy and was the second country to ever use geothermal energy for hydrogen production.
  2. Roughly 84% of the electricity in New Zealand is produced from renewable sources. This large amount of renewable energy production ranks the country second in the world for energy security. Hydro, geothermal, wind and bioenergy are among the largest producers of electricity. New Zealand’s volcanic and tectonic features give the country the ability to utilize geothermal energy. For this reason, geothermal energy represents more than half of the renewable energy in New Zealand. An estimated one in five people living in New Zealand has to sacrifice powering their homes in order to pay for other essentials because of the expensive energy bill that comes from non-renewable energy sources. When the power grid in a country comes increasingly from renewable energy, those living in poverty are placed in a more favorable situation because the high cost of fossil fuels no longer burdens people.
  3. Renewable energy will play a part in the country’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The Labour Party-led government in New Zealand sees the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in more renewables in order to create more jobs. The Labour Party plans to develop more high-skill jobs that it believes will immediately boost the economy and also help the country prepare for the future. It is estimated that renewable energy could create almost NZ$165 trillion in global GDP gains by 2050. Such a large economic comeback would significantly benefit those living in poverty, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hurts the impoverished the most.
  4. The government is spending NZ$30 million on investigating pumped hydro storage. This investment expects to bolster New Zealand’s broader renewable energy goals as well as create thousands of skilled and semi-skilled jobs. The result of the investigation will potentially create a more affordable solution to the problem of hydropower storage during dry years when hydro lakes are low. This large investment signals the country’s dedication to renewable energy with plans to mitigate much of the risk of supply and demand.
  5. New Zealand’s goal is to have 100% renewable energy by 2030. Additionally, the country hopes to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The proponents of the plan believe this will cause a massive increase in job growth and reduce electricity bills, which will benefit New Zealanders living in poverty.

Overall, New Zealand is making significant strides in its renewable energy sector in order to address the issue of energy poverty that impacts the most vulnerable people in the country.

Stephen Illes
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Palestine
The Palestinian territories are in the midst of a devastating energy crisis, leaving millions of people without stable access to electricity. However, the natural features of this region may hold the key to solving this crisis and improve the livelihoods of millions. Unlocking the potential of renewable energy in Palestine will help alleviate the growing carbon footprint of areas like Gaza, as well as fill holes in the already strained power grids that support Gaza and the West Bank.

Energy in Palestine

Palestine has a significant dependence on Israel and neighboring Jordan and Egypt for the majority of its energy demands. However, this system is not viable as a long-term solution. Political instability, population booms, rapid industrialization and increasing demand for higher living standards have put tremendous stress on Palestine’s energy supply. In fact, the cost of energy in Palestine is the highest in the region and the scarcity that growing demand has caused has had a devastating effect on the quality of life and poverty levels in the territories.

Rolling blackouts are now commonplace in both Gaza and the West Bank, denying residents access to essential household appliances, like electric stoves and air conditioning. It also hinders access to means of modernization, such as telecommunications and the internet. According to the United Nations, the average citizen of Gaza has, at best, access to electricity for 12 hours per day when the grid is at its most stable, but political instability can diminish access down to only two hours per day. During the summer and winter, when the strain is higher, residents often experience only three to four hours of electricity per day.

As the population of Palestine grows, especially in dense urban zones along the Gaza strip, the Palestinian authorities will need to find new ways to satisfy rising energy demands. The environment around the Palestinian territories could potentially hold the key to mitigating the existing energy crisis, as well as reduce Palestine’s energy dependency on its neighbors and bolstering the economic viability of Palestine as a more self-sufficient nation. The options for renewable energy in Palestine are plentiful and readily available on the domestic level.

Solar and Geothermal Energy

The two most viable options for renewable energy in Palestine are solar and geothermal energy. With over 300 days of steady sunshine a year, residents of Gaza and the West Bank have increasingly turned towards solar energy as a way to power small, everyday appliances, such as electric fans and other forms of air conditioning. This is especially important during the summer months when temperatures soar. Even relatively simple installations of small solar panels have had an extraordinary effect on living conditions, as residents of Gaza often endure roaming blackouts and inconsistent power access. According to an interview conducted in 2018 by the Reuters news source, one resident of the Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza reported having no access to electricity in her family’s home until installing solar panels. Now her family is able to keep the air cool in their home with electric fans that solar energy powers.

Organizations and NGOs Helping Provide Solar Energy in Palestine

Several groups and NGOs have already paved the way for the broader use of solar energy in Palestine. Sunshine4Palestine is a great example of how a group can utilize solar energy to help alleviate symptoms of poverty. The project designed and installed a modular plant that provides solar energy to the Jenin Hospital in Gaza, upping its hours of operation from four to 17 hours per day. Sunshine4Palestine has also spearheaded the Tree of Light project, using solar-powered “trees” to harness clean energy and turn it into a way to illuminate public spaces at night, creating safer streets in Gaza.

Comet ME is an Israeli NGO that has been providing solar panels to villages in the West Bank. The village of Shaeb al-Buttim is one such village where panels that Comet installed have supplied electricity to 34 families, who, otherwise, would have no means of accessing the power grid. Such efforts, as in this instance, have revitalized otherwise dying villages, granting them access to television and other forms of media, offering villages such as Shaeb al-Buttim a chance to feel connected to the international community.

Other groups, such as PENGON, Ma’an Development Sector and the Palestinian Hydrology Group have supplied solar panels to over 650 farms and homes in Gaza. They have also helped educate members of the community on ways to participate in creating a sustainable Palestine.

Geothermal Energy

Other methods of harvesting renewable energy in Palestine are also on the horizon. In the last decade, geothermal energy has come to represent an innovative solution for saving on the energy costs of heating homes in the winter and cooling homes in the summer. This method relies on harnessing the natural difference between ground and air temperatures that occur in the summer and winter months.

Despite the conflict and struggles that those advocating for a more energy-independent and sustainable Palestine face, both public and private sectors are actively implementing solutions for the region. The players involved have the determination to push past political boundaries to deliver a more stable Palestine for future populations.

– Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

Geothermal Energy in AfricaAfrica leads the world in annual population growth, but unfortunately produces the least amount of electricity of any continent. To mitigate this issue while being mindful of the continent’s vulnerability to climate change, African leaders are working to exploit natural energy sources. Recent efforts have begun to focus on establishing plants for geothermal energy in Africa. This involves harnessing energy from the Earth’s heat by digging underground. The east coast of Africa, home of the East African Rift System (EARS), presents a viable location for achieving this endeavor due to its geographical properties: this 6,500-kilometer stretch of progressive breakage in the Earth has constantly shifting plate tectonics that generate a large, renewable source of energy. Nations worldwide are coming together to help develop strong geothermal energy systems in Africa, with Iceland leading the way.

The Need for Electricity Access in Africa

Electricity access plays a significant role in lowering poverty in Africa. A study conducted by The World Bank found that affordable electrification can raise average household income by increasing farming and manufacturing production during off-seasons, as well as helping businesses create efficient services for production and expansion. Expanding electrification encourages economic investment, increases GDP per capita and creates jobs. For instance, when South Africa enacted an electric grid roll-out to poorer communities, the country experienced a 40%-53% boost in business activities due to heightened electricity access. Overall, generating electricity in impoverished areas will enhance economic capabilities and increase sustainability.

Potential for Geothermal Energy in Africa

The EARS is located in northern Syria and runs south to Mozambique. Countries along this rift include Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Eritrea and Uganda. These countries would benefit immensely from the rift’s geothermal energy since, depending on the country, only 35%-75% of the population had reliable electricity in 2018. In fact, initiatives like the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility project were designed to address this exact disparity using geothermal energy. The project’s goal is to gain access to untapped geothermal energy for these countries along the rift. The United Nations Environment Programme pledged $4.75 million for this official start-up in 2015. The project has had success so far in networking with other countries and attracting investors for financial support.

Geothermal energy in Africa is necessary to supplement the general lack of electricity. It is also essential to shift away from the other, less sustainable power sources currently in use. Coal is one of the most environmentally detrimental types of fuel, for example. Despite this fact, South Africa relies on coal-burning as its primary energy source; only 8.8% of the country’s electric needs are fulfilled by renewable energy. Coal-burning and other non-renewable techniques endanger Africa’s people and climate by polluting the air with various heavy metals.

Iceland Empowering Africa

Iceland, however, is a pioneer in geothermal energy: the country’s electricity obtains its power almost entirely by renewable resources. The country is currently advocating the creation of geothermal energy in Africa through several projects.

  1. Geothermal Training Programme (GTP): In collaboration with the United Nations, this six-month annual postgraduate training program teaches individuals from developing countries about geothermal construction and exploration. Between 1976 and 2016, about 39% of graduates originated from African countries. This demonstrates the impact of the GTP in fostering geothermal potential through the next generation of innovators.
  2. African Women Energy Entrepreneurs Framework: With a focus on addressing the barriers that hinder women as entrepreneurs in business, this project was launched in 2017 to support innovative environmental solutions in Africa and promote gender equality within the energy sector. Women are trained in sustainable energy technologies and management in order to create renewable energy policies and partnerships.
  3. Africa Geothermal Centre of Excellence (AGCE): Currently in the preliminary stages with help from Iceland and other partner countries, the AGCE aims to expand geothermal research and training. Its goal is to produce geothermal scientists, engineers and technicians to ensure geothermal expansion in Africa for years to come. Governments of multiple African countries are committed to creating this center in order to achieve their climate change and sustainability goals.

Iceland is also a member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The country is commended for its work in Africa. The UNEP Energy Programme Manager Meseret Teklemariam Zemedkun stated, “Iceland has been a steadfast and important partner to UNEP in bringing geothermal expertise to East Africa.” Beyond fostering geothermal energy in Africa, Iceland’s financial contributions help support the UNEP’s other projects and overall mission. Iceland continues to be a world leader in demonstrating the significance of renewable energy. The country accomplishes this goal by addressing Africa’s present and building for its future.

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

Geothermal Energy in KenyaThe use of geothermal energy, or heat contained in rocks and fluids beneath the Earth’s surface, is expanding around the globe. Geothermal energy can generate a continuous supply of heat to power homes and office buildings. It can produce just one-sixth of the CO2 emissions produced in a natural gas plant. Today, geothermal energy in Kenya has emerged as a sustainable power source and contributed to poverty-reduction throughout East Africa.

The Prime Location

To access geothermal energy, production teams dig wells deep into reservoirs of steam and hot water. The method of access limits geothermal energy plants to locations along tectonic plates. For this reason, some have called geothermal energy “the most location-specific energy source” in the world. With an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 megawatts, the Great Rift Valley in Kenya holds exceptional promise for clean-energy development. The Rift spans nearly 4,000 miles, extending north into Lebanon and south into Mozambique. Situated in the middle of the fault line, Kenya is in a position to harness vast stores of underground energy.

The first geothermal site opened here in 1984, in the region of Olkaria (about 150 miles from the nation’s capital, Nairobi). At the moment, Kenya is working to expand its 23 sites, only four of which contain deep wells. While geothermal power plants in Olkaria maintain a generation capacity of around 700 megawatts and can power nearby major cities, geologists hope to double their impact by 2025.

On Track to a Sustainable Future

Geothermal energy in Kenya remains vital to ensuring a sustainable future nationwide. Unlike natural gas or even solar power, geothermal energy is safe from climatic hazards. In addition, it is available year-round and is relatively low-cost after drilling. Accounting for half the power in Kenya on some days, it has alleviated the national energy shortage. Moreover, it helps provide 75% of Kenyans with access to electricity. This is a significant increase from 56% in 2016.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) recognizes the need to implement geothermal energy in sustainability efforts. According to Cyrus Karingithi, Head of Resource Development at KenGen, “We are too dependent on hydropower and this poses a real problem with the repetition of droughts.” Two-thirds of the power in Kenya came from dams in 2010. With the rise of geothermal energy, innovative companies like KenGen have reduced that number to less than 50% and are aiming for 28% by 2024. To achieve their goal, geologists will continue to identify new drilling areas along the fault line.

Economic Growth

Harvesting geothermal energy in Kenya provides environmental solutions, and it also stimulates economic growth. As geothermal plants create jobs and power Kenyan businesses, these operations can wield a direct influence on the fight against poverty. For instance, Oserian is one of the leading flower exporters in Kenya. Oserian relies on geothermal energy to heat greenhouses and sell 380 million flower stems each year. In addition, the company can grow new rose varieties with a 24-hour heating supply. The same geothermal plant generates power for 300,000 other small or medium-sized businesses in the area. With a fast-growing economy, Kenya is already moving toward industrialization and modernization. The nation hopes to be an upper-middle-income country within the next decade. Officials remain optimistic that geothermal energy can power burgeoning industries throughout the country.

Leading the Way

Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy on the African continent and eighth in the world. The nation has helped set a valuable precedent for building green infrastructure and implementing sustainable poverty-reduction efforts. Additionally, Kenya will soon be in a position to offer other countries its geothermal equipment and expertise. KenGen intends to construct some of the first geothermal plants in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia. Furthermore, the company has scheduled geoscientific investigations in Rwanda and the Comoros Islands. KenGen has partnered with the Kenyan government, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme to garner support for resource development.

Now more than ever, geothermal energy in Kenya is a promising alternative power source. Though not without its challenges, energy drawn from inside the earth promotes numerous financial and environmental advancements. In the end, geothermal energy can help Kenyans propel themselves and their neighbors down a sustainable path to economic stability.

Katie Painter

Photo: Flickr