renewable energy in NicaraguaLocated in Central America, between Honduras to the north, and Costa Rica to the south lies Nicaragua. Over the past few years, the country has taken steps to further its already growing renewable energy sector. In 2015 alone, the country was able to produce 54% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Growth in this sector is notable and is expected to continue.

The Emergence of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s government has turned to renewable energy for a few key reasons. One is the country’s natural abundance of renewable resources. Nicaragua experiences powerful winds and large amounts of sunlight on a regular basis. The country is also home to 19 volcanoes—a reliable source of geothermic heat.

The second reason for turning to renewable energy resources is to become energy independent. Nicaragua itself does not produce oil. As a result, Nicaragua has historically relied on imports of fossil fuel resources. While the country still imports foreign oil, the increased production of renewable energy, like geothermal energy from Nicaragua’s volcanoes, has reduced that dependency.

These two reasons have led Nicaragua to increase its consumption of renewable resources over the past few years. Much of the renewable energy that is produced in Nicaragua is sugarcane biofuel, which accounts for 33.2% of the renewable energy sector. The second most used form of renewable energy is geothermal, which comes in at 24.6%, followed by wind energy at 22.5%. The least used forms of renewable energy are solar energy at 0.5% and hydroelectric energy at 0.25%. As the percentages show, Nicaragua is using more renewable energy leading to a diversification of its energy sector. Nicaragua also has the potential to expand the amount of renewable energy produced, particularly from wind. Wind alone produces over 1,000 megawatts.

Benefits of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is an extremely poor country with high poverty rates, especially in rural areas. Fortunately, renewable energy has the potential to help the impoverished people of Nicaragua and provide a model for other impoverished nations.

People who live in poverty tend to have a harder time gaining access to electricity because of their inability to afford it. Some forms of renewable energy are becoming more affordable than fossil fuels. Take geothermal energy for example—the second largest form of renewable energy in Nicaragua. This form of energy is 80% cheaper than fossil fuels. Solar energy is on its way to becoming cheaper than fossil fuels as well. While installation of the technology needed to produce renewable energy is initially expensive, once installed, it lowers the cost and increases the accessibility of electricity for impoverished people.

Nicaragua is continuing to develop its renewable energy sector. The reward of this action will be a cleaner environment and cheaper electricity for its impoverished citizens.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Wikimedia

Renewable Energy in Taiwan
Renewable energy in Taiwan has not always been a priority. However, in recent years, more companies and businesses are starting to push renewable resources to the forefront. This is having a huge effect on both the economy and international relations. By investing in these renewable resources rather than importing fossil fuels, Taiwan will become more self-reliant. Here are five facts about renewable energy in Taiwan.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in Taiwan

  1. Oil still supplies 48 percent of energy to the country. Renewable energy in Taiwan is not as popular as in Brazil, where renewable energy supplies more than two-thirds of the country with power. However, Taiwan has begun to shift its focus towards more renewable resources. Diversifying fuel sources has advantages. By being able to harness solar and wind power, Taiwan can depend on its own nation for power rather than importing coal from other parts of the world. Currently, Taiwan imports 98 percent of all of its non-renewable energy. Adding locally sourced solar and wind power could help create jobs, adding to the domestic economy.
  2. Taiwan is investing $1 trillion into renewable energy. This investment, which will take place over the next several years, should make Taiwan one of Asia’s greenest countries. The money will go towards building solar panels, wind panels and green roofing. Additionally, the government will spend some of the funds on denuclearizing Taiwan. The Taiwanese government reports this will create at least 20,000 new jobs while increasing the overall amount of renewable energy powering the country by 20 percent.
  3. Renewable energy in Taiwan is a major focus over the next few years. With the new trillion-dollar investment, Taiwan will begin a new era prioritizing renewable resources. By the end of 2020, Taiwan will add an additional 2.2 GW of solar power nationally. By the end of 2025, Taiwan should continue growing and supply approximately 20 GW of solar power. The plan is to build the solar panels on rooftops and in agricultural areas. Around 1,000 hectares of farmland will redevelop into a solar farm to boost the overall renewable energy in the nation.
  4. Taiwan has a Green Bond System. Starting in 2013, the Green Bond System has been helping Taiwanese businesses raise funds for their environmentally-friendly products. Many different types of projects can use the Green Bond System. Some examples are projects related to climate change, renewable energy, environmental protection and carbon reduction. Denmark-headquartered wind energy company Ørsted used these green bonds to develop wind farms in Taiwan. This helps to create new jobs by funding businesses that may not receive financial assistance otherwise.
  5. Renewable energy solutions are helping to reduce poverty. By increasing access to renewable energy, Taiwan should continue increasing the overall national employment rate, which will lower the poverty rate. While the exact number of new employment opportunities is unknown, the Taiwanese government has assured the population that jobs will continue to grow with the renewable energy sector. There will also be opportunities for data engineers, machine learning scientists, data scientists and many business marketing jobs. A report from 2019 showed that there is a 12 percent increase in the technology sector for jobs relating to renewable energy. The data also points out that after just 12 months in a job, many employees receive a 15 percent salary increase.

Renewable energy is proving to be a very promising sector in Taiwan. It is providing new jobs to citizens and improving the overall way of life. By creating its own renewable energy, Taiwan is quickly becoming a more self-reliant and resilient country. With this continued focus, the nation will generate more opportunities for its citizens while helping to fight climate change.

– Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

enewable Energy in BrazilRenewable energy in Brazil is nothing new. For decades, the country has been a leader in producing some of the world’s largest quantities of ethanol, an eco-friendly fuel source for vehicles. Recently, Brazil invested in expanding their renewable energy sources by creating huge wind power plants and high-tech solar panels. This lowered the nation’s carbon emissions as well as creating countless jobs for citizens. With fewer fossil fuels being burned, air pollution becomes minimal, resulting in a healthier, happier way of life. Here are 5 facts about renewable energy in Brazil.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in Brazil

  1. Brazillian winds can create up to 500 gigawatts of energy. Wind power is one of the ways renewable energy in Brazil is thriving. Wind power plants across the country create about 10 percent of all renewable energy used domestically. The production of wind farms is beneficial in more ways than just environmental. The turbines built along the coast create new jobs for the community while keeping city air cleaner than a coal power plant. Because of how large and powerful the turbines are, they boost the local economy while creating an overall better way of life.
  2. Globally, Brazil is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power. As of 2018, renewable energy accounts for nearly 80 percent of all domestically produced energy in the nation. This means that after China, Brazil produces more hydroelectric power than any other country in the world. Around 65 percent of renewable energy comes from hydroelectric dams primarily along the Amazon River Basin. During times of drought or long heatwaves, other forms of renewable energy in Brazil supply the country with power. This includes solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal power, ethanol and biomass.
  3. All gasoline in Brazil contains ethanol. Ethanol is a common vehicle power source for renewable energy in Brazil. The country began creating ethanol in 1975 during the oil crisis. In 1976, Brazil launched the Fiat 147, introducing the world’s first mass-production of a completely ethanol-powered car. Since then, it became a normal fuel option for all drivers. Oxford University describes the nation’s sugarcane-based ethanol as “the most successful fuel alternative to date.” Currently, all gasoline in Brazil is a blend of between 25 to 75 percent ethanol, as required by law since 2007. It is also common for some cars to run on ethanol exclusively.
  4. Brazil has the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy. Support for renewable energy in Brazil continues to boost the nation’s economy. Hydroelectric power from the Amazon River Basin brings huge energy surges across the country. When drought occurs, the solar panels and wind turbines provide a reliable power source. In 2008, investors all over the globe declared Brazil as the world’s first sustainable economy powered by biofuels. As the Earth’s population grows, so does the demand for electricity. Without a sustainable method of generating electric power, the supply for coal becomes limited. Once thought of as a necessity only during war, coal rations are increasing internationally, leading to power shortages.
  5. As renewable energy in Brazil becomes more technologically advanced, investors are taking note. This is notable, especially in the wind energy sector. Wind turbines are cheaper and faster to produce than hydroelectric dams. Wind power is also more reliable during heatwaves or seasonal droughts. A U.S. International Trade Administration report shows that by the end of 2020, investment in Brazillian wind power will be just over $24 billion. This huge increase in funding will continue to boost the domestic economy and is expected to set a trend for other world leaders.

Renewable energy in Brazil continues to be an example on the world stage. Through sheer numbers alone, the South American country has proven that investment in sustainable, natural power sources are economically viable and eco-friendly. Almost the entire country is powered by wind, hydroelectric, solar and ethanol sources. This trend is expected to continue as the demand for sustainability grows internationally.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica
Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Costa Rica is famous for its thriving wildlife, but what many may not realize is that Costa Rica prides itself as one of the greenest countries in the world. Here are 10 facts about renewable energy in Costa Rica.

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

  1. Most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. More than 99 percent of the energy in Costa Rica was generated from renewable sources in 2019. According to the country’s National Center for Energy Control, Costa Rica has been running on more than 98 percent renewable energy since 2014. The majority of this energy, 67.5 percent, comes from hydropower. Additionally, wind power generates 17 percent, geothermal sources make up 13.5 percent and biomass and solar panels comprise 0.84 percent. The remaining 1.16 percent is from backup plants.
  2. Costa Rica has universal access to electricity. Costa Rica has an estimated population of 5.05 million people. In 2018, at least 79 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. Both rural and urban populations benefit from renewable energy in Costa Rica, as 100 percent of the households have access to electricity generated from renewable sources.
  3. Costa Rica lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone. Costa Rica set the record in 2017 for most consecutive days with renewable energy. The previous record for this feat was in 2015 when Costa Rica lasted 299 consecutive days on pure, clean energy.
  4. Deforestation has successfully been reversed in Costa Rica. Deforestation is detrimental to both civilization and wildlife. It can make agricultural practices and maintaining food supply difficult as it can lead to climate change, desertification, soil erosion and increased greenhouse gases. Beginning in the 1980s, the government of Costa Rica implemented policies to protect its natural forests. By 2016, the amount of land covered by forest has doubled to more than 50 percent of the country’s total landmass.
  5. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. Costa Rica created the PES program in the 1990s as part of protective policies put in place to combat deforestation. The success of renewable energy in Costa Rica is partially due to the pioneering of this program. Through it, landowners receive direct payments for ecological services when they adopt techniques that do not negatively impact the environment and maintain quality of life. The ecological services that can be provided include clean water, irrigation, energy production, biodiversity and scenic beauty. This allows for landowners, especially farmers, to earn an extra income even during unprofitable seasons.
  6. Costa Rica is producing so much energy that it can be sold. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began selling its energy surplus to Central America’s Regional Electricity Market in 2015. The electricity helps power Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. By 2019, Costa Rica has earned more than $180 million in sales of surplus energy.
  7. Costa Rica has committed to eliminating fossil fuels. In 2018, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced at his inauguration that he plans to ban all fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized country. The plan will begin in 2021 and features ideas that tackle problems in the transportation sector, such as implementing fully electric trains by 2050.
  8. There’s a roadblock in Costa Rica’s green vision. The transportation sector is one of Costa Rica’s weakest links. Much of the infrastructure, even in cities, is in poor condition. This leads to more people relying on cars than on public transportation. Costa Rica’s State of the Region reports that there are 287 cars per 1,000 people. Fewer than 2 percent of these cars are hybrids or electric cars. This generates a demand for fossil fuels (oil) with gas spending on the rise.
  9. Additionally, 82 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Nearly all households in Costa Rica have access to an improved water source. An improved water source includes piped water in a home or from another source, such as a public tap, wells or rainwater collection. However, this doesn’t mean that all households have water safe for drinking. Even though most of Costa Rica’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, the water supply is not very clean. About 18 percent of Costa Rica’s population lacks access to drinking water due to a shortage of infrastructure and government support. Unfortunately, minority groups make up this 18 percent, including people who are indigenous, impoverished, Afro-descendants and migrant workers.
  10. People in Costa Rica live healthier, longer lives. In a 2015 study by Bloomberg, Costa Rica was ranked as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in the world. Additionally, Costa Rica has one of the highest average life expectancy at 80 years. In fact, according to a study in 2016, Costa Rica’s poor live longer than the poor in the United States. Further, the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. could be part of the reason why. This could also be due to psychosocial factors. Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is Pura Vida, meaning “pure life.” Pura Vida is about slowing down and relaxing to enjoy what life has to offer.

Costa Rica is by no means perfect. As the government devotes much of its efforts to environmental sustainability, it takes away from maintaining infrastructure throughout the country. However, it is clear that Costa Rica is doing something right. The majority of the population has access to clean water and electricity, which is due to the enormous production of renewable energy. “Pura Vida” may just be a saying in Costa Rica, but it certainly connects to the country’s commitment to relying on what nature has to offer.

Emily Young 
Photo: Pixabay


The Kingdom of Morocco lies in the northwestern corner of Africa. A desire for the country to become less energy-dependent and more dedicated to the preservation of the environment brought on rapid progress in renewable energy. Drawing attention from energy and environmental communities alike, Morocco has an ambitious goal to reach 42 percent renewable energy by 2020. Making use of its most abundant natural resource, the sun, has greatly helped the country stay on track to meet this goal. The success of solar power in Morocco allowed the country to reach 35 percent renewable energy as of July 2019.

The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Complex

Sitting near the southeastern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is a solar energy complex. The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Complex is a massive, more than 6,000-acre facility (roughly the size of San Francisco) that produces enough energy to power the country’s capital Marrakesh twice over. Additionally, the solar plant brings a new level of ingenuity to solar power in Morocco. A traditional solar plant faces the problem of supplying consistent power when the sun is not out. Batteries that temporarily store power are expensive and the environmental impacts are questionable.

In contrast, the Noor CSP Complex can supply constant power 24/7 to the 2 million people who draw power from it. Rather than using photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity, the plant utilizes two million sun-tracking mirrors that reflect light to a receiver at the top of the 800-foot tower in the center of them all. The receiver has a mix of liquid salts that superheats and stays hot for 7.5 hours, which is important since energy usage spikes in the evening after the sun sets. The stored heat then superheats water tanks that create steam and turn turbines to generate electricity. The energy then flows out to the public, much like any other electricity but furthers energy independence of the country.

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

People have long thought of adequate access to electricity as one of the fundamental aspects of development. The World Bank goes as far as to say that electricity is “at the heart of development.” In Morocco, much of the population has access to electricity due to the affordability of its energy sector. The recent drive to invest in renewable energy caused the price of electricity to drop significantly. Additionally, renewable energy assures Morocco’s rural population that their source of energy is affordable. According to Mohammed Jamil al-Ramahi, the CEO of Masdar (the company that received the contract for the Noor CSP Complex), “It is now cheaper to build renewable energy power plants than those based on fossil fuels.”

Not only is renewable energy cheaper by itself, but since Morocco started investing in domestic power generation, it can bring electricity to its citizens without worrying about the price of importing oil, coal and electricity from other countries. This also allows for greater energy security and gives Morocco a better stance on the international stage. In addition, the devotion to renewable energy and solar power in Morocco has shown the world that it is dedicated to the U.N.’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Morocco is not only helping its poorest people and paving the way for greater rural development, but it is also doing so in a remarkably sustainable way that is largely unprecedented on an international scale.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Green Energy in Kenya

Kenya has big plans for its future as a major green technology user. About 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable energy, which is almost three times the global average. The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, which was completed in 2018, and the Meru County Energy Park are two important developments in wind and solar power, each helping Kenya to reach its target of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Meru County Energy Park

Meru County Energy Park will be Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar photovoltaic and battery storage project. It will provide 80 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy that could power more than 200,000 households. The project is a great step in producing green energy in Kenya and also acts as a model for other countries seeking to advance in low-cost, clean energy. Construction begins during 2021 in Meru County, Kenya.

The $150 million investment consists of 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels. The Meru County Energy Park is a lead project by the Meru County Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) and its partners WindLab and Eurus Energy. WindLab is a wind energy developer that has completed projects across three different continents. During the signing of the agreement between Meru County and Windlab, Governor Peter Munya stated that “The development, construction and operation of a large scale renewable energy project within the County will bring employment, energy security and expertise to the region.”

Lake Turkana Wind Farm

The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, operational since 2018, is another major development in Kenyan green technology. It’s Africa’s largest wind power project, consisting of 365 turbines with a capacity of releasing 310 MW of sustainable low-cost energy. The wind farm is located in the Turkana Wind Corridor that channels wind between the mountains in the north and south of the desert region.

It’s also another stride in achieving Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya’s long-term development plan to create a better nation by 2030. The energy provided by the Lake Turkana Wind Farm is helping to create “a newly-industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.” The entire energy sector has grown tremendously. Thanks to advancements in green energy in Kenya, electricity access in 2018 stood at 73.4 percent, an increase from 56 percent in 2016.

Since September 2018, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm generated 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and saved taxpayers about $77 million from reduced use of diesel-operated power. The project proves that wind power is an efficient and low-cost alternative for rural regions that often rely on more expensive and environmentally harmful methods of electricity, such as diesel.

Future of Green Energy in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to continue reducing Kenya’s carbon footprint by welcoming private investment in green technology. Major investments from corporations such as WindLab and Eurus Energy are simply the beginning to Kenya reaching its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. The nation ranks ninth in the world for geothermal power generating capacity, making green energy in Kenya a viable option to help those in poverty who struggle to access electricity. Since 70 percent of Kenya’s current power usage is already from renewable sources, the country is on an upward trajectory to achieving its green technology goal.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Globally, more than 3 billion people still rely on open fire to cook their meals. This means that nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to sustainable fuel for cooking meals or cleaning water to make it potable. To combat this, many in the developed world have sought to popularize sustainable fuel sources for cooking, such as solar cookers.

Benefits of Using Solar Cookers

Solar cookers work by converting sunlight into energy that can be used to cook food. They provide a plethora of economic, environmental and social advantages over other methods of food preparation. For example, many solar cookers are cheaper than traditional ovens, so using solar cookers can be beneficial economically. In addition, families that use solar cookers do not have to forage for materials to make traditional fires, which can be a time-intensive activity. Solar cookers provide many social and health benefits as well. It is not uncommon for biomass in fires to contain animal dung and residue from crops; when burned, substances like this can lead to a condition known as Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), which has a slew of negative health consequences. Mexico is an example of the dangers of IAP- the country’s reliance on hard fuels is estimated to be responsible for around 15,000 deaths via inhalation and ingestion of toxic particulates.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of solar cookers, however, is the fact that they do not release carbon dioxide, which is one of the main causative factors of climate change. Given this, greater usage of solar cookers around the world will almost surely reduce the global carbon footprint, which will result in a healthier, cleaner environment around the world.

NGOs Working to Expand Implementation of Solar Cookers

The clear upside of solar cookers has resulted in the formation of multiple organizations that exist to advocate on behalf of the global implementation of solar cookers. These organizations have done work all over the world, including countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Two such organizations are Solar Household Energy (SHE) and Solar Cookers International (SCI). SHE manufacturers solar cookers and also implements field projects to raise awareness about the benefits of using solar cookers. The solar cookers that SHE distributes last between five and 10 years and cost around $25, half of which is paid by the organization. SCI is another organization that works with local governments and NGOs, as well as the U.N., to advocate for solar cookers and poverty reduction. Through advocacy, research and capacity building, SCI has contributed to more than 6 billion solar-cooked meals. The organization prides itself on making change both at the ground level and at the policy level.

Conclusion

Everything said, cooking is a necessity for everyone; as such, it is important that efforts be made to ensure that cooking practices are safe, environmentally responsible, and affordable. As detailed above, there has been good progress made towards attaining these goals recently, and this good work is sure to continue in the near future.

– Evan Williams
Photo: Flickr

Making Solar Power BetterSolar energy gives the old adage “make hay while the sun shines” a whole new meaning. Solar panels generate 227 gigawatts of energy world-wide. For reference, one single gigawatt can realistically power 300,000 first-world homes.

While a great option for anyone, alternative energy sources are especially important for people in poverty. In undeveloped areas, electricity is up to five times more expensive per kilowatt hour. The cost is higher due to infrastructure problems. The price of expanding the electrical grid in largely remote areas is often limiting, which encourages people to use fossil fuels instead. Kerosene, diesel and coal, the most common fuel sources, pose serious health and environmental risks.

Solar power is easier to install and is safer to use. Unlike wind and geothermal power, it is fit for use in essentially every climate that humans can inhabit. Reliable electricity allows impoverished areas to leap closer towards development. People can power cellphones, radios and televisions; refrigerate food, medicines and vaccines; turn on the lights; pump and clean drinking water; cook; irrigate crops and more.

While the safety and convenience of solar power are wonderful, its contributions to peoples’ lifestyles are what truly make the difference against poverty. Students who can study at night with the help of lightbulbs learn more and perform better in school. People with electronic devices can access the internet and its infinite resources. Refrigeration allows for food to keep longer and can help preserve medications for easier dispersal when they are needed.

Current Problems with Solar Power

For all of solar power’s benefits, there are still some glaring inefficiencies. While this renewable energy is cheaper in the long-run, upfront costs can be staggeringly high for people living in poverty. While dozens of outreach groups are working hard to provide help where it is needed most, it is still a hard technology to access.

Additionally, solar panels don’t always work at maximum efficiency. They generally use one of three types of semiconducting materials: monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film. Their compositions differ, and though there are nuances to the use of each type, the options simplify to this: higher efficiency panels use the more expensive materials.

Lastly, traditional solar panels simply can’t work at night. With no radiation from the sun, there is nothing to convert into useful electricity. That means that individuals who use solar power at night must ration what they could generate during the day. Multiple days with little sunlight could also make a negative impact on overall energy stores.

Ways to Improve Solar Power

Fortunately, there are many people who continue to see the benefits of this technology and who are making solar power better.

A study released in early 2019 outlined a “material defect” in solar cells’ silicon that they named “Light Induced Degradation.” Solar cells used to have a 2 percent drop in efficiency from the first hours of use, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists identified the defect, caused by an interruption in the flow of electrons and are now working to fix it. Other researchers are seeking brand-new materials for use in solar cells, including “perovskites,” which are man-made crystalline structures.

Other scientists are striving to do the improbable: make solar panels that work in darkness. Researchers at Curtin University conceptualized a “thermal battery” made of a metal carbonate and gas storage vessel. When solar radiation stops, at night or in cloudy conditions, the gas is released from storage. It gets absorbed by the carbonate, producing more heat, which is then generated into electricity.

There are also changes on a societal level. For families that can’t afford to install their own solar panels, some communities offer alternative programs. Students can charge a battery using their school’s equipment during the school day, which is used to power lanterns when they get home.

More than 12 percent of the world still has no access to electricity. With the help of this complex technology and all of the people who are making solar power better, those without electricity can soon have a brighter tomorrow.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Developing CountriesSome think that the majority of zero-carbon energy generators are being built in European countries such as Switzerland or Norway. But that is quite a stretch from reality. In 2018, the majority of the world’s new renewable energy capacities were built in developing countries. While wealthier developed countries added only 63 gigawatts of zero-carbon of energy, during the same time period developing nations added 114. Despite encountering numerous sizable challenges, developing countries are now leading the way in terms of the world’s clean energy transformation.

Renewable Energy in Developing Countries: Current Undertakings

  • Costa Rica: The most impressive energy transition has likely been experienced by Costa Rica. In May 2019, the small country was able to hit a huge milestone of generating 99.99 percent of its energy from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. Throughout the past decade, the country has seen a constant rising slope in its alternative energy generation despite adverse conditions caused by changing weather conditions and the El Niño phenomenon. The nation aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2021.
  • China: For the most part, the most popular sector of renewable energy in developing countries has come from the sun. With the cost of solar power decreasing by roughly 80 percent over the past decade, many developing countries are building both centralized and decentralized solar power systems. Some of the most ambitious renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently occurring in China, which ranks first globally for renewable energy having produced 1.4 GWh of electricity in 2019 from alternative sources. The country also owns about a third of the total renewable energy patents worldwide and is currently spending three times the amount the U.S. is in renewable energy investment, setting it up to become even more of a green superpower in the future. A combination of these factors has led to solar power becoming cheaper than grid electricity in China, which has further driven the demand and investment levels in it.
  • Kenya and the Ivory Coast: Most decentralized renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently being built with DIY kits which can easily be purchased from the internet. For instance, Lumos, a Dutch solar company, began selling solar kits in the Ivory Coast in 2017. Within a year, more than  73,000 units have been installed — consisting of a solar panel, power sockets, battery, mobile phone adapter and LED lightbulbs. Metered pay-as-you-use solar devices and generators have also become quite popular with M-KOPA, a start-up launched in 2012 in Kenya, leading the pack. For as little as a dollar per month, families can access solar energy. The company now has more than 600,000 customers across three countries and estimates on its website that it is bringing solar power to 500 new households per day.

Effects

The effects of developing countries transitioning and installing renewable energy have been overwhelmingly positive especially for remote communities. Currently, an estimated 1.3 billion people do not have access to grid electricity, forcing them to pay absurd amounts of money for unclean lighting and heat such as kerosene oil and coal stoves. However, micro-hydro systems and solar panels have been able to combat this by being self-sufficient energy off-grid sources. For example, in Kenya, the global leader in solar panels per capita, more and more citizens are choosing to install private solar systems rather than connecting to the country’s highly unreliable electric grid.

Additionally, jobs are often created in lieu of the initiation of zero-carbon energy producers. As an illustration, when Delhi, India built a new waste-to-energy plant in 2017 that burned garbage as fuel, it immediately hired seven waste-pickers and provided job training and employment to roughly 200 women.

Challenges

Currently, the greatest challenge facing the implementation of renewable energy in developing countries is reliable energy storage. Without good energy storage, communities become dependent on the natural conditions for their electricity and are subject to frequent blackouts.

Another anticipated challenge is meeting the demand of critical metals and minerals, such as nickel, lithium and manganese, to these batteries in a sustainable and ethical manner. As the demand for these materials is expected to grow tenfold by 2050 and large deposits of them are found on African soil, the extracting industry must be regulated in a way so that the economic benefits are enjoyed by the entire locality, and that labor conditions within the supply chains are correctly regulated and addressed.

Future Directions

To combat the lack of reliable energy storage in third world countries, in 2018 the World Bank committed $1 billion to help accelerate investment in both the development and implementation of battery storage. Individual countries have also pledged varying amounts towards the development of alternative energy with China leading the way with an ambitious pledge to spend at least $360 billion on renewables by 2020.

The share of renewable energies in the global energy market is expected to grow up to 20 percent by 2023, and developing countries are expected to play a large role in this growth. The usage of bioenergy, energy generated from biomass fuels, is also expected to decrease as solar and hydropower become more efficient.

Conclusively, the future of renewable energy in developing countries appears quite promising. Although it would be too optimistic to not acknowledge developmental challenges such as efficient energy storage, through ingenious thinking and adventitious ideas, developing countries are likely to continue to be on the forefront of achieving the goal of carbon-neutral global energy consumption.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Impacting Investing
Investing in the right organizations has the potential to change the world. Impact investing is a type of investment that focuses on social or environmental benefits as well as financial or capital returns. Impact investing can be done through for-profit or nonprofit organizations that are looking to improve the world. It can be done in emerging or developed markets anywhere in the world as part of a growing market that provides capital to address global issues in sectors like “sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, conservation, microfinance and affordable and accessible basic services including housing, healthcare and education,” as the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) says. The market is estimated to be at around $502 billion as of April 2019.

According to GIIN, there are four primary characteristics of impact investing:

  1. Intentionality – The intention is one of the main things that differentiates impact investing from regular investing. The intention behind impact investing must be the desire to create measurable social or environmental benefits.
  2. Use evidence and impact data in investment design – Investments must have evidence or data that indicates the investment will have social or environmental benefits.
  3. Manage impact performance – Investments must be managed toward the specific intention of the investment. This would mean having feedback loops and means of communicating performance information to ensure that the investment is working toward the intention of the investment.
  4. Contribute to the growth of the industry – Impact investors must use shared industry terms to communicate their goals, strategy and growth. They also share information so that others may learn from their experience and adjust their investments accordingly.

Examples of Impact Investments

  • The Omidyar Network – Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and his wife Pam obtained large quantities of wealth after the company went public and wanted to do some good with it. He set up a limited liability company (LLC) to make investments in early-stage innovations that are able to generate profits. He also set up a 501(c)3, a tax-exempt nonprofit, to provide grants for public goods and assistance to disadvantaged communities as well as subsidize the production of beneficial goods. The use of both of these allows the Omidyar Network to use for-profit capital and nonprofit grants to benefit society.
  • Actiam Impact Investing – Actiam Impact Investing invested in Pro Mujer Bolivia, an organization that provides training and financial services to women in Bolivia. Janeth Villegas is one of many women who benefited from the program. Pro Mujer taught Villegas a number of skills including accounting and business management which empowered her to start her own chocolate company that she is now teaching her kids to run.
  • Salkhit Wind Farm – Impact investors invested capital in Salkhit Windfarm, the first renewable energy generator connected to the central grid in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The installation of this wind farm has reduced coal burning by 122,000 tons annually and has created over 3,000 local jobs.
  • General ElectricGeneral Electric (GE) provides impact capital through its Ecomagination Accelerator to finance energy conservation efforts. Ecomagination investments totaled $1.4 billion in 2014. “We want to inspire more companies to work together and tackle the world’s greatest resource problems,” Ecomagination’s global executive director Deb Frodl said. With this goal in mind, the company also aims to decrease reliance on fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • d.light – This for-profit company invests in and manufactures solar energy and distributes its products through the developing world. d.light’s mission is “To create a brighter future by making clean energy products universally available and affordable.” The focus here is on providing clean energy to the developing world which helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels and provides electricity to people who might not otherwise have it.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Wikimedia Commons