Renewable Energy in Africa
Africa is a goldmine of resources, yet reliable electricity is only available to 30 percent of its population. For many Africans, expensive diesel generators are the only solution to the constant blackouts, costing some countries up to five percent of their GDP.

Increasing Renewable Energy Resources

Without a steady source of electricity, students have a difficult time studying at night, businesses are restricted by the cost of generators, and countries face economic stress. As of 2016, 80 percent of South African energy came from coal, but Africa has developed numerous renewable energy projects as the nation works towards improving accessibility.

The Blue Energy Group-led Nzema Solar Power Station, for example, will raise Ghana’s generating capacity by 6 percent. By its completion, it is expected to supply 20 percent of the government’s energy goal. The Taiba Ndiaye Wind Project in Senegal builds a 158-megawatt wind farm to provide an affordable energy source for the 40 percent of the population still left without electricity.

African countries are aiming to increase their renewable energy usage; Morocco, for instance, hopes to derive 40 percent of its energy from renewable resources. South Africa partnered with 27 renewable energy producers to generate electricity for its people. Accomplishments like these have been made throughout the continent, allowing renewable energy in Africa to slowly gain a foothold.

The International Renewable Energy Agency

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) recorded 61,000 jobs created by the renewable energy sector in 2017 alone. Thousands of Africans are being employed in technology installation, sales and construction.

According to IREA, the renewable energy industry creates more jobs than the coal industry. Solar PV itself “creates more than twice the number of jobs per unit of electricity generation compared with coal or natural gas.” Employment is an important benefit of renewable energy, considering African unemployment rates reach up to 46 percent.

Other Energy Sources in Africa

Yet, coal and natural gas discoveries are still being made. Around 30 percent of the world’s gas and oil discoveries between 2010 and 2014 were made in Sub-Saharan Africa. And while these discoveries do help towards improving energy accessibility, their long-term effects on climate change may be harmful, especially for poorer populations.

Decreased crop yields may cause a 12 percent increase in food prices by 2030, a haunting statistic with Africa’s undernourishment rates being one of the highest in the world.

Decreased water accessibility, increased risk of malaria and diarrhea and increased natural disasters may all arise from climate change. Flooding and desertification are already becoming prevalent in certain parts of southern and west Africa, demonstrating the importance of renewable energy in Africa.

Renewable Energy in Africa

Renewable energy in Africa has high potential, especially with the amount of constant sunlight it receives. A report by GSMA stated that solar energy has a potential of 656,700 TWh.

With this mass of resources, Africa would be able to independently source its energy rather than rely on other countries to do so. New and existing renewable energy projects push Africa in a sustainable direction while encouraging economic development.

Renewable energy also aids the impoverished through increased jobs and improved electricity access. All in all, Africa’s energy movement is a success story in the making.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Solar Irrigation in Bangladesh
Agriculture is an essential part of the Bangladesh economy. It makes up 14 percent of the GDP, and over 42 percent of the labor force in Bangladesh is involved in agriculture. The income of almost 90 percent of the population living in rural areas is dependent on agriculture.

Bangladesh has seen excellent improvement in agriculture within the past four decades, which has led to a decrease in food insecurity. However, 24.3 percent of the population was still living below the poverty line in 2016. In addition to the high rate of poverty in Bangladesh, there are many rural areas that do not have access to reliable electricity, making electric irrigation pumps difficult to use. Implementing solar irrigation in Bangladesh is providing a solution to these problems.

Irrigation Methods in India

Irrigation is an essential aspect of the agriculture industry. The transportation of water to crops is incredibly important in terms of crop yield, and the timing of the watering is crucial for many crops. The main methods of irrigation used in Bangladesh include diesel fueled irrigation and electricity fueled irrigation. However, these methods are not cost effective. Diesel fuel is expensive, difficult to transport and prone to pollution. Electric irrigation, though less harmful for the environment, is also inconsistent since it is prone to outages and not available in all areas.

A newer method of irrigation that is more reliable and cost-effective is known as solar irrigation. The use of solar irrigation in Bangladesh has been on the rise in the past few years. Solar pumps can cover several farms, and they reduce the time farmers spend ensuring that the irrigation is functioning properly when watering their fields.

Solar irrigation cuts the costs of electricity for farmers and improves their quality of life through the reduction of pollution and the increase in time that can now be spent more effectively. Solar irrigation is especially suited to Bangladesh because of the flat terrain and the high levels of sunlight throughout the country.

Funding Solar Irrigation in India

While solar irrigation in Bangladesh is a vast improvement for the agriculture industry, it is expensive to develop and put into place. This year, the Bangladesh government will receive a $20 million loan from The Asian Development Bank as part of a Power Efficiency Improvement Project as well as grant money in order to help continue their growth in solar irrigation.

This loan and grant money will help put into place over 2,000 solar-powered pumps and create off-grid solar photovoltaic (SPV) pumping, which will allow irrigation in areas where there is less access to electricity and will help replace diesel pumps, which are more difficult to maintain.

In addition to the aid from The Asian Development Bank, The World Bank is helping Bangladesh through a finance agreement that will provide $55 million in funding for the growth of renewable energy. This agreement includes supporting the creation of 1,000 solar irrigation pumps along with 30 solar mini-grids that will also greatly improve the agriculture industry by reducing carbon emissions from using diesel-fueled irrigation pumps.

The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), an organization that was launched in 1997, is working towards financing infrastructure and renewable energy in Bangladesh. This year, 923 of the 1,024 solar irrigation pumps that have been approved by The IDCOL are already operational. The IDCOL has set a goal of installing 50,000 solar-powered irrigation pumps within the next seven years. Through the support of organizations like The Asian Development Bank and The World Bank, this goal is well underway.

Solar Irrigation Will Decrease Poverty and Help the Environment

Currently, 14 percent of the population of Bangladesh is covered by the country’s solar power program. Renewable energy is a growing part of Bangladesh, and the solar irrigation pumps that are being built will go a long way towards establishing environmentally friendly agriculture methods that will benefit people across the country.

By reducing the costs of farming, these solar power irrigation pumps will reduce poverty and increase the quality of life in Bangladesh. In fact, the vast majority of poverty reduction that occurred in the five years leading up to 2010 was spurred on by such improvements in agriculture. Solar irrigation in Bangladesh offers a new way to help the environment and change the lives of people living in Bangladesh for the better.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

The Green Dream: Sustainability in Central America Eradicates Poverty
Despite being home to more than 40 million people, Central America harbors many cities yet to be touched by electrical grids. Currently, one in 10 Central Americans lives quite literally in the dark, with no access to electricity. But through the Regional Clean Energy Initiative (RCEI) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and regulated by Tetra Tech and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more Central American areas will have power and sustainable means to produce it.

Why Sustainable Energy Is The Future

The Central American economy is developing and generates a growth rate of more than 3 percent annually. The biggest barrier to a further increase in this rate comes from the lack of productivity in most regions after sunset. Due to the absence of natural light and electricity, residents cannot do any manual labor; as a result, there is an abrupt halt in business outputs after a certain time of day.

Lack of power also prevents children from studying in the evenings, which makes it more difficult for their education to progress at a regular pace; the electricity absence often leads to incomplete homework and inadequate revision of material. Finally, the lack of electricity also introduces the risk of health hazards for those who work in the dark.

Creating Sustainability

Most might claim that the simple introduction of a power source can eradicate these problems, but it is actually more imperative to create sustainability in Central America. Currently, the estimated 7 million people who do not have access to electricity live far from the cities and their well-established grids.

To ensure that power reaches these members of the population, IRENA and the Central American governments are working towards moving away from fossil fuel dependence and towards the development of identified renewable energy sources. This works in their favor because these rural areas have larger spaces to channel energy from natural phenomena (such as sunlight and wind) and cultivate it for use.

Renewable sources of energy can also effectively satiate the high demand for electricity in these regions. Worldwatch Institute revealed that geothermal energy alone has the potential to meet twice the predicted regional electricity demand till 2020.

Currently, only 1 percent of the available resources are used to install windmills to produce energy, leaving enough for developing solar and biomass sources too. Improving sustainability in Central America is thus the most affordable and optimum way to equip deserving rural communities with electricity.

The Implementation

The RCEI is currently implemented in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Tetra Tech plays an important role in this by implementing a joint regulatory and trade policy to strengthen the regional electricity market and make it more accommodating to sustainable energy.

This is supported by the Central America Regional Regulator (CRIE) and the regional market operator (EOR), who are both in charge of proposing mechanisms for sustainable energy use and frameworks that entail the burden of implementation shared by local operators and other market stakeholders.

Tetra Tech has also been successful in developing standards and quality-checks for equipment and energy efficiency. These standards ensure that the renewable resources are optimally utilized for the best possible results.

Thanks to these equipment standards, the city of Zacatecoluca in El Salvador now has a five-mile stretch of streets powered by quality LED streetlights. Not only are they illuminating the city in the night, they are also making it a safer place for its 40,000 residents.

The Way Forward

The introduction of electricity to these regions mitigates the risk of health hazards and economic stagnation. As systems continue to power the countries even in the dark, people can work longer hours and accomplish more every day.

Inhabitants will also begin to feel safer at night and become motivated to work after the sun sets in order to earn more. More importantly, the setup of a regional framework of sustainable energy allows improved transport and communication links between the participating countries, which can lead to more trade and a higher national output.

As electricity is slowly introduced, people become healthier, safer and equipped with higher incomes to fight poverty. Sustainability in Central America is hence the affordable green dream its people need today.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

Even though there is air pollution in every country, developing countries with rapidly growing populations are more likely to have the short end of the stick when it comes to air pollution.

Global Air Quality

The World Health Organization released an updated global ambient air quality database stating that populations in low-income cities are the most impacted by poor air quality. The updated database shows that 97 percent of cities in low and middle-income countries do not meet the WHO air quality guidelines. This percentage drops greatly — to 49 percent — when looking at high-income countries.

WHO released a list ranking the particulate pollution in cities all around the world. On this list, 11 of the 12 cities were in India. This ranking doesn’t necessarily say that Kanpur, India has the worst air quality, but rather states that it has a higher risk of poor air quality.

But this data begs the question — why are India and many other developing countries so susceptible to poor air quality?

Developing Countries and Poor Air Quality

Two main issues that plague developing nations are that the government doesn’t have its sights set on cleaner energy, and renewable resources tend to be more expensive than cheap fossil fuels like coal. For example, in India, there are anti-pollution laws, but the government doesn’t enforce these laws well enough. “Outdoor air pollution is pretty much a governance problem,” said Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California Berkeley.

The difficulty in India comes from scenarios where one major city bans a certain type of pollution source, but those in neighboring cities may not have banned this specific source — the pollution can then blow unimpeded over the perimeter. There needs to be coordination across cities to fix this issue. In India, this can be rather difficult due to the fact that the rural and urban politicians have fairly different constituencies.

Roughly seven million people die each year due to air pollution. Air pollution can cause diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections.

More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Cities and national governments need to take action to reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution and to improve the overall quality of living. Here are three ways that cities and national governments can reduce air pollution in developing countries.

How To Reduce Air Pollution in Developing Countries

  1. Implement cleaner methods of transportation: Emissions from vehicles are a large driving factor in air pollution. When governments don’t regulate vehicle emissions the amount of pollution in the air will exponentially increase. There are many ways that governments can cut down on vehicle emissions. Offering buses and taxis allows more people in one vehicle instead of more vehicles on the road putting out emissions. Cities can also provide options for walking and cycling to improve air quality.
  2. Invest in energy efficient power generation: Another solution cities and governments can take is to provide energy efficient power. By producing power in an efficient and clean way, not only will the citizens be able to have power, but they will have clean air that will affect them more beneficially in the long run.
  3. Provide universal access to clean and affordable fuels: The majority of energy production in developing countries is produced by coal. This is also one of the most polluting energy sources out there. What makes moving coal out and another energy source in so difficult is that coal is cheap and affordable. Cities and governments need to ensure that the population has access to cheap and reliable energy.

While the government and city officials have much they could do to reduce air pollution in developing countries, there is also plenty that can be done on the individual level. Here are three ways a single person can make an impact on the air around them.

  1. Grow a garden: There are different plants that could be grown that give the air the nutrients it needs to be cleaner. There are also plants that eat harmful particulates in the air. Growing a garden is an easy way to take small steps towards creating cleaner air.
  2. Use public transportation: Taking public transportation is an easy way for someone to get to where they need to be without adding to the pollution around them and therefore cutting down on vehicle emissions. If public transportation isn’t available, cycling or walking are other great ways to help reduce air pollution in developing countries and local communities.
  3. Recycle: It takes more energy and natural resources to make new products for use. By using more energy and resources, the amount of air pollution produced also increases. The amount of energy and natural resources would be reduced by recycling previously used items.

Reducing air pollution would save lives and reduce the risks of many different diseases. Air pollution may seem like a formidable issue to tackle, but it can be both acknowledged and reduced.

Anyone can help reduce a small part of the air pollution around them. WHO released a challenge in May called “marathon a month.” This challenge calls for people to pledge to leave their personal transportation behind and use alternative transportation, like walking or cycling, for the equivalent of a marathon distance for one month.

Wherever someone may be, they can help those in their local community and in neighboring developing countries reduce air pollution and make the Earth a cleaner place.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

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

Solar Initiatives and Climate Change

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

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

History of Diu

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

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

Energy Implications

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

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

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

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

What Do the Panels Look like?

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

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

Change On the Horizon

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

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr

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

The Renewable Energy Sector in India

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

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

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

Foreign Direct Investment in India’s Solar Power

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

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

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

Job Creation Through Renewable Energy Sector

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

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

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

The findings of WET report suggest that:

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

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

Commitment to Positive Change

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

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

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in the Middle EastFor the past 50 years, oil has been a defining characteristic of the Middle East. Energy production continues to be a mainstay for the economy in the region, but in the future, it will come from a different source; since 2013, governments and private industries have invested over $1 trillion in solar power in the Middle East.

Rationale for Solar Power in the Middle East

The reasons behind the boom in solar power in the Middle East stems from a few causes. Consulting firm Ernst & Young recently declared Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the UAE as having the greatest potential for renewable energy investment. With the cost of oil shrinking, the IMF has stated that the region, specifically the Gulf nations, needs to diversify its economies and end dependence on fossil fuels.

In addition, political pressure also plays a crucial cause in the spike in solar power. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed sees the push as a means to stave off tension with environmental activists and “green” governments looking for sources of energy outside the fossil fuel realm.

World’s Largest Solar Farm, For Now

However, oil-dependent countries in the region aren’t the only ones investing; Egypt, a nation plagued with inflation since the Arab Spring, has also looked at new ways to jumpstart its economy.

As a result, Egypt announced in February the construction of the Benban Solar Park, a public/private venture to open in 2019 with an output of up 2.0 GW. For comparison, the most extensive solar plant in operation emits a mere 550 megawatts. Benban Solar Park is the crown jewel of the 29 solar power projects in Egypt ($1.8 billion cost so far) and would act as the largest producer of solar power in the Middle East.

Gamesmanship in the Middle East

Egypt held this title for solar power in the Middle East for around two months before Saudi Arabia announced its joint venture with the Japanese SoftBank to create the world’s largest solar power plant. With an expected output of over 200 GW, the expected completion date of their project is 2030.

While both projects are a long time from realization, it comes as a major signifier of the Saudi political and economic plan for the future.

The kingdom currently holds a budget deficit of 9.3 percent and an unemployment rate around of 13 percent. And, even though the KSA significantly lags behind other nations in regard to social tolerance, reforms are being made, even in the face of a lagging economy and social upheaval that could prove costly to stability in the kingdom.

Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group, stated that solar energy is “a vision; it’s aspirational more than anything. They’re trying to implement key parts of it. It’s fundamentally changing the Kingdom’s political and social structure in a movement that’s much more viable – fiscally and regionally.”

The SoftBank solar farm is one of many infrastructure projects Saudi Arabia has planned. One of the most ambitious being a $500 billion entertainment city on the Red Sea that will be built with the hopes of drawing more tourism to the nation.

Rest of the Region

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are far from the only nations with plans for more solar power in the Middle East — Dubai hopes to power 75 percent of the city using solar energy by 2050, and Morocco is in the middle of the production of a 2,000 MW solar farm to lessen its reliance on expensive imports.

Whether it’s political, environmental or economic, countries all across the region are looking towards solar energy to address problems within their borders. Some of the projects will trade at record low prices and the largest plant projects adding 100,000 jobs.

Plans for solar power in the Middle East are ambitious if nothing else. Now, it’s time to see these plans come to fruition.   

– David Jaques
Photo: Flickr

Corruption often makes headlines when somebody writes about South Africa. Given the court case in progress against the country’s former leader, it’s not hard to see why. Added to past historical events, oftentimes the media misrepresents South Africa.

But there is more to South Africa than meets the media’s eye. It is a place with much to celebrate. Covering these points of pride is important for the morale of a country. Although the media misrepresents South Africa, some less-common stories with good news have made it through the cracks:

Selling Avocados in Record Numbers

For a country’s economy, agriculture is oftentimes a driving force. That’s why it is good news that South Africa is expecting to sell record numbers of avocados in 2018. After experiencing a drought in previous years, it comes as both good news and a pleasant surprise.

South Africa supplies a large number of avocados to European countries. Those in the country’s avocado industry hope to keep this market while opening up new ones this year.

Leading the way in Eco-Tourism

Tourists are taking advantage of the beautiful South African climate, and South Africa is taking advantage of the boosted audience for educating on water conservation. 

South Africa is a world leader in conserving water in tourism-related facilities. The industry takes small, powerful measures to conserve water in restaurants and hotels. These measures rub off on those that visit the country. While the media misrepresents South Africa, ecotourism speaks for itself.

Making Breakthroughs in Renewable Energy

Recently, South Africa signed several agreements to drive renewable energy forward. The plans include constructing a new solar plant that will provide sustainable power for hundreds of thousands of South Africans. An agreement like this comes as no surprise, given the country’s focus on conservation.

For the U.S., this news is a much more productive story to read than those of corruption. The supplier of the solar power plant, SolarReserve, Inc. is a U.S.-based company. The good news for South Africa is both an economic and environmental benefit in America.

Improving Women’s Rights

Countries across the globe struggle with pay inequality. The unfortunate reality is that women, on average, earn less for performing the same work as men. South Africa is not immune to this problem, but the country has made considerable improvements for women. 

By several measures, South Africa is making success in closing the pay gap. Women are being encouraged to take part in the business sector like never before. South Africa has been making steady improvement in this area as nearly one-third of the women in the country now have senior management roles.

Beyond this, women are engaging in entrepreneurial activity. Various programs help women to establish themselves and run prosperous businesses. When women’s lives improve, everyone wins. For women’s rights, the rest of the world could learn a lesson from South Africa.

Even though the media misrepresents South Africa, there is good news for this country spanning from women’s rights to avocados. Despite sensational stories of corruption, the real South Africa endures and its legacy will continue to endure regardless of news coverage.

That’s good news.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Flickr

solar power to help eliminate povertyWhen extreme poverty is closely examined, a lack of resources is often found as the underlying catalyst. According to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to a power grid. In developing countries, finding and utilizing renewable resources is essential.

By using solar power to help eliminate poverty, developing countries inch closer to a sustainable solution. By expanding the number of people who have access to power, fewer cases of water deprivation, disease outbreaks and even education deprivation would result.


Refrigerators in South Sudan

South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, has endured constant conflict and disease outbreaks for more than four years, according to UNICEF. With rampant malnutrition and a lack of immunizations in the war-torn nation, diseases like measles, polio and tetanus have contributed to about one in 17 children dying from a preventable cause before their first birthday.

UNICEF has begun to use solar power to help eliminate poverty through its distribution of solar-powered refrigerators. Manufactured in Germany and transported via airlift, the refrigerators are used to keep vaccines at a safe temperature while being transported to isolated locations. The funding for the transportation and installation of the solar-powered refrigerators was provided by organizations like ECHO, the World Bank, GAVI and CERF.

By using solar power to maintain vaccines, UNICEF began immunizing South Sudanese who previously had no access to electricity. According to UNICEF, approximately 1.7 million children were vaccinated for measles.


Water Pump in Malawi

A scarcity of clean drinking water in Malawi villages impacts all aspects of everyday life for Malawi villagers. According to UNICEF, 13-year-old Lucy Chalire has been affected by the lack of clean water in multiple areas of her life. Chalire often suffered from diarrhea because of dirty drinking water. She also walked about five kilometers to collect the nearest water, leaving her exhausted and creating another roadblock to her education.

“I had diarrhea so many times. I would stay at home for around two weeks until I got better,” Chalire told UNICEF.  “I missed a lot of lessons, but I always tried to catch up by copying notes from my friends.”

After installing a solar-powered water pump in Chalire’s village, people were able to access nearby water that hand-powered pumps could not reach. The solar power alternative not only increases the amount of clean water available, it provides water during the drought season, allowing farmers to increase their crop yield.

UNICEF Malawi’s Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene Paulos Workneh said, “It’s low maintenance and should last for at least 10 years. And solar power is cheaper, environment-friendly and more sustainable than relying on expensive diesel generators.”

By using solar power to help eliminate poverty, Malawi is taking steps toward a sustainable future.


Education in the Solomon Islands

The Solar Power Pilot Project in the Solomon Islands aimed to improve the current situation in the average classroom, which has led to only about 17 percent of adults being literate. Today, students in the Solomon Islands lack lights, air conditioning and even fans. With classrooms reaching high temperatures, students’ ability to learn can be hindered, according to UNICEF.

The Solar Power Pilot Project supplied classrooms with fans, and electric lights by installing solar panels in schools. In UNICEF’s review of the project, it was decided that a more effective way to use solar power is the installation at the homes of students. Since students live far from their school, afterschool activities are nonexistent and solar energy is not used to its full potential.

Using solar power to help eliminate poverty around the world is a reliable and renewable option that grants people never before seen resources.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

solar energy in ZambiaThe Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa with a population of over 16.5 million. A shocking 54.4 percent of this population lives below the World Bank’s standardized poverty line. Currently, Zambia is unable to effectively meet the energy needs of its citizens. As a result, the Zambian government, USAID, independent investors and NGOs throughout the U.S. and Europe are investing in solar energy in Zambia, as they believe it has the potential to greatly reduce poverty and contribute to meeting the country’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.


Problems with Current Zambian Energy Infrastructure

A majority of Zambia’s nationalized energy production is created using hydroelectric dams; however, the dams face many problems in terms of their reach and reliability. Dams in the country only provide power to 10 percent of the Zambian population. Furthermore, the dams become unreliable as drought conditions increase throughout southern Africa. Zambia’s climate pattern works around a wet and dry season. As the rainy seasons become shorter and less intense, the dams are not filled to capacity. Less water in dam spillways inherently results in less energy production and more frequent blackouts.

Consequently, a majority of Zambians rely on charcoal to meet their energy and heat needs. The need for charcoal results in widespread deforestation of the savannah woodlands that make up a majority of the Zambian natural ecosystem. As a result, habitat destruction decreases biodiversity, degrades the natural ecosystem services and damages what could be a lucrative Zambian ecotourism industry. Because of these problems, the Zambian government and outside investors are looking toward solar alternatives, recognizing the benefits of solar energy in Zambia.


The Solution:  Solar Energy in Zambia

Director of the Zambian Development Agency (ZDA) Patrick Chisanga and other branches of the Zambian government are teaming up with investors throughout the United States and Europe to provide funding toward solar energy in Zambia. The ZDA is currently negotiating a $500 million solar investment deal from an unnamed German company hoping to provide projects and products to the growing market.

In 2015, USAID Zambia and Power Africa provided $2 million of funding to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Scaling Solar project, which has contributed $4 billion in global solar investments, to further develop smaller-scale commercial and utility solar energy in Zambia. NGOs like the U.K.-based Solar Aid are currently working in conjunction with a group called Sunny Munny to develop solar projects and provide resources to the very eager Zambian communities.

Moving Toward the Future

Solar energy development in Zambia continues what is already a growing trend of technological leapfrogging throughout the African continent. Zambians understand that they may never be a part of the nationalized power grid and therefore readily accept solar energy infrastructure as a solution to this problem. In a report conducted by BBC in Jan. 2018, reporters describe buzzing excitement in villages after they set up their solar technologies and finally had access to their own non-biofuel energy source.

With the help of Zambian government action, USAID investment, private investment and nonprofits like SolarAid, solar energy in Zambia will help the country approach several of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: providing citizen access to reliable modern energy resources, building resilient infrastructure and protecting and restoring natural ecosystems within the country.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr