Renewable Energy in IndiaThe development of sustainable energy has many benefits for citizens in India. In addition to economic growth, it also creates new job opportunities which can lower poverty rates. In 2017, 10.3 million renewable energy jobs were available globally. Renewable energy in India has the potential to significantly boost the country’s economic standing and lift many out of poverty.

Renewable Energy in India

With the implementation of 160 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy, India projects to create more than 330,000 new jobs by 2022. In 2017, the solar and wind energy sectors of renewable energy have already employed 151,000 people. People living in poverty in rural areas will benefit from job creation and increased energy will provide children with more time to work on their education after dark, increased productivity for families and increased health benefits.

Types of Renewable Energy in India

  • Solar Energy: The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) was created by the Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to develop 100 gigawatts of solar power from grid-connected and off-grid solar energy by 2022. NSM’s implementation of photovoltaic (PV) cells has created more jobs per unit of energy than any other energy source, making it an important factor in lowering unemployment rates in India. Solar energy is most commonly sourced from PV cells that can be installed on rooftops of houses or commercial buildings and absorb sunlight throughout the day.
  • Wind Energy: One of the largest sectors of renewable energy in India is wind energy. India is the fifth-largest wind energy producer and has the potential to grow even larger with a target of 60 gigawatts by 2022. Further expansion in the wind energy industry can be a major source of jobs for both unskilled and skilled workers in India. Wind energy is created in India through the development of wind farms, created through the installation of wind energy generators in rural areas that have ample amount of land. The installation of wind farms in rural areas creates job opportunities for rural citizens living in poverty.
  • Biomass Energy: Biomass has the potential to become a large source of renewable energy in India. Biomass is sourced from municipal waste, solid material and liquid material. India is rich in biomass resources. One of the most successful sources of biomass comes from sugar cane in agriculture and manure from livestock. Farms stand to benefit largely from the implementation of biomass energy development, in turn, benefiting rural people living in poverty.

Continued Development

Though large strides have been made in renewable energy in India, further development could bring significant benefits. India plans to quintuple current wind and solar energy capacity and could potentially become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030.

Renewable energy has improved the lives of many citizens living in India, however, more than 600 million people still use firewood for cooking and many have unreliable energy sources. Expanding renewable energy across India will further improve the quality of lives of citizens and bring many out of poverty through the creation of jobs in renewable energy sectors and increased opportunities for education and training in the sector.

Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

3 Renewable Energy Initiatives that Empower WomenProviding women with access to clean energy is crucial in the fight against poverty and gender inequality. Women experience energy poverty at higher rates than men and are more likely to die from indoor air pollution caused by nonrenewable household energy solutions. When women have access to electricity, they have greater opportunities to pursue an education, find employment and become civically involved. This article examines three renewable energy initiatives that empower women to create change within their communities and lives.

The Importance of Including Women in the Renewable Energy Sector

The renewable energy sector has ample employment opportunities, with a projected 29 million job opportunities by 2050. While this creates room for women within the workforce, 68% of hires are men. The World Economic Forum (WEF) explains that empowering women in the industry and in their communities “will strengthen economic and social progress and support governments to deliver gender-balanced, sustainable energy for all.”

Including women also has a positive impact on the energy sector. When women run energy enterprises, work in energy and create energy policies, the policies are more efficient. The utilities earn more revenue and sell more energy commodities. Thus, including women in the industry can help improve efficiency and generate profit.

As WEF explained, empowering women in their communities can be transformative. When given the opportunity, one woman can power 50 homes in her community. This is because women “hold strong social capital in communities, [so] they are better able to reach out to other women to generate awareness about clean energy solutions and its positive impacts on their lives.” It is clear that working to empower women with renewable energy opportunities benefits both the industry and communities.

3 Projects that Empower Women with Renewable Energy

Despite the fact that women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector, there are many organizations that empower women with renewable energy initiatives.

  1. Solar Sister: The U.N. describes Solar Sister as “an award-winning social enterprise advancing women’s entrepreneurship to bring off-grid electricity and clean cooking solutions to underserved communities across sub-Saharan Africa.” Solar Sister trains women in entrepreneurship and equips them with the services and goods they will need for their sustainable businesses. These women, in turn, provide renewable energy to those in need in rural communities in African countries. Currently, Solar Sister works in Nigeria and Tanzania and has previously worked in Uganda. The organization hopes to be actively working in five countries by 2022. As of 2020, Solar Sister has trained more than 5,000 entrepreneurs who have provided electricity to almost two million people.
  2. Barefoot College: Barefoot College is an organization in India that trains women to be entrepreneurs, solar engineers and teachers so that they can bring electricity and education to their communities. Barefoot College works in more than 2,000 villages and 93 countries. The organization provides solar energy education, training, empowerment programs, clean water initiatives, education for children and healthcare programs.
  3. ENVenture: The ENVenture program, sponsored by New Energy Nexus, supports Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in villages in Uganda so that these CBOs can establish clean energy businesses. After a year, the CBOs that perform the best receive more financial support. ENVenture has helped provide energy access to 95,000 people. It has created 600 jobs, 70% of which are filled by women.

Moving Forward

These three projects show how renewable energy initiatives can empower women and benefit communities. Whether through financial support or education, these organizations are empowering women with renewable energy solutions to expand their horizons. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make renewable energy and women’s empowerment a priority.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in BarbadosBarbados is quickly becoming a leader in renewable energy. A former English colony, Barbados is a small island in the Caribbean known for its scenic beaches and tropical ecosystem. Natural disasters in the past and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for a more diverse economy in Barbados. Renewable energy is a promising solution moving forward. Barbados is investing in renewable energy to reduce poverty and ensure sustainability.

4 Facts About Renewable Energy in Barbados

  1. Investing in the Future – Barbados may be a small island but it has taken large steps to transition to renewable energy. By 2030, Barbados plans to have 100% of its energy consumption come from renewable sources. Although this goal may be ambitious, Barbados put its words into action by securing loans, including a $30 million loan in 2019 from the Inter-American Development Bank. The focus is on building solar photovoltaics for both residential and commercial purposes. Barbados is also interested in growing wind, waste, biomass and ocean and wave energy in order to modernize its energy grid while cutting costs for energy imports and creating jobs.
  2. Geographic Advantages for Wind and Solar Energy – The political feasibility of renewable energy in Barbados is unique because it does not have large petroleum reserves that would cause competing interests. This is a problem that is characteristic of countries in other regions such as North America and the Middle East. The tropical climate in Barbados makes it ideal for wind and solar energy. Barbados averages 8.3 hours of sunshine per day and 5.6 kilowatts of solar irradiation per square meter. Additionally, the annual wind speed averages 5.5 meters per second. These averages make Barbados well-positioned to utilize wind and solar energy compared to the rest of the world. Barbados also has the ability to use the ocean not only for energy produced by water but for installing offshore wind turbines. The ocean provides stronger wind regimes. Since there is very little space to build large wind turbines onshore, this feature will become increasingly valuable.
  3. Renewable Energy Cuts Costs – Barbados experiences very high electricity costs due to its reliance on crude oil. The high electricity bills for an individual household or business and the economic burden of purchasing oil from other countries caused the need to transition to renewable energy. Fuel reflects an average of 15% of its import costs and about half of this is used just for generating electricity. Cutting down the cost of fossil fuel spending and having a more sustainable and efficient energy source would cut costs for citizens and improve the overall economy.
  4. Economic Vulnerability – Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy of Barbados has suffered a major setback. With 40% of its GDP and 30% of the workforce in the tourism industry, many are without an income. About 90% of the industry, including hotels, had to close or reduce their normal operating levels because of the pandemic. In addition, Barbados has a hurricane season every year. Hurricanes damage infrastructure, harm the health of beaches and prevent tourists from coming to the island. Hurricane Dorian cost the country an estimated $3.4 billion or a quarter of its GDP when it hit the island in 2019. In the United States and around the world, renewable energy jobs are some of the fastest-growing occupations. Barbados would greatly benefit from being a part of the trend.

Moving Forward

Barbados is planning ahead for its future and moving forward with renewable energy to ensure economic stability and lessen the effects of natural disasters. The country stands as a strong model for other nations in approaching renewable energy and preparing for the future.

Stephen Illes
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Venezuela
While poverty rates continue to rise in Venezuela, the country regularly experiences nationwide electricity blackouts. However, utilizing renewable energy in Venezuela would alleviate rising poverty rates in the country by creating job opportunities and reducing the presence of negative health impacts due to pollution. It would also ease the energy burden on the Guri dam, likely reducing the number of national electricity blackouts.

An Energy Crisis

In addition to having some of the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela also has an impressive national renewable energy infrastructure. The only problem: the government has all but abandoned the projects. For example, the administration of former President Hugo Chávez abandoned the government program Fundelec (Foundation for the Development of the Electricity Service) following the fall in oil prices in 2008 and 2014. Due to the atrophied Venezuelan energy infrastructure, between April and September 2020, there were roughly 84,000 electricity blackouts nationwide. Excessive energy dependence on the Guri dam continues to exacerbate the issue.

Nirida Sanchez, a resident of Machiques de Perijá in the state of Zulia, told Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez, a reporter for Dialogo Chino, that the blackouts have made her “a slave, because at any time when there is a downturn [she] has to run out and turn everything off so that [she doesn’t] damage another appliance.” Sanchez also told Gutiérrez that the blackouts have damaged both her microwave and her washing machine.

The Push for Renewable Energy in Venezuela

At the moment, Venezuela’s energy infrastructure depends on hydroelectric power that sites like the Guri dam generate, which is located on the Caroní River. Most estimates place the percentage of Venezuela’s electricity at the Guri dam at over 50%, while some sources claim that as much as 70% or even 85% of the country’s power comes from the Guri dam.

To counteract this heavy reliance on hydroelectric power — an energy source that, despite being renewable, can still have negative environmental and social consequences — the government began a push for a transition to other kinds of renewable energy in Venezuela roughly two decades ago. In the early 2000s, the government of former President Hugo Chávez established a program called “Sembrando Luz,” with the intention of using “micro-networks of hybrid solar-wind systems” to harness the renewable energy potential of Venezuela’s northwestern states.

However, the government abandoned the renewable energy projects following the fall in oil prices in 2008 and 2014. As a result, Venezuela renewed its dependence on the Guri dam for electricity and abandoned its hopes for a renewable energy future. That is until a 2016 report by the Scientific Institute Francisco de Miranda emphasized the “technical possibilities and the low cost of photovoltaic energy in the country.”

Despite a phase of fits and starts, harnessing electricity via solar panels and storing it in batteries is a practice that is picking up speed in Venezuela. Engineers familiar with the issue emphasize that a need exists for state involvement and investment in the technology, but, despite that financial hiccup, moving the Venezuelan power grid towards a reliance on photovoltaic power would be a definite boon to citizens like Nirida Sanchez.

Health Benefits of Renewable Energy Use

The benefits of adopting renewable energy sources like solar or wind power are numerous. One benefit is the positive health impact of a transition away from fossil fuels: renewable energy sources are safer for both individuals and entire communities.

To begin with, renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines produce little to no global warming emissions. They also lead to little to no air pollution. As the Union of Concerned Scientists clarifies, the air and water pollution that coal and natural gas plants emit has a link to “breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death and a host of other serious problems.” These health impacts make it more difficult for impoverished citizens to survive their harsh living conditions.

Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy Use

There are economic benefits to a transition to renewable energy sources as well. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that “on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.” This is because the renewable energy industry, in comparison with the fossil fuel industry, is relatively labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive. That means cleaner air, more jobs and less poverty — all thanks to renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind farms.

For a country like Venezuela, which was suffering from economic and health crises even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the creation of new jobs is vital to economic recovery. Although some experts suggest that the economic troubles in Venezuela, and the resulting rising poverty rates, are due to hyperinflation, the creation of additional jobs in the renewable energy sector would undoubtedly help ameliorate rising poverty rates in the country.

Looking Ahead

It will not be easy to transition to renewable energy in Venezuela, but it will help alleviate rising poverty rates in the country by creating job opportunities and reducing the presence of negative health impacts associated with pollution. Although the Venezuelan government at this time is not working to implement any new renewable energy projects, Venezuelan scientists and NGOs like the Committee of People Affected by Power Outages, an NGO that monitors the impacts of the Venezuelan electricity crisis, continue to push for renewable energy in Venezuela.

By fighting for a renewable future, Venezuelan citizens and scientists are nudging their government in a healthier and safer direction. However, it requires funding and international support from countries like the United States or organizations like the United Nations in order to reach full realization.

– Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Energy Distribution in Madagascar
Groupe Filatex is an energy company in Madagascar that has the goals of renewal, energy distribution and modernization through infrastructure development. The company works in the real estate, duty-free zone, energy and service sectors. Through its innovative projects, Groupe Filatex promotes job creation as Madagascar’s largest employer. It also promotes sustainable growth not only in Madagascar but also across the African continent. The company’s work has made Madagascar Africa’s leading economy in renewable energy.

Projects to Aid Energy Distribution in Madagascar

Approximately 15% of the population has access to electricity with a country-wide generation capacity of 500 megawatts. The company is working to build solar power plants that will provide electricity to four cities with a combined capacity of 50 megawatts. It installed plants in Antsiranana, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara. Groupe Filatex collaborated with DERA Energy, a Canadian power producer focused in Africa and Canadian Solar Inc. to supply the plants.

Along with power producer company Akuo, Groupe Filatex has also announced the first installation of Akuo’s Solar GEM mobile and portable solar units in Tulear. This project falls under the two companies’ collaborative initiative called Enelec. By 2022, expectations have determined that Enelec will have completed projects that would provide an additional 170 megawatts in Madagascar and 110 megawatts in Africa and Europe.

Expanding Energy Distribution Across Africa

Groupe Filatex announced multiple projects that will expand its services to other African countries including Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea and Ghana. The organization planned most projects before COVID-19. This means the projects are still in the works without too many obstacles that may have manifested with the pandemic. The main factor that would delay the projects is the travel restrictions for pandemic precautions. Plans for energy distribution in Guinea and Ghana are currently experiencing delay, although the Guinea project should still start in September 2021.

However, the project in Côte D’Ivoire should begin as soon as May 2021. Groupe Filatex’s project will recompense some of the 8% increase in domestic electricity demand as 1.8 million Ivorian households are without power. Contributing to the national plan to install 424 megawatts of solar power by 2030, Groupe Filatex will provide 66 megawatts of solar power in Côte D’Ivoire.

Other Social Development Initiatives

In addition to its main focus on energy distribution, Groupe Filatex is also a dedicated advocate for social development. The company shows its commitment to better the quality of living in Madagascar by supporting three developmental areas: childhood education, social community and the environment.

  • Childhood Education: Groupe Filatex promotes access to education by working with Malagasy schools to improve educational resources and tools. The company offers assistance in upgrading equipment and training in the classroom to modernize the learning environment. Over 1,300 children currently have enrollment in a renovated school. By providing the necessary support, Groupe Filatex’s efforts help cultivate professional development among young Malagasy.
  • Social Community: The company has started projects for essential living conditions. The projects create and renovate roads, install lighting and bus shelters, facilitate sanitation systems and increase access to drinking water. Groupe Filatex successfully carries out these initiatives with the help of private and public partnerships.
  • Environment: Groupe Filatex has shown commitment to preserving Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna. As described by the company as “natural wealth,” the protection of Madagascar’s ecological heritage makes the company’s development checklist. So far, the company has reported the preservation of 9,895 square meters of green landscape.

Although Madagascar has had limited access to energy in the past, Group Filatex’s efforts to provide the country with renewable energy are proving successful. Moreover, it is having an effect on the country’s communities even beyond improving energy distribution in Madagascar. In fact, it is helping increase children’s access to education and aiding in the building of infrastructure.

Malala Raharisoa Lin
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

Renewable energy in TanzaniaIn 2018, 29% of the population in Tanzania had access to electricity. For rural populations, that number was 10% and for poor households, it was 7%. About 66.2% of Tanzania’s population lives in rural areas, according to data from 2018. This means that most of the population that needs electricity lives in off-grid regions. The Tanzanian government and other organizations seek to meet this need through innovative renewable energy solutions.

Renewable Energy in Tanzania

Renewable energy in Tanzania has great potential. Tanzania’s renewable energy resources include hydropower, solar, wind and biomass. A study completed by the Institute for Sustainable Futures from the University of Technology Sydney, the Climate Action Network Tanzania, Bread for the World and the World Future Council found that by 2020, Tanzania’s portion of renewable energy generation was thought to reach 53%. By 2030, that number could increase to 75%. The study also discovered that it is 30% cheaper for Tanzania to use renewable energy than energy from fossil fuels. Thus, the study recommends implementing 100% renewable energy in Tanzania so that the country can substantially decrease poverty levels.

Importance of Renewable Energy Access for Poverty Reduction

Energy access is crucial in the fight to end poverty. Renewable energy is valuable for poverty reduction because it can provide power to more schools. Furthermore, it can increase health services and hygiene and provide clean water in rural areas. In fact, the World Bank cites increased electricity access as one of the reasons poverty rates have decreased in Tanzania.

According to the World Future Council, due to the increase in energy access, people in rural areas have been able to focus on “efforts to improve their socio-economic welfare.” Women, in particular, have benefited greatly from energy access. They can spend more time working on other tasks rather than working in the home and in the field.

Projects and Initiatives

Renewable energy in Tanzania has increased over the past decade because the government and other organizations have been working on renewable energy projects. These initiatives include installing off-grid and grid power systems and advocacy work.

Lighting Rural Tanzania installed solar lanterns and solar home systems to mostly low-income households. The goal of the project was “to enable access to cleaner and safer off-grid lighting and energy for 6.5 million people in Tanzania by [the] end [of] 2019.” Overall, the project helped provide energy access to 1.2 million people as of 2018.

The Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is a membership organization dedicated to improving renewable energy technologies and increasing access to renewable energy in Tanzania. The organization provides ten distinct services with advocacy and awareness work, community access programs and renewable energy policy initiatives.

Last is the Rural Electrification Expansion Program for Tanzania (TREEP). Beginning in 2013 and ending in 2022, TREEP’s goal is to provide both grid and off-grid energy to 1.3 million rural households and businesses. The project focuses on solar energy, specifically photovoltaic systems. As of 2021, The World Bank has labeled TREEP as “moderately satisfactory.”

Looking Forward

While less than half of Tanzanians have access to electricity, governmental initiatives and dedicated organizations are succeeding in increasing energy access. According to the International Energy Agency, Tanzania hopes to ensure that 70% of the population has access to electricity by 2030, with 50% of that originating from renewable energy resources.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered iron
India possesses the second-highest worldwide population with 1.2 billion people. Poverty in rural areas leaves local Indians unable to find job security. They instead must resort to street vending. Approximately 10 million street vendors exist in India, with many representing the laundry and textile industries. In particular, impoverished Indian families tend to choose the path of ironing clothes, a lucrative business considering the needs of everyday workers. However, there is one downside of the traditional method of ironing clothes in India: charcoal powers the irons. Luckily, a 14-year-old girl named Vinisha Umashankar recognized this energy source’s impact on the environment and innovated a solar-powered iron to create a renewable alternative to coal in India.

The Importance of Street Vending in India

Two kinds of retail industries exist: organized and unorganized retail. The latter represents the main retail industry in India. Unorganized retailers lead a solid 97% of businesses in the country, including local stores, family-run shops and street vendors. The sector of unorganized retail is the second-largest source of employment in India following agriculture. This demonstrates how much these workers crucially rely on their jobs for financial security. Those who have education but are jobless, or who suffer from poverty, benefit from the consumer familiarity and low-cost structure of the unorganized retail sector. Additionally, Indian small-store retailing generates self-employment relatively easily and does not require much investment in labor, land or capital.

India’s Pollution Problem with Charcoal

Early Indian society used a coal-fuelled iron box to smooth out clothing. Street vendors who iron clothes rely heavily on coal to power their equipment. There are some 10 million ironing carts in India and each cart uses more than 11 pounds of charcoal daily.  Given the hot and dry summers in India, cotton clothing requires washing and ironing on a daily basis. The high demand for ironing is escalating the use of coal and intensifying the smog issue in India.

The monsoon season from June to September poses an additional threat to the quality of the environment. Due to heavy rains, the coal becomes damp, causing an increase in the total weight bought by vendors. The moisture of the water, however, also reduces the warmth the charcoal produces when burned. Also, in the winter, as the price of coal naturally rises, suppliers purposefully add additional water to extend their product. Therefore, intense rain means increased spending on coal for the irons, further intensifying the cycle of Indian poverty.

Coal supplies approximately 72% of India’s electrical needs. The reliance on coal energy presents challenges regarding rising smog levels and respiratory conditions in cities. Coal power plants emit toxic gases and particulate matter that can penetrate human lungs. A reaction between sunlight and the nitrogen oxides that coal-powered plants release causes smog. The more people burn coal, the more smog that will emerge. However, coal is still a cheaper alternative to other, cleaner, forms of energy in India. Most people do not have the means to finance renewable energy.

Vinisha Umashankar’s Solar-Powered Iron

Vinisha Umashankar, an Indian teen with great concerns for the Indian air, developed an alternative to coal-powered irons. She suggested that they use solar-powered irons to harness the energy in the sun. This innovation promises to improve the poverty associated with the ironing industry as well as the environmental issues it causes. India receives enough sunlight to produce solar power 3,000 times more than its total current energy consumption. Her innovation to eliminate the use of charcoal in the ironing industry received the Children’s Climate Prize, comprising 100,000 Swedish krona ($11600) to further aid the project.

Umashankar also developed a solar-powered street cart. Similar to the solar-powered iron, Umashankar designed the model with functionality and cost-efficiency in mind. Individuals can use the cart effectively after only 15 minutes of tutorials. The solar-powered batteries charge in under five hours and last for six hours.

Overall, the goal of the solar-powered iron and cart is to improve the economic and health outcomes of the street vendors working in the ironing industries. In the long run, with further innovation, Umashankar intends to develop a cart prototype with solar panels and batteries that could last up to eight years. This ambitious plan favors sustainability for two parties: vendors and the environment.

Looking Ahead

With innovations like Umashankar’s solar-powered iron, India shows promise for improved environmental conditions and reduced poverty rates. Although expensive, new technologies are constantly emerging and individuals as young as 14 years old are working to prioritize cost-efficiency and sustainability. Given the fact that street vending is a widespread market in India, a solar-powered iron has the potential to transform the harmful coal-sourced iron industry into one that is profitable and environmentally conscious.

– Sarah Frances
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in Nigeria
With more than 80 million citizens living without electricity, renewable energy in Nigeria helps fight energy poverty. Demand for electricity rose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the country’s notoriously unreliable energy grid struggled to accommodate the strains of remote work. The Nigerian government’s new Economic Sustainability Plan solves this problem and promises to deliver renewable energy to 25 million Nigerians.

The Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) is Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country first passed it in July 2020 and it outlines 12 months of government spending in the 2021 fiscal year. The government created this plan to stimulate the Nigerian economy through strategic investments in sectors that it hopes will bring the most lasting growth. This is why Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil and gas producer, is choosing to invest in renewable energy. Here are five ways this plan helps to reduce poverty in Nigeria.

5 Ways the Economic Sustainability Plan Reduces Poverty in Nigeria

  1.  Powering Businesses and Homes: The World Bank estimates that Nigeria loses $26.2 billion in economic production due to insufficient electrification. Renewable energy in Nigeria has the potential to change that. Off-grid sources in particular, such as solar panels that directly power homes and businesses, circumvent the frequent power outages that plague Nigeria’s energy grid. The Economic Sustainability Plan helps promote off-grid renewable energy in Nigeria by committing $619 million to the installation of new solar panels directly onto homes that do not currently have a connection to the power grid. The government is also providing subsidies for private firms in the solar industry to encourage even more off-grid solar energy. Not only will this plan give new electricity access to millions of Nigerians, but the government hopes more jobs in the renewable energy sector will give citizens permanent paths out of poverty.
  2. Reducing Dangerous Power Sources: The Economic Sustainability Plan replaces household power sources that endanger Nigerian homes with more efficient renewable solutions. Many who remain disconnected from the energy grid in Nigeria rely on kerosene lanterns for light, which poses toxicity and fire risk to those families. With a plan to install solar in more than 5 million homes, the Economic Sustainability Plan provides safer ways to lift Nigerians out of energy poverty.
  3. Creating Jobs: Nigeria’s plan creates 250,000 new jobs in the booming energy sector to grow the country’s economy. Not only will renewable energy in Nigeria empower communities that do not have access to the energy grid, but this plan stimulates the domestic manufacturing industry. These jobs have the potential to pull thousands of Nigerians out of poverty.
  4. Growing International Partnerships: While the Economic Sustainability Plan focuses on improving the lives of Nigerians, the formulation of the plan strengthens Nigeria’s ties to the international community. Approximately 15% of the funding for this plan comes from external sources, primarily from the World Bank. Making use of foreign aid strengthens the ties that the Nigerian economy has with international partners and generates more opportunities for future projects that help battle global poverty. An example of this is the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) program that Nigeria signed with the World Bank. This program gave $750 million in credits to Nigerian states in 2018, and now the federal government is encouraging states to negotiate additional funding from the World Bank to supplement the Economic Sustainability Plan in 2021 using the guidelines of the SFTAS.
  5. COVID-19 Economic Recovery: Due to the country’s dependence on oil and gas exports, the pandemic severely weakened Nigeria’s economy. The Brookings Institute estimates that the oil sector alone accounts for half of all government revenue in Nigeria, but the impact of COVID-19 led to an approximately 30% drop in oil prices. This means that Nigeria’s oil GDP has consistently declined over the past year, leading to significant damage to the Nigerian economy overall. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires the Nigerian government to stimulate the economy. Part of the Economic Sustainability Plan targets assistance to renewable energy companies in hopes that the Nigerian economy will become less dependent on oil. Low-interest government loans, equipment financing and revenue-based repayment plans will grow the industry and contribute to the broader Nigerian economy.

Looking Ahead

Renewable energy in Nigeria provides a foundation for economic growth that includes underserved parts of the country. The Economic Sustainability Plan capitalizes on this potential and expands energy access, jobs and economic recovery with the power of renewables. Nigerians who could not benefit from the economic advantages of electricity access due to systematic exclusion from the grid should be able to leave poverty as a result.

– Viola Chow
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Exporting Clean EnergyCongressman Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 848: GREEN Act of 2021 on February 4, 2021. It is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, serving to provide incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Renewable energy can serve as a means of ending poverty as access to energy can improve healthcare, education and economic opportunity. There also lies an opportunity of possibly exporting clean energy.

The GREEN Act of 2021

Congressman Thompson’s GREEN Act of 2021 seeks to increase the incentives for U.S. citizens to use renewable energy. Congressman Thompson is a vocal advocate for clean energy, believing this change will help not only the United States but also the world at large. Thompson’s vigor in promoting clean energy comes from a desire to cut reduce emissions and create millions of jobs worldwide. Congressman Thompson has voiced renewable energy as priority in Congress by cosponsoring the Green New Deal in February 2019 and sponsoring legislation to provide tax incentives for those using clean energy. Congressman Thompson acknowledges the U.S.’s responsibility to aid other countries. One sees this through his commitments to improve education globally. In combining these two efforts, the U.S. could tackle two of the world’s most important issues.

Clean Energy at Work

In the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the elimination of poverty is as imperative as clean, renewable energy. Robert Freling, executive director of the Solar Electric Light Fund, believes energy is a key weapon in fighting against global poverty. To Freling, access to electricity is a basic human right that is not available to many impoverished nations. Without access to energy, developing countries’ attempts to improve people’s lives comes to a standstill.

The World Bank reports that 840 million people do not have access to electricity and 650 million people will still not have electricity in 2030. According to the World Bank, those lower-income families living in rural areas will need to use solar home systems, mini-grids and solar lighting to combat poverty.

Various countries have proven the effectiveness of renewable energy in fighting poverty. For example, in China introducing solar energy led to more than 800,000 families in poverty having access to power. In some areas, solar installations provided families with an additional yearly income of more than $400.

Exporting Clean Energy

This emphasis on the Unites States promoting clean energy across the world has been noticed by other members of Congress as well. Rep. John Curtis believes the U.S. should set an example by exporting renewable energy to foreign countries. Rep. Curtis introduced multiple bills with the main goal of exporting clean energy. One piece of legislation Rep. Curtis introduced is the Worldwide Wind Turbine Act, which would give the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) the power to accept old wind turbines as donations and share these turbines with developing nations who could benefit from wind energy.

By exporting clean energy, the U.S. can lead the way to transition to renewable energy while improving the global economy. Renewable and clean energy efforts are vital because global poverty cannot truly be resolved unless energy poverty is addressed.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr