Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Mexico
Renewable energy in Mexico is facing a crisis. On December 28, 2020, Mexico saw a two-hour power outage that affected 10.3 million people. Mexico’s National Center for Energy Control (CENACE) reported that the blackouts were due to an imbalance in the National Interconnected System (SIN).

SIN is Mexico’s state-owned power grid. During the blackouts, Mexico experienced a loss of 7,500 megawatts due to complications with Mexico’s fossil fuel power plants. CENACE blames the blackouts on renewable energy, although renewable energy currently accounts for only 28% of SIN’s power supply.

Following the blackouts, CENACE sought to consolidate the SIN system. Representatives from the CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) said the current SIN grid system does not have the mechanical inertia and capacity to support renewable energy sources. CFE Communication Director Luis Bravo stated that renewable energy damages “the reliability of the national system” and that CENACE will exclude renewable energy from the SIN. This will not only set back Mexico’s environmental progress, but it will also drive up electricity costs for families and businesses that the pandemic has already left struggling.

Higher Electricity Costs and Reduced Investment

Expensive electricity has long been a hindrance to Mexican households and businesses. In 2020, the state-owned electric company’s generation costs were over three times the generation costs of private renewable energy businesses. In February 2021, when the company cut power to two Oaxaca communities where many residents had unpaid electricity bills, local residents traveled to the state’s CFE headquarters to protest the company’s unreasonably high rates.

Nevertheless, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is fighting against cheaper renewable energy in Mexico in favor of government-owned fossil fuel plants. On February 2, 2021, he proposed a bill that mandates that SIN plants be the first source of statewide power. The bill also requires that the government approve all renewable energy usage.

Not only are many Mexican businesses voicing opposition, but many foreign companies, like Iberdrola, a huge Spanish producer of wind power, have stopped investing in Mexican energy projects. In June 2020, Iberdrola suspended a $1.2 billion project to create a power plant in Tuxpan that would have been an economic boon to the area. Reduced usage of renewable energy in Mexico could also damage the country’s standing in international arrangements, such as trade agreements or the Paris Climate Accord.

Renewable Energy Opportunities

Despite what their president claims, renewable energy in Mexico is affordable. While wind energy is growing within Mexico through international means, solar panels are helping domestically in rural areas.

Many businesses are starting to use solar energy. One region, in particular, Querétaro, is wholeheartedly embracing the economic benefits of renewable energy. The Federation of Producers of Corn Flour and Tortillas said solar cells currently power more than 40% of the state’s 389 tortilla shops. This organization helps shop owners take out low-interest government loans, allowing businesses to get off the SIN grid. Federation president Arthur Campos Novoa said, “Over three years, they have to pay [monthly] for the [solar panels], but after that, it will be a benefit to the business.” Businesses that receive the loans save 20,000 pesos every two months. The goal is to get 100% of Querétaro’s tortilla shops off the SIN grid.

Iluméxico

Iluméxico is another company using renewable energy to benefit everyday citizens. Its mission as a social enterprise is to empower rural communities that are living in energy poverty. Iluméxico specializes in installing small solar panels in areas with poor infrastructure. The company designs and distributes solar panels, creates affordable energy access plans and trains people in the solar panel trade. Iluméxico is Mexico’s largest provider of off-grid solar energy. It has installed nearly 25,000 systems and should reach 1 million people by 2025.

For example, Iluméxico helped Nereo Cruz of Chichicuastla, Veracruz along with his wife and four children out of energy poverty. Cruz and his family used to have to stop most activities at sunset because of their lack of electricity, but with a microloan from Iluméxico, Nereo purchased a solar home system that he slowly paid off using savings and income.

Renewable energy in Mexico is revealing political divisions. However, those fighting for a greener and more affordable future are persevering through the current crisis to continue alleviating energy poverty.

– Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Poland
Over 1.3 million Polish households struggle to pay for electricity, hot water and heating. Energy poverty, broadly defined as the inability to secure basic energy needs, forces people to choose between risking adverse health effects from poor living conditions and reducing their consumption of basic goods, such as food and drink. Spurred by the E.U.’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 (from 1990 levels), Poland’s green transition will alleviate energy poverty within its borders. At first, the transition away from fossil fuels may increase energy costs and leave Poland’s 80,000 coal workers unemployed. Over time, however, renewable energy will lead to cheaper and cleaner energy and create more jobs than it makes obsolete. Investment in and support of renewable energy in Poland brings not only commercial benefits but also healthier and more affordable living conditions.

Energy Poverty in Poland

Energy poverty has been decreasing in Poland over the last decade and a half, but the COVID-19 pandemic risks temporarily reversing this trend. From 2007 to 2017, the percentage of people who were unable to adequately heat their living space decreased from 22.7% to 6%. From 2014 to 2017, the percentage of people falling behind on utility bill payments dropped from 14.4% to 8.5%. These figures are promising.

However, increases in Polish incomes, rather than updated energy infrastructures alone, also drove these trends. The “Family 500 plus” program, for example, has helped many Poles meet energy costs. The Law and Justice party established it in 2016 to provide 500PLN per child in monthly childcare benefits for all multi-child households and poorer single-child households. Energy sourcing patterns prevent a less rosy outlook: from 2013 to 2016, the share of electricity produced through renewable energy in Poland actually decreased, and coal still generates over 75% of Polish electricity.

Against this backdrop, COVID-19 and the government’s lockdown response have and will continue to strain people’s energy budgets: increasing the time people spend in a home in need of heating and decreasing people’s incomes by stalling the economy.

Policies and Programs in Poland

Poland has enacted a number of policies and programs in response to its over-reliance on coal. Through the Clean Air program, launched in 2018, Poland plans to invest $30 billion in clean heating. Many Poles still heat their homes through coal-fired furnaces, which emit harmful gasses into the air. Polish households use up 12 million tonnes of coal annually, around two-thirds of the E.U.’s total consumption. Every year, as many as 48,000 deaths in Poland result from poor air quality. By the end of 2020, the program had only removed about 70,000 of Poland’s three million coal-fired heating systems, but its investment efforts will continue until at least 2029.

There have also been social initiatives that have addressed the burden of polluting heating systems. The “FINE Power Engineering – Civic energy” initiative, for example, sets up social energy cooperatives that enable rural regions to become more energy independent. Launched by the Schneider Electric Foundation and Ashoka, an organization promoting social entrepreneurship, this program provides services such as helping communities set up solar panels for local energy production.

Renewable Energy in Poland

Although Poland still contains 36 of the 50 most polluted cities in Europe, recent foreign investment in renewable energy in Poland suggests a bright future for its green transition. The U.S., France and South Korea are in talks with Poland about investing in nuclear energy, one of the cleanest forms of power. A Danish company, Orsted, is jointly developing two offshore wind farms with PGE, Poland’s biggest power group. Internal politics have sometimes and may continue to complicate Poland’s shift away from coal. However, in the long term, Poland’s changing energy landscape, facilitated by domestic and foreign policies and investment, will lift many Poles out of energy poverty and raise their economic and health-related standards of living.

– Alexander Vanezis
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

renewable energy sources in VietnamOn November 25, 2015, the Vietnamese government adopted the Renewable Energy Development Strategy by 2030 with an outlook to 2050, in effect approving renewable energy as a viable and necessary plan. At its core, the strategy shifts Vietnam’s energy policy from focusing on fossil fuels to renewable energy by setting specific goals. After five years, the strategy has resulted in some profound successes: renewable energy sources in Vietnam have gone from non-existent to growingly important.

Renewable Energy Sources in Vietnam

The main driver of this shift comes from Vietnamese electricity demand outpacing its supply. Due to Vietnam’s incredible economic growth, its energy needs have grown significantly. For example, in 2020, Vietnamese electricity needs were 7.5% higher than they were in 2019. Overall, its electricity demand has increased by an average of 10% per year for the last five years.

Vietnam’s Plans for Renewable Energy

The 2004 Electricity Law is the prime legislation governing Vietnam’s energy sector. The Electricity Law requires the establishment of national power development master plans for 10-year periods. As the law instructed, the Vietnamese government released its National Power Development Plan for 2011 to 2020 in 2011. One can sum up the plan’s goals as securing Vietnam’s energy needs, improving connectivity in rural areas and increasing the national reliance on renewable sources of energy. The plan estimated that $150 billion in renewable energy investment was necessary to meet Vietnam’s rising energy demand.

The Vietnamese government, in a bid to promote the goals set out in this plan, issued a decision in 2015, approving Vietnam’s renewable energy development strategy up until 2030. In 2016, the government further revised it. The revised version guaranteed that 10% of the Vietnamese energy (excluding hydropower electricity) would come from renewables. The decision reassured the government’s commitment to a reduction of coal-fired energy.

In addition to issuing guarantees, it also laid out some new incentive-based policies to promote investment in the renewable energy sector. For example, it promises:

  • Import duty relief on imported materials used for renewable energy projects
  • A reduced corporate tax rate for companies working on renewable energy production
  • Land use incentives such as reduced or waived fees

Improvements and Progress in the Energy Sector

As a result of these plans and strategies, Vietnam has made significant inroads in increasing wind and solar energy contributions to its overall grid. In 2014, solar, wind and biomass gasification made up only about one-third of 1% of the country’s total installed capacity. Fast forward five years and these renewable energies now make up about 10% of the total energy supply.

In addition to developing solar and wind power, hydropower is already a renewable energy source that constitutes a substantial component of Vietnam’s energy sector. In 2019, it accounted for 46% of the electricity mix.

The government expects to build on this success by announcing the new 10-year National Power Development Plan 2021-2030 which will lay out the next steps and policies to further entrench renewable energy. The government has set renewable energy targets of 15-20% of total energy share by 2030 and 25-30% by 2045.

Even so, expectations have determined that coal will continue to be the dominant source of energy in the country. Although solar and wind power are a growing share of Vietnamese energy production, they have yet to grow faster than energy demand. Additionally, wind and solar energy are dependant on weather conditions and therefore only present intermittent solutions.

The Limitations of Hydropower

Additionally, although hydropower does generate more power than coal, its growth potential is stunted. Hydropower in Vietnam is mostly reliant on the Mekong-Delta, a river that many countries have access to. As a result, it is vulnerable to how other nation-states utilize the river with infrastructure projects that restrict the river’s flow and intensity. Hydropower projects are inherently limited because the government has only so much river access.

Meanwhile, coal presents a cheap and short-term solution to its supply deficit problem. In 2019, coal was 36% of Vietnam’s energy mix and is expected to remain around that proportion for the new National Power Development Plan 2021-2030.

The US as an Invaluable Partner

The United States is proving to be an invaluable partner in Vietnam’s transition to renewable energy as it has provided support, investment and guidance to the Vietnamese government. Specifically, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed to multiple projects to help Vietnam’s transition. These projects include:

  • Low Emission Energy Program (I): Providing support to the government in developing and implementing long-term renewable energy strategies (2015-2021, $16 million)
  • Low Emission Energy Program (II): Further support the government in transitioning to renewable energies (2020-2025, $36.25 million)
  • Urban Energy Security: Working with Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh cities to improve enabling environments for distributed energy deployment, mobilizing private investment and supporting the government in adopting innovative energy solutions (2019-2023, $14 million).

Renewable Energy Transition Progress

Vietnam still has a long way to go before renewable energy governs most of its energy sector. Still, it has made significant progress toward that goal. Renewable energy sources in Vietnam are growingly significant in energy policies and are a sustainable answer to electricity needs in developing countries.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in UgandaAs of 2016, it was estimated by the World Bank that only 26% of Uganda’s population has access to electricity. In urban areas, the percentage is higher, at about 60%. However, in rural areas, the amount of people with electrical access is limited to only 18%. The use of solar energy in Uganda hopes to bring increased access to electricity, specifically in rural areas, as well as make electricity more affordable for the population.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy from the sun that can be used electrically or thermally. It is a renewable energy source that provides a sustainable and clean alternative. Through photovoltaics (solar thermal collectors) solar power is collected and then converted into an energy source that can be used as a heating system or for electricity.

Solar Energy Fighting Poverty

Solar energy in Uganda can bring poverty reduction. It is an affordable and reliable source of energy that rural areas can depend on. It can also produce jobs within the community. Since solar energy makes household chores easier, women and girls have more time available to search for jobs or pursue education and development opportunities. Overall, renewable energy is a valuable component to provide electricity access, financial empowerment and sustainable economic and social development.

European Investment Bank (EIB)

With solar energy, more of the country will have access to electricity. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is using its finances to help people without electricity in Uganda. As it is the rural communities that are more affected by a lack of electricity, programs are more focused on maintaining reliable resources for those areas.

Through EIB’s efforts, more than one million people in Uganda will have access to electricity for the first time, making for easier cooking and the ease of many other household activities. Families will also be able to save money since the household will not be using as much kerosene, candles or charcoal. Indoor pollution will decrease from less kerosene usage and fire hazards will be reduced.

Reliable electricity has many benefits, with access to health opportunities being one of them. With access to phones, radios and televisions, farmers will be open to markets that can increase their income. EIB has given a loan of $12.5 million to build 240,000 solar home systems throughout Uganda, increasing economic and social opportunities.

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL)

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) created an agenda that was adopted by Uganda’s government to help provide an increase in accessibility. The goal is to provide more than 99% of the population with access to electricity by 2030 and improve the energy efficiency of power users by at least 20% by 2030. SEforALL plans on accomplishing this ambitious goal by building energy savers throughout the country in households, industries, commercial enterprises and more.

It is clear that Uganda is in need of more access to electricity throughout the nation. Solar energy is one of the sources that hopes to increase those numbers. There is still a lot to be done to raise access to electricity from 26% to 100%, but with efforts from Sustainable Energy for All and the European Investment Bank, the situation looks exceptionally hopeful.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in MoroccoIn 2018 and 2019, Morocco became a powerhouse in renewable energy, exporting an increased 670% of energy and decreasing imports by 93.5%. This can be attributed to the nation constructing the largest concentrated solar farm in the world. The solar plant, known as the Noor Complex, has the capability to power one million homes and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuel.

Solar Energy in Morocco

Prior to this renewable attitude, 97% of Morocco’s energy was produced by fossil fuels. The construction of solar farms is able to offset the nation’s energy usage, lessening the demand for energy imports and creating opportunities for more exports, ensuring a self-sufficient nation.

The decrease in energy consumption in the country has saved funds on energy costs. In 2018, the Moroccan Government decided to move to the GMT+1 timezone resulting in less electricity consumption by citizens. This shift toward sunnier days allows Morocco to overproduce energy and afford to export energy.

The advantages of solar energy in Morocco extend into multiple areas, creating a positive impact for not only Morocco but the African continent as a whole.

Poverty Eradication Benefits

In past years, poverty in Morocco has seen a significant decrease. While an optimistic stride for the nation, the decline in poverty was disproportionate between rural and urban areas.

This disparity between the living areas is often attributed to the difficulty in distributing energy to the rural regions. The hope is that the efficiency of solar energy in Morocco will allow for energy distribution to residents living outside the city to be feasible.

In 2016, poverty in Morocco was reduced to 23% from 45% in 2014. As solar energy in Morocco becomes more efficient, the living conditions of the average resident should improve as solar power makes electricity more affordable and easier to access. The solar farms popping up across the country also create jobs for the population to earn a living wage.

Economic Benefits

Solar energy in Morocco helps the nation be less reliant on energy imports and capable of exporting more energy, boosting the economy and relationships with other nations.

As Morocco’s economy strengthens with its excess of energy, it looks to make connections with European countries. In 2016, the construction of the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline project was announced. This pipeline perfectly positions Morocco to become an energy hub for the Mediterranean, African and European nations.

These connections to other nations allow Morocco access to flourishing markets and new business opportunities. As Morocco forms these foreign connections, it is becoming a greater political power in Africa.

Political Benefits

The continent of Africa currently has a leadership vacuum that Morocco is preparing to fill. As it produces more energy and builds stronger relationships with European nations, it is seen as a serious economic and political figure for the continent.

In 1984, Morocco left the African Union (AU) because of a disagreement over the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). After many years, Morocco now seeks to rejoin the AU and strives to make the continent of Africa a robust, independent continent.

Now, the country is setting an example for the other nations of Africa to become self-sufficient and gain economic ground with foreign countries. Morocco has invested 85% of its foreign funds to other countries in Africa in an attempt to boost its leadership role as well as improve the struggling African economies.

The current Moroccan King, King Mohammed VI, has confidence in the continent’s abilities and wishes to lead Africa to success. He has made Morocco the second largest investor in African affairs.

Environmental Benefits

The positive environmental impact is often considered when looking at renewable energy. Morocco is heavily invested in combatting climate change and the environmental crisis the world is facing. Along with many green policies, Morocco is implementing the Green Generation 2020-2030 plan to help farmers conserve water and energy and grow crops more efficiently.

In addition to its pivot toward solar energy, Morocco is developing an environmental code to reduce pollution and work toward a greener society.

A Brighter Future

Morocco’s turn to solar energy is improving the living standards of its residents and empowering the country in the political arena all while reducing the harmful effects fossil fuels have on the planet. While Morocco has seen hard times, it is propelling forward and bringing the continent of Africa along with it. As Morocco constructs more solar resources and spreads its influence to other African nations, it plays a significant role in poverty reduction.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jordan

While known for political stability in a region associated with civil wars and political violence, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does have its fair share of struggles when it comes to the economy. Poverty in Jordan is the outcome of many factors shaping the country’s economic struggles. The kingdom has a scarce amount of natural oil stock in its eastern desert, and the country is heavily reliant on foreign importing to meet its energy needs, constituting up to 30% of its total imports.

The country also happens to experience a wide range of issues like meeting only half of the population’s water demand, only 2.6% of its land being arable, an average labor participation rate of 38.1%, an unemployment rate of 23.9%, millions of refugees from Iraq, Palestine and Syria and a debt crisis consisting of 95% of the kingdom’s gross domestic product. All of these issues tend to result in very problematic numbers for poverty in Jordan.

Effects of Poverty on Jordan’s Youth

While poverty in Jordan affects people of all ages, a look at Jordan’s children tends to give a grim view. The population of children in Jordan is around 3 million. Of this number, 0.6% of them are considered to be multidimensionally poor, which is defined as deprivation regarding health, education, living standards as well as experiencing poor quality of work, hazardous environments, disempowerment, and living under the threat of violence.

Poverty in Jordan tends to particularly affect the refugee populations. The number of Syrians in Jordan living below the country’s poverty line is 78%. For Syrian children, 94% of those of age up to 5 years old experience multidimensional poverty. When it comes to malnutrition, 17% of the children are malnourished due to poverty in Jordan. The infant mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 children.

Green Innovation

One of the issues that relate to poverty in Jordan, as previously mentioned, is the issue of resource shortage. Addressing this is one way to combat one of the effects of poverty in Jordan. To overcome those challenges, the Hashemite Kingdom is spending more than $5 billion in renewable energy as a way to become more self-sufficient. Solar energy is already saving money for the local population with one religious clerk saying the bills necessary to generate electricity for his mosque used to be up to $18,350 per year. Now, that cost has gone down to near zero.

In 2012, 11 renewable energy projects were launched in the Maan province alone. Since then, the growth of the kingdom’s reliance on green power has resulted in 11% of the nation’s total power relying on renewables in 2019. It is estimated 15% of today’s households have solar-based water heating systems. This investment in renewable energy will make Jordan less dependable on foreign oil markets. It will also drive economic growth through job creation. An estimated 40 million new jobs could exist by 2050. Meeting energy demands, self-sufficiency, reducing the costs of power and economic growth will help in alleviating the poverty in Jordan. This will have a direct effect on children, the most powerless and vulnerable to the effects of poverty in Jordan.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Energy in EgyptThe poverty rate in Egypt rose to 32.5%, or 32 million people, in 2018. Energy use is rising in Egypt by 6.5% per year, but a disproportionate reliance on finite gas and other conventional energy resources has placed the future of Egyptian energy sustainability and environmental goals at risk. Under the Egypt Vision 2030 initiative, the country has recognized an important need to reduce carbon emissions. This, along with the country’s abundance of sunlight and wind, means that Egypt could very well move toward dependence on renewable energies. This is increasingly important as the growing demand for electricity has exposed the lack of access in Egypt, especially in rural areas. Lack of access to electricity is an issue that the world’s poor face and renewable energy in Egypt could be key to alleviating poverty in the country.

Shifting to Renewable Energy

The Egyptian Government began its shift toward energy security through increased renewable energy in 2014, when it partnered with the World Bank to institute energy sector reforms and attract $2 billion worth of investment for renewable energy sources. Before that, the government had large, inefficient fuel subsidies that outweighed expenditures on social protection, health and education and did not even target the Egyptian poor. This time period also saw frequent power shortages, which contributed to overall social unrest.

By committing to generating 20% of electricity through renewable energy sources by 2022, the Egyptian government showed a comprehensive commitment to energy sector reform. This has helped to create a welcoming political and economic environment for private sector investment, strengthening the shift toward renewable energy in Egypt, which creates the spillover effect of helping the country’s poor, whom energy shortages are likely to more severely affect.

The Benban Solar Park

The result has been several large deals with international banks to finance projects like the Benban Solar Park, which will be the largest solar project in the world once completed. The government received over $650 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to construct the 13 solar power plants that are part of the project. This new initiative will provide power to more than 350,000 Egyptians and generate more than 6,000 for building greater renewable energy in Egypt.

Other Benefits of Energy Reform

The partnerships with the World Bank and the IFC have other benefits, like freeing government spending to go toward social initiatives. By instituting energy reforms, the Egyptian Government was able to double spending on social protection for the poorest 20% of the population. So, while projects like the Benban Solar Park will themselves contribute to a cleaner, more efficient energy security that will benefit those living in poverty, the means by which these projects are funded also enable the government to focus more of its spending on alleviating poverty.

Energy Reform and Poverty in Egypt

The Egyptian Government has partnered with international institutions like the World Bank to reform its energy sector. Past overdependence on gas and oil along with inefficient fuel subsidies placed Egypt’s future energy security at risk while exacerbating problems the nation’s poor faced daily. The country has shown a commitment to clean energy initiatives, which benefit Egyptians living in poverty in two main ways. First, they increase access to power and electricity. Many of those living in rural communities do not have consistent access to electricity, so this reform directly benefits them. Additionally, it benefits the impoverished indirectly by freeing up government spending for increased expenditure on social protection programs. Thus, the future of renewable energy in Egypt is bright and it has the potential to alleviate the struggles of millions of Egyptians.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Aquaculture for Poverty Reduction
Can aquaculture reduce global poverty while improving ocean health and the renewable energy crises? The short answer is that aquaculture for poverty reduction is possible. Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic animals and plants, such as fish or seaweed. Aquaculture is prominent in coastal communities, particularly in eastern regions of the world. Here is how such a simple concept could resolve the complex aforementioned issues.

Progressing the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the intent to create a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

The first goal is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and the eighth goal is to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

In order to fulfill both of these goals, countries must prioritize creating decent jobs and incentivizing productive employment to create sustainable economic growth. Aquaculture provides employment opportunities for those impoverished in coastal and rural communities across the globe and provides nutritious food that can often be hard to access without monetary resources. A prime example of aquaculture’s socioeconomic contribution to said communities is that of the Mwenezi district of Zimbabwe. Members of the district were facing decreased employment availability due to severe weather conditions. Their dilemma caught the attention of several NGOs that introduced fish farming as a way to increase employment opportunities. Not only did employment opportunities increase, but household income and food security increased as well.

Ocean Health: Nitrogen

In 2014, between 18.6 and 37.2 million tons of nitrogen that people used for global fertilization ended up in the ocean. As a result, 245,000 square kilometers of the ocean suffered from hypoxia. Hypoxic areas, also known as dead zones, cannot support marine life as there is not enough oxygen dissolved in the water.

If global production of seaweed reaches 500 million tons by 2050, the World Bank estimates that the ocean could absorb 10 million tons of nitrogen. That is just 30% of the predicted amount of nitrogen that enters the ocean. This would undoubtedly improve oceanic conditions for marine life by preventing dead zones.

Ocean Health: Carbon Sequestration

Part of carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon to mitigate the effect of greenhouse gases on the ocean. Excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes ocean acidification and negatively impacts the health of marine life. Carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the ocean making it more acidic than usual, and in turn reduces the availability of minerals that corals, mollusks and other organisms use to form shells. Increased seaweed production would combat the amount of carbon dioxide added to seawater from greenhouse gas emissions. For example, 500 million tons of seaweed could absorb 135 million tons of carbon. Moreover, due to the positive effect of carbon sequestration, the profitability of seaweed farming could increase.

Renewable Energy

Seaweed farming, a subset of aquaculture, has the potential to create a highly efficient form of renewable energy called biomass. Biomass is material that comes from plants or animals and can be effective for energy production. In 2015, nearly 5% of the United States’ energy came from biomass, making it the largest form of renewable energy. According to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), seaweed farming in the United States could reach production levels of up to 500 million tons of algae which would provide more energy than 23 billion gallons of gasoline.

Dry seaweed has a carbohydrate content of roughly 50%, which people can use for biofuel production. In concurrence with ARPA-E, the World Bank stated that if 500 million tons of dry seaweed underwent harvesting annually, it would produce around “1.25 billion megawatt-hour’s worth of methane or liquid fuel.” This amount of renewable energy would equate to 1.5% of the 85 billion megawatt-hours of fossil fuels used worldwide in 2012.

Global Aquaculture Alliance

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that began its operation in 1997. Its mission is to “promote responsible aquaculture practices through education, advocacy and demonstration.” The following are successful manifestations of this mission and shows the benefits of aquaculture for poverty reduction.

In 2019, GAA conducted an educational campaign called Aquaculture 101. The purpose was to spread awareness and inform people on the basics of aquaculture, particularly those skeptical of fish farming. GAA has also funded a joint project with the Marine Ingredients Organisation to better understand fisheries in Southeast Asia that are responsible for providing raw material for fishmeal production. While the fishmeal sector has grown exponentially over the course of 50 years, the two organizations seek to better understand the challenges undermining management practices so that they may make informed suggestions. Furthermore, Best Aquaculture Practices, a subset of GAA, has seen a 15% increase in producers operating in 36 countries from 2010 to 2019. Producers include processing plants, farms, feed mills, hatcheries and reprocessors. This is an incredible trajectory that shows the GAA’s impact on aquaculture across the globe.

Aquaculture for poverty reduction has proven to effective while providing decent employment opportunities to create sustainable economic growth. Moreover, it has shown its capacity to improve the health of the ocean and provide new forms of renewable energy so that the world may sustain its current energy standards. Organizations like the Global Aquaculture Alliance and the Marine Ingredients Organisation are working toward these goals so that the world may become a more habitable place for all.

Mary Qualls
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Energy in BurundiRanked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations’ human development index, Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries. Approximately 65% of Burundians live below the poverty line. Furthermore, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. This article will highlight challenges relating to accessing energy in Burundi and the early successes of some solutions.

An Unsustainable Lifestyle

Most Burundians live an agrarian lifestyle; approximately 80% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population lives in rural areas. Of the 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity, and 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. Unfortunately, 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year. Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to help source firewood. In fact, only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation and increases carbon dioxide levels. The resulting carbon emissions decrease air quality and damage the ozone layer, causing climate change.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. Preventing malnutrition in Burundi would cost $102 million per year.

The SAFE Initiative

Thankfully, the Burundian government joined with the World Food Program in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative. The initiative introduces fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy accessibility for impoverished communities in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi:

  1. Currently, 485,000 persons have received and benefitted from fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. Institutional stoves that have reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools.
  3. Fuel-efficient stoves have significantly reduced air pollution. The utility of each batch of firewood increase by up to fivefold, decreasing each family’s firewood intake by about 11.5kg per day.

However, the country is still primarily dependent on biogas from firewood. Fortunately, the location and climate of the country lend themselves to the renewable generation of energy in Burundi, mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi partners with energy investors to build its private sector. Hopefully, this partnership will boost Burundi’s economy, sparking expansion in the commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Ultimately, expanding beyond an agrarian society will lift Burundians out of poverty.

Hydroelectric Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. The country is located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region and surrounded by potential energy sources such as the Malagarasi river (475 km). With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, hydroelectric power technologies only serve 9% of the population. But, Burundi is making strides with its new development projects:

  1. The Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company developed this system with financial support from multi-national developers and the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and an energy production goal of 675GWh, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade fed by the Kivu Lake. Ruzizi III is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region; Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: This project is another partnership with Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda. The Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV will have a capacity of 287-MW. Additionally, the African Development Bank Group has approved an $8.9 million grant to support the development.

Access to Solar Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi also holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The country is located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters and extremely sunny weather. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

With success, millions of households and industries will soon have accessible energy in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity is improving the quality of basic services including health, education and security services. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions. Hopefully, with help, more Burundians will escape the cycle of poverty.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr