solar energy in chinaThe People’s Republic of China is one of the largest global economies today. Since it was reformed in 1978 to open itself up to the world, more than 850 million citizens were lifted above the poverty line and GDP growth has been on average 10% a year. However, poverty is still a large problem in the country, as 373 million Chinese citizens live in poverty today. The Chinese government implemented the Solar Energy for Poverty Alleviation Program (SEPAP) in 2013 as a means of helping its most poor citizens.

5 Facts About Solar Energy in China

  1. Progress so far: Solar energy in China has already helped many provinces. Between 2013 and 2016, 211 pilot counties reported an average per capita disposable income increase of 7-8%. Counties were chosen for the initial phase of the program primarily for their solar radiation levels and secondarily for their local economic conditions. SEPAP had the greatest impact in the eastern part of the country and the poorest counties saw the greatest increase.
  2. Government plans: The government is planning to install more solar energy to alleviate poverty. After its initial success, SEPAP aims to install more than 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity across the country. The government plans to target the poorest parts of eastern China, where solar energy had the greatest impact in the pilot counties, and it estimates that the new solar energy will benefit more than 2 million people across 35,000 villages by the end of the year.
  3. Goals: The goals of SEPAP’s five year plan are ambitious. Officials intend to create a “new normal,” switching economic growth and services from an investment-led approach to a consumer-led approach. From 2015 to 2020, they plan to achieve an 18% reduction in carbon intensity, 15% reduction in energy intensity and have 15% of primary energy come from renewable sources. This is all part of promoting an “ecological civilization” that focuses on green policies and technologies.
  4. Finances: The financial side of the program has a lot to consider. SEPAP researchers believe that quality access to electricity and employment opportunities in solar energy should be considered as future policy as well. This is because the program may cost $4.2 billion throughout its five year implementation period, and research into the proper allocation of funds for solar energy in China must be conducted in order to preserve the economic effects.
  5. Poverty reduction: The community solar programs and similar renewable energy generation projects across the world all seek financial benefit from energy generation in order to alleviate poverty at the county or village level. Some of the revenue from these projects also go towards public welfare projects that reduce poverty as well.

Overall, solar energy programs are not an end all be all solution to China’s poverty problem. However, the communities they are able to provide with relief show significant improvement in income. Solar energy might not fix everything, but it does open up many possibilities in China’s future.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Flickr

Today, 70 percent of Africans and 95 percent of those living in rural areas do not have access to electricity. Although many countries are still lacking access to electricity, there are some inspiring leaders making a difference in establishing electricity in Africa.  Particularly, George Mtemahanji has spearheaded the movement towards implementing solar energy in Tanzania.

Bringing Solar Energy to Tanzania

Mtemahanji was born in Ifakara, a Tanzanian village located in the Kilombero District of Morogoro Region. In his village, poverty rates are very high and education completion rates are very low. As a young adult, Mtemahanji was able to pursue his education in Italy. Mtemahanji’s passion for clean energy grew throughout high school and technical college, where he studied to become a renewable energy technician. Upon graduation in 2012 from IPSIA Ferrari, Manuel Rolando and Mtemahanji co-founded SunSweet Solar Ltd. The company designs and installs Solar Hybrid Microgrid Systems that supply electricity to rural communities in Africa, and more specifically, in Tanzania.

SunSweet Solar

Connecting rural areas to the power grid is an expensive process. However, solar energy has the ability to cut these high costs in the long-term. SunSweet allows customers to purchase energy via mobile phones, expanding energy access to schools and hospitals. Families who live in rural areas can also connect to power easily for a mere 15 cents per day. As of 2016, the technology has been implemented throughout six villages and provides energy to about 25,000 people.

One system, the Eco-Friendly Village Solar system, can meet the energy demands of a village 24 hours a day. This system is durable, where it can roughly last 20 years before needing to be replaced. Additionally, there are systems in place to help communities avoid electrical blackouts. This is especially meant for villages that are not connected to the national electrical grid (off-grid).

Impact on Medical Dispensary

With the collaboration of the Kilombero District Council, SunSweet has designed a solar photovoltaic system that has the capacity to satisfy the energy demand of an entire medical dispensary. Further, the system will provide energy each day for more than 25 years.

Called the RuDEK (Rural Dispensary Energy Kit), this kit has the ability to store energy for emergency dispensaries in less than three hours. First installed in 2016, the system stores additional energy for rainy seasons and cloudy days. By supporting dispensaries, more people will receive high-quality health services. Some of the direct benefits include women giving birth with more than candlelight, vaccination and medication storage in a refrigerator, and doctors having clear visuals of ailments.

Educational Benefits of Solar Energy in Tanzania

SunSweet’s first major contract was installing a solar power plant at the Benignis Girls Secondary School. The system aimed to support 236 lights, dozens of computers and fans in a majority of the classrooms. Though this was logistically challenging, SunSweet was successful in the project. With the installation of the solar power plant, students’ testing performance increased from 81 to 94 percent.

Looking Forward to a Bright Future

Two years after the company’s inception, SunSweet Solar was nominated for the prestigious Anzisha Prize, an award for young entrepreneurs in Africa. The exposure given to the company has attracted many opportunities that will support energy development throughout Africa. Further, support from Denmark, Brazil and Sweden will launch the company to take on greater projects.

Mtehamanji has since spoken with the Tanzania private sector foundation, the Tanzania investment center, the Tanzanian rural electrification agency, and many others to implement sustainable energy. With an official FuturaSun partnership, an Italian company, and a contract for a future partnership with Trine, a Swedish company, the future of SunSweet Solar looks as bright as ever.

Janice Athill

Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy Developments in Malawi
Solar energy developments in Malawi are helping its local communities maintain sustainable energy. Bwengu Projects Malawi provides teachers in high-needs schools with solar-powered LED projectors in Bwengu, the northern countryside of Malawi. This solar energy initiative partners with local providers and financial institutions to connect new solar farms to the power grid. Additionally, USAID is collaborating with solar power companies to provide solar home systems for homes in Malawi.

3 Solar Energy Developments in Malawi

  1. Solar-powered LED Projectors: In 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that 53 percent of Malawi’s population was under the age of 18. Classrooms often swell to 150 students per teacher, and schools experience poor maintanence. Moreover, there are not enough books and resources for students. To help assuage these issues, Bwengu Projects Malawi established itself to help support community and educational projects in Northern Malawi. Most recently, it developed Whole Class Teaching Kits which includes solar-powered LED projectors. It connects with an android tablet and pertains to Malawi’s junior and secondary curriculum. This tablet installs with 20,000 pages of lessons and notes which teachers can then project on the wall. Volunteers regularly visit the schools to maintain the equipment and add additional schools that qualify for the project. Reports show that attendance is up at schools with teaching kits and in the case of one school, passing rates increased from 27 to 65 percent.
  2. The Bwengu Solar Park Project: A local initiative in Bwengu to bring more energy to the community is underway with the creation of solar farms that will feed into the energy grid. The development began in August 2019  and should generate approximately 50 megawatts of renewable energy per year to feed into homes and local businesses in Malawi. The construction of the facility is located on 125 acres in Ulalo Nyirenda village, a piece of land just 1,000 meters from the Bwengu Escome Substation power grid. QUANTEL announced the project in May 2019, a renewable energy producer. More than a dozen other energy companies have signed on to the deal to create the Bwengu Solar Park, marking a milestone in creating a sustainable energy supply in Malawi. The agreement that local and international stakeholders made complies with both United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS III) and comes as demand for energy in Africa, population and industrialization all grow. Feasibility studies in Africa to scale up affordable solutions to meet these needs also drove it.
  3. Solar Home Systems: With financial backing from USAID, a collection of applicant companies like SolarWorks!, Vitalite, Yellow Solar and Zuwa Energy are aiming to deliver electricity to more 100,000 households in Malawi before 2023. However, the energy that these companies provide is uniquely off-grid. Solar Home Systems (SHS) is a focus of the Malawi Government National Energy Policy of 2018. One of the solutions that the policy put forth was off-grid solar energy for households that is easy to deploy and gives sufficient electricity for mobile charging, radio use and lighting. Currently, Malawi has only an 11 percent electrification rate and only 4 percent for rural areas, such as Bwengu. The SHS Kick-Starter Program not only has the design to increase access to energy but also to grow private sector business and provide companies with multiple supports, including operations support, capital and financing over the next three years. USAID has committed $2 million in grant funding and there are many financial backers, such as the Malawi Government and national banks. Among the energy providers are M-PAYG, an SHS pay-as-you-go service for low-income households in the developing world to give them off-grid, solar energy access. According to the Nordic Development Fund, the solar energy that SHS provides, such as M-PAYG, can level the gender playing field as well. Many expect schoolgirls to do household chores and homework in the morning before school. However, if families have access to reliable electricity, girls will have more time in the evenings to finish homework assignments before bedtime. This allows them to sleep in for longer before doing their morning chores.

These three solar power developments in Malawi come at a time when the population is expanding and demand for energy is growing. Cooperating charities, policymakers, national banks and energy providers have successfully powered the developments with support from the government and international community in line with sustainability goals. From these examples, one sees that the educational field has especially benefited from these innovative technologies in spite of historically poor conditions.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty
Since the 1970s scare, the state of the earth, specifically in regards to climate change, has been a hot topic of conversation in the scientific community. The degradation of farmlands, dangerous weather patterns and the gradual deconstruction of global ecosystems are becoming more apparent. With a growing cause for concern, scientists, corporations and individuals have come to understand that a change must occur.

On the other hand, alleviating global poverty is a pressing issue also. The world could dramatically reduce international poverty with longterm investment and adequate programming. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine where to allocate resources. Despite this conundrum, three companies have proven that resource allocation might not have to be a choice if they become sustainable companies reducing poverty. The Plastic Bank, Chr. Hansen and M-KOPA have dramatically improved the lives of impoverished and/or food insecure individuals while maintaining a corporate focus towards alleviating global sustainability issues.

3 Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty

  1. Plastic Bank: The Plastic Bank is a Canadian company that started in 2013 with the goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean. Impoverished and overpopulated areas with little to no waste management systems are primary sources of ocean plastic build-up. The organization works with local residents in Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and soon Brazil to mitigate plastic waste by mobilizing locals. It accomplishes this by imploring the citizens to collect and deposit plastic buildup in exchange for credits that they can use to buy necessities such as food, medicine and cleaning products. Not only does this reduce individual waste production, but it improves the lives of those who partake in the exchange and those around them. Plastic Bank has committed itself to the implementation of activities to educate these communities about ecological health and the science of sustainability in addition to trading labor for goods.
  2. Chr. Hansen: Chr. Hansen began in 1873 as a single pharmaceutical factory and has grown into a global force in food production and sustainability. In 2019, Corporate Knights acknowledged the Denmark-based company as the world’s most sustainable company. The organization continues to pursue these sustainability goals through the improvement of natural food longevity agents and reducing dairy waste. Further, the company floods investment into alleviating food insecurity with a primary focus on the second U.N. Sustainable Development goal. To accomplish such a goal, the company works with local agencies and/or other civil society organizations to support local, small-scale dairies in developing countries.  Chr. Hansen also devotes attention to the dairy market in Northern Africa where camels are more common than cows. Through this work, the company is investing in research about processing for preservation to decrease camel milk waste and giving local residents affordable access to these products.
  3. M-KOPA Solar: M-Kopa Solar is a Kenya-based company that has implemented solar power to over 750,000 homes and businesses in the region. Not only does the company provide clean energy, but these highly efficient systems also provide low-cost energy to the user. M-KOPA provides rural and off-grid individuals with the comfort of electricity that would otherwise be fiscally or physically inaccessible. Not only do the consumers benefit from the energy but there is also potential to profit from the sale of that power to others. Providing this energy permits consumers to focus less on how to afford power and gives them autonomy. M-Kopa is one of the few African-based sustainable companies reducing poverty within the residing country. This organization is working to expand its reach further through Kenya and into other regions.

These companies have proven that resource allocation is not a choice. These three sustainable companies reducing poverty have done so through corporate missions and societal impact initiatives.

Kayla Brown
Photo: Unsplash

Pollution in Africa
Africa is a continent that is in a state of impoverishment; as of 2015, 413 million citizens of Africa live in poverty. Due to a lack of resources, Africa struggles with maintaining its environment and reducing its pollution levels. The pollution in Africa is becoming worse as the state of poverty worsens. Impoverished communities rely heavily on their environmental state, and people should place the issue of pollution at a higher importance. Here are 10 facts about pollution in Africa.

10 Facts About Pollution in Africa

  1. Water Pollution: The quality of the water accessible to those in Africa is essential; according to a study in 2009, “water is said to be a national asset… one on which [their] economic and social development” relies upon. A major cause of water pollution in Africa is the throwing of general waste into local bodies of water. Communities in poverty do not usually have the funding to create proper waste-management systems so they pollute their water supplies instead.
  2. Metal Pollution in Soil: Once a water source suffers pollution, the contaminants can spread into the soil that supplies food and economic activity. People have found metals from local waste in the soil of major agricultural plots of land. The metals found have now become a public health risk due to the already high levels of pollution in Africa. Areas could implement better filtration devices to reduce metals in soil.
  3. Air Pollution: Air pollution is Africa’s biggest environmental risk. Air pollution is a major problem throughout all of the world with over 90 percent of people living in a place that does not meet WHO air quality guidelines. In Africa, air pollution is becoming the most dangerous environmental risk that residents face. South Africa specifically faces higher air pollution because of a lack of governmental enforcement of laws preventing pollution. Local environmental groups are suing the South African government so that it may make a change.
  4. Emissions: Africa produces a high amount of emissions due to its lack of resources. Everyday life including cooking, waste-management and heating of items adds to the current state of air pollution because citizens have to make fires for their different needs. Emissions in impoverished communities cause a different kind of pollution that affects the direct community at high levels. Road vehicles and outdoor forms of heating are examples of low-level emissions that cause air pollution in Africa. The industrialization that could prevent outdoor pollution is in progress but still requires attention to prevent emissions.
  5. Acid Rain: Acid rain is becoming more prevalent due to pollution. Coal-burning in South Africa causes occurrences of acid rain. Coal-burning derived air pollution releases dangerous gases that can poison plants, contaminate communities and produce damaging acid rain. A factory in South Africa was responsible for the emission of 1.84 million tons of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tons of nitric acid in 1987. Further enforcement of environmental laws could reduce the acid rain that large coal-burning companies cause.
  6. Children and Air Pollution: Children are at an especially high risk of death by air pollution and children that expose themselves to outdoor pollutants are more likely to suffer the effects than adults. The spread of diseases air pollution causes are negatively impacting the life expectancy of children. Around 7.8 million people will die prematurely from direct or indirect exposure from emissions specifically caused by cooking. Children require more medical attention and environmental education to reduce air pollution in Africa.
  7. Multination Companies: Multinational companies play a part in pollution. Environmental faults from multinational companies and trade activities are continuing to add to the pollution in Africa. Governmental enforcement for laws requiring business and trading activities to be more environmentally friendly is low. Companies and trading acts cause the release of gas, oil spills, waste accumulating on the ground or in water and the lack of higher technology, increasing air and water pollution.  Further development of resources will help reduce the pollution from multinational companies and trade activities.
  8. The United Nations Environment Programme: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that an estimate of  600,000 deaths every year relate to pollution in Africa. The UNEP is providing aid to the leading energy and global transport organizations, and some of the UNEP’s focuses are on fuel economy and development of infrastructure. Programs that the UNEP has implemented include the Global Fuel Efficiency Initiative, Share the Road, Partnerships for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Africa Sustainable Transport Forum and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The pollution in Africa will decrease if programs like the UNEP continue their hard work.
  9. Air Sensors: Air sensors are creating a cleaner way of life in Kenya. Air quality and pollution in Africa is an ever-evolving issue and demands ever-evolving solutions. Particles in the air small enough to enter the bloodstream are becoming more evident and Kenya is in dire need of change. According to the WHO, the fine particulate matter in Nairobi, Kenya is 70 percent above the maximum level. The WHO has implemented sensors that can read the particles in the air and determine the safety level.
  10. Africa’s Potential Green Revolution: Once Africa properly takes care of its plentiful resources, it has the potential to start a green revolution and save millions. In East Africa, residents have pioneered off-grid solar energy and created a model that other African regions could follow. These residents’ governments plan on investing in solar and wind power plants which would provide clean and affordable energy. Energy by solar and wind plants will reduce the amount of pollution in Africa because residents will no longer have to use low-level energy methods which destroy air quality.

Pollution in Africa is in a state of emergency. Air pollution is the biggest environmental danger to Africa currently; air pollution only increases due to a lack of higher-level infrastructure to reduce air emissions. Local enforcement of regulations on multinational companies and trade activity should benefit Africa’s environmental state.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

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

The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Complex

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

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

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

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

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

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Growing Energy Sector
Zambia is improving livelihoods, especially for those residing in rural areas without electricity access, through investing in its growing green energy sector. About 70 percent of the population—more than eight million Zambians—lack electricity and could benefit from clean, affordable and reliable power. Electricity access in rural regions is less than 10 percent. Zambia is changing that statistic by focusing on providing affordable and widespread green energy to the nation. Zambia is currently one of the top 10 producers in hydroelectric power, but it is currently focused on diversifying into underappreciated areas within Zambia’s growing energy sector.

Green Energy Developments

The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) emerged in 2016. Sweden funded the BGFZ and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) manages it. The aim is to provide affordable and clean sustainable energy to Zambia. The program works with the government to provide power for rural areas. As of 2019, more than 100,000 households, reaching 500,000 Zambians, received power as part of the program.

The program’s goal is to reach 1.6 million Zambians by 2021. BGFZ and its partners have created more than 1,100 jobs, about 2.3 MW of energy and affected more than 1,400 businesses. According to a study on the BGFZ program’s impact on the population, more than 25 percent have opened new income streams thanks to electricity access. Also, 87 percent of people in the survey stated that they spend less on lighting and power. Participants in the study mentioned that not having to use candles also alleviates potential fire hazards and helps them feel more at ease with children at home.

Enel Green Power, a renewable energy business, will build Zambia’s first power plant as part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program. It will be a 34 MW solar PV plant in Ngonye and is part of Zambia’s goal of diversifying its energy sector and providing power to the entire population. Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) carries out the project. Enel owns about 80 percent of the project and the IDC owns 20 percent.

“With the connection to the grid of Ngonye in Zambia, we are reconfirming our commitment to helping the country leverage on its vast wealth of renewable resources, which poses a great opportunity for growth,” said Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Green Power. The facility should generate 70 GWh once complete.

Widespread Impact of Power

Electricity provides much more than a simple electric light in a room. It enables schools to use the technology they could not utilize without power. Computers, calculators and lights to illuminate a chalkboard are all benefits that appear simple but are important in educating and developing a country. Educating a country is yet another way of reducing poverty, yet that is hard to achieve without electricity, whether from green sources or traditional sources.

Health care is another area that Zambia’s growing energy sector impacts. Equipment, such as x-ray machines, requires some sort of power and providing electricity to almost 70 percent would affect more than 8 million Zambians. An important and basic aspect of developing a country is electricity access, as an economy cannot thrive without a widespread and reliable power source. Zambia understands that developing the energy sector, particularly green technology, is the first step to not only sustainable energy and economic development, but also the health of its people.

Outlook

Zambia’s growing energy sector is improving thanks to involvement from businesses, the government and the World Bank. One of Zambia’s largest food suppliers is constructing an approximately $42 million 50 MW solar farm, demonstrating that major businesses are also transitioning into affordable and sustainable energy sources. Zambia’s impact on providing electricity to its people has only begun in recent years, yet its progress shows promise in helping to develop the economy through increasing electricity access.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Honnald Foundation

In today’s fast-paced and technological world, it is easy to take everyday things for granted. Millions of people have lights, electric stoves and numerous electronic devices at their fingertips. However, there are an estimated 1.1 billion people across the globe who do not have access to basic electricity. These areas often lack development from big companies that would create job opportunities. Thus, it is no surprise that many areas that suffer from “energy poverty” are among the same areas that hold the highest rates of international poverty. Rock climber Alex Honnold identified the intersection between electricity and poverty and decided to take action. In 2012, Honnold created his own nonprofit organization called the Honnold Foundation.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is known for his role in the documentary “Free Solo.” The adventure climber rocketed to fame when he became the first climber to ascend Yosemite’s 3,000 foot El Capitan wall without the assistance of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. He has gained a large international following from his successful climbs of the biggest cliffs in the world. But, Honnold is equally well known for the strong work ethic and humble attitude he carries with him.

As Honnold began to gain attention for his impressive climbing skills, he had many opportunities to join climbing trips to various remote places around the world that were sponsored by different brands. In preparation for his travels, Honnold would often read books about each of his destinations to learn more about the area. He soon began to develop an understanding of climate change issues, social justice efforts and environmental problems. Honnold also witnessed them first-hand in many of his expeditions. On an eye-opening trip to Chad in 2010, Honnold recalled driving through entire villages without access to power.

Developing the Honnold Foundation

Honnold continued to educate himself on these issues. In 2012, Honnold and his longtime climbing partner Maury Birdwell dreamed up the Honnold Foundation. Its vision is to fight poverty, improve lives and reduce environmental impact via solar projects around the world. Poverty and global warming were the two most concerning issues that came up repeatedly in Honnold’s research and experiences. Honnold and Birdwell found that both issues could be resolved by the promotion of solar energy.

They developed the idea on the way home from a climbing trip. With Yosemite as their office, the founders of the Honnold Foundation tweaked and honed their ideas into a cohesive and forward-thinking organization. Honnold believes that access to electricity is essential to improving people’s lives. Since its inception, Honnold has consistently given a third of his income to the Honnold Foundation each year.

Honnold Foundation’s Focus

The Honnold Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that provides funding for solar power initiatives that tackle global energy inequality through environmentally sound means. In recent years, the organization has honed in on four main nonprofit organizations: SolarAid, GRID Alternatives, The Solar Energy Foundation and Northern Navajo Solar Entrepreneurs. Each organization focuses on a unique element of solar expansion and share the unifying mission of transitioning people to solar energy.

There have been several projects to date. One project furthers the efforts of SolarAid to replace polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps in Malawi and Zambia with solar ones. Another is advancing pay-as-you-go financing for solar energy systems in Ethiopia through the Solar Energy Foundation. It installs affordable solar power through GRID Alternatives to off-grid low-income communities. Furthermore, it promotes solar education in community hubs and supports long-term entrepreneurship programs to increase solar energy in Navajo communities.

Solar power is cheap, reliable, safe and variable in its applications. When asked about the great work he is doing with solar energy through his foundation, Honnold often brings the attention back to what this energy is doing for the people in these communities. Many organizations exist to support the basic necessities of food, shelter and water, which are all essential components. Without electricity, there can be no sewing machines or rice mills. Job opportunities are scarce.

Solar electricity gives people access to education, better living conditions and economic advantages. Solar power helps reduce environmental impact worldwide, but especially in regions that have never had electricity in any form. It can’t be expected for those living in poverty to care about sustaining the environment when their own basic needs aren’t being met. The Honnold Foundation aims to shed light on both the planet and poverty.

GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Gambia’s Solar Park
In 2019, the Gambian government announced that it would construct a solar park, the first 150 MWH utility-scale park in the nation. Apart from the government’s greater initiative to improve the Gambia’s energy reliability and affordability, the government plans to launch the solar park in two phases: an 80 MWH unit set for 2021 and a 70 MWH unit set for 2025.

The Background

Prior to national elections in 2016, the Gambian government struggled with a decreasing GDP, poor macroeconomic performance and high liabilities from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and other state-owned enterprises. As cited in a 2018 World Bank report, the governing bodies of SOE’s such as NAWEC were highly inefficient and caused internal dysfunction under President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership. The government’s inconsistent budget support to NAWEC resulted in a “fiscal drain on public resources” and inadequate energy supply.

Therefore, as apart of the region’s master plan to increase energy availability to the public, the current Gambian administration will conduct a study measuring the feasibility of implementing a 150 MWH solar park. The park will connect to a substation in Soma, The Gambia, which is a grid infrastructure that should increase electricity access in the nation by 60 percent. The feasibility study will have three primary objectives:

  1. To select the land for the solar park.
  2. To finalize solar power station details.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Dispatch Center.

The Process

In selecting land for The Gambia’s solar park, consultants will choose a land size of around 250 Hectares within a 20 km perimeter from the Soma substation. They will conduct studies that measure the potential constraint to connect the substation to the park. Once consultants choose an ideal site, they will proceed to finalize aspects of the power station. The power station will produce shifts in solar energy for two to three hours toward the peak of each evening. Through a detailed study, consultants will need to confirm the phases required for the installation of the park and proceed to undertake a diagnosis for the creation of a dispatch center. Through a diagnosis, consultants will be able to construct an “evaluation of required investments in capacity building (research, training), and modernization of the network (hardware equipment, software, smart grid technology, etc.).”

The government plans to construct the park not only to provide further electricity to The Gambia’s citizens but to also reduce the electricity costs for SOEs and the government. The government plans to remove the system of auction organized with public-private partnerships (private banks, etc.) as a means to reduce the cost of electricity for SOEs and citizens.

As the first of its kind, The Gambia’s solar park will increase Gambians’ access to electricity by 25 percent. The park will serve as one of the administration’s first steps in transforming the nation into a hub for sustainable energy.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr