Lighting Papua New Guinea Program
Papua New Guinea is an extremely remote island nation located across from Indonesia on the same piece of land and just north of continental Australia. Despite a small population of just 8 million people, the island is very diverse — it is home to more than 800 unique languages and more than 10,000 ethnic groups living throughout the 600 total islands. More than 80% of the inhabitants live in rural locations, however, there are “only 18 people per square kilometer,” making Papua New Guinea “one of the least densely populated” nations on the planet. Only 13% of the total population has access to electricity. The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program has created innovative solutions to provide power to this underserved part of the world.

The Perfect Climate for Solar Power on Papua New Guinea

The majority of the islands of Papua New Guinea experience more than “300 days of sunshine” every year, presenting the perfect solution and climate to implement large-scale solar power projects. The Lighting Papua New Guinea program primarily focuses on remote areas deep in the wilderness, where the majority of the population lives. Since the start of 2014, the program has provided power to 1.8 million people, approximately 22% of the nation’s total population.

Before the Lighting Papua New Guinea program started islanders would go hours at a time without any substantial light. Students struggled to complete their homework and other essential tasks were much more difficult. Most families only had dim kerosene lamps to use for reading and cooking. The islanders have expressed their satisfaction with the program, noting how portable and dependable solar power is, as well as the difference the program has made in their quality of life.

International Support and Growth of Papua New Guinea’s Markets

The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program receives financial support from both Australia and New Zealand. Remote villages and other hard-to-reach locations have benefitted the most with small business profits rising through selling solar power products and household costs decreasing thanks to more efficient energy solutions. According to the energy advisor of the program, Subrata Barman, a whole new market for solar power in Papua New Guinea took root by creating awareness about high-quality lighting solutions and drawing interest from global manufacturers to partner with people living in Papua New Guinea to take the products to those who need them most.

The Lighting Papua New Guinea program’s partner, Lighting Global, is the World Bank Group’s project to provide off-grid energy through solar power to 1 billion people worldwide who lack electricity. Origin Energy Australia has provided those living in Papua New Guinea an affordable business model, by paying a monthly rate for solar-powered lights and cell phone chargers, as well as radios that rooftop solar panels power.

The model is completely new for many islanders who have never had the opportunity to use banking and credit services. Origin Energy Australia has also provided home solar power kits distributed by salesmen who travel from village to village. The kit costs $250 and follows the same pay-as-you-go system as Origin’s other solar products, with a required 20% deposit and the rest paid over a period of 12 months. Thus far, the kits have been a huge success in providing affordable solar lighting and improving citizens’ quality of life.

Papua New Guinea Leading the Way in Off-Grid Solar Power

Through the Lighting Papua New Guinea program, Papua New Guinea has developed into a world leader in advocating for solar power. Replacing kerosene lamps with solar-powered products throughout the nation has reduced greenhouse emissions by approximately 28,000 metric tons per year which has the same impact as “taking 6,000 cars off the road.” Australia, New Zealand and the Lighting Papua New Guinea program are utilizing their partnership to increase private sector investment throughout not just Papua New Guinea but the Pacific as a whole in order to mitigate poverty throughout the region. Papua New Guinea is hopeful that 100% renewable energy is possible by the year 2050 throughout the entire nation.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Unsplash

Litro De LuzSolar energy may be the key to combatting poverty worldwide, with 13% of the global population lacking access to electricity in any form. In addition, this energy deprivation threatens financial security for the world’s poor. Energy access facilitates growth out of poverty by improving conditions for health care facilities, creating healthy living environments and empowering young people to pursue education.

Solutions to energy deprivation are necessary to combat global poverty. Two organizations pioneering technology solutions for energy poverty are Litro de Luz and SELF(Solar Electric Light Fund). Moreover, both organizations utilize solar energy to aid in the development of impoverished communities.

Solar Energy and Poverty

The use of solar energy is beneficial in the fight against energy deprivation and climate change. In China, for example, solar energy provides electricity for over 800,000 impoverished families. This solar energy has a direct financial impact, as one county in China witnessed an increase of $400 per household, in annual income after the installation of solar technologies.

However, the benefits of solar energy are not limited to financial growth. The increasing use of solar technology protects the climate and preserves air quality. Energy sources such as solid fuels, coal and biomass contribute to air pollution and are a safety hazard for families in the areas of their use.  The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million people die each year from the effects of air pollution. Emission-free energy sources, such as solar energy, are vital to protecting the health of future generations.

Light from Plastic Bottles

Beginning in 2012, Litro de Luz provided light to over a million impoverished families throughout the world by utilizing the invention of Alfredo Moser. Born into poverty, Moser experienced the power outages that plague Brazil, his home country. In 2002, during one such power outage, the idea for an electricity-free light source came to him. Using water, bleach, and a plastic water bottle, Moser was able to light his whole house.

His invention soon spread throughout the world, reaching the ears of Illac Diaz, a Filipino nonprofit director, in 2012. Inspired by the work of Moser, Diaz created Litro de Luz (Liter of Light) as a solution to the crippling poverty he saw in his country. Building off Moser’s invention, Diaz created light-made plastic bottles, solar panels, batteries and LED lamps to bring light to areas in the Philippines that lacked electricity. Since then, Litro de Luz has spread to impoverished communities throughout the world, from Asia to Central and South America.

The Need for Light in Impoverished Communities

While electric light is taken for granted in the US, its importance cannot be overlooked. The light provided by Litro de Luz plays a vital role in the growth out of poverty by empowering students and strengthening healthcare facilities. Without light, students cannot study during the night, making it far more difficult to do homework and succeed in school. Even during the day, reading and writing without a lamp can be difficult, especially during the winter. Litro De Luz is able to increase the amount of time students can dedicate to school. This opens doors to higher education and high-income jobs that enable economic mobility.

For hospitals and other health care facilities, lack of electricity and light is a dangerous threat. Without light, surgeries and care at night are nearly impossible. Most consequentially, infant mortality rates are significantly higher in hospitals without access to light. Some hospitals are forced to use phone flashlights and headlamps as the only source of light for nighttime childbirths, increasing the risk of mistakes that threaten the lives of the mother and child.  The work of Litro de Luz in protecting the lives of people needing medical attention and enabling financial mobility is crucial in the fight against global poverty.

Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) Provides Solar Energy

Founded in 1990 by Neville Williams, SELF started out as a small organization working to install and finance home solar systems throughout Asia. In 1997, Williams stepped down as the executive director. Her replacement, Bob Freling, had a larger vision for the organization. He knew that solar energy could be utilized for more than just singular homes. Freling saw the role of solar power in improving health systems, education, and food resources. Freling’s first project under the model of community support was the establishment of a computer lab at a high school in South Africa. After its creation, school enrollment increased by 40% and graduation rates rose by 15%. Since then, SELF pioneered projects throughout the world shifting communities away from fossil fuels and fostering sustainable growth out of poverty.

Looking Forward

Work by organizations such as Litro de Luz and SELF impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. From 2000 to 2021, the number of people without access to energy dropped by 9%. While energy deprivation still affects the lives of 940 million people worldwide, the work of Litro de Luz and SELF provides a model for future efforts to raise the standard of living for this vulnerable population.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

solar panels in SenegalIn Senegal, close to a quarter of the total population lacks access to electricity, with rural communities enduring the least access. In May 2021, two new photovoltaic solar plants opened in Kael and Kahone, two towns located in Western Senegal. The plants will provide electricity for 540,000 citizens at a low cost. The addition of the solar power plants form part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program and are funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank and Proparco. The project estimates that more than 400 jobs in the towns benefit from the existence of the new solar power plants in Senegal. Because Senegal mainly relies on imported oil for electricity, solar power plants offer a more reliable and sustainable green energy source that costs less. Access to electricity is critical for the economy and businesses, improving people’s daily lives in several ways.

Poverty in Senegal

With roughly half of the total population living above the poverty line, significant improvements are needed to lift more people out of poverty. Roughly 75% of the Senegalese population depends on agriculture as their income source. Another primary industry in Senegal is mining. Senegal’s economy rises and falls, following global trends of prices. When export prices fall, farmers suffer the adverse effects since their incomes decrease. Many Senegalese people lack access to education, healthcare and other essential services. As a result of economic hardships, many people migrate from Senegal in hopes of finding better work.

Electricity in Senegal

Access to electricity plays an important role in the economy and contributes to reducing poverty. Senegal relies heavily on oil imports for fuel. Roughly 80% of Senegal’s energy is “oil-based.” The prices of imported oil fluctuate, and recently, prices have been high. The combination of no access to electricity, power cuts and limited electricity infrastructure takes a toll on the economy, especially businesses. Individuals also face hardships in their homes with a lack of lighting and energy to power appliances.

The Solar Power Plants

The solar power plants are located in Kael and Kahone, two small towns that rely on agriculture and have high poverty rates. Lack of electricity access is higher in rural areas similar to Kael and Kahone in comparison to urban areas. The new solar plants in Senegal bring opportunities for employment, improved conditions in workspaces and homes and affordable electricity costs.

Solar power plants in Senegal form part of the strategy for increasing access to electricity, focusing on regenerative sources. Senegal’s government wants to become an emerging economy by 2035 and the energy sector is one of the major components of Senegal’s growth. Rural areas remain the most challenging areas to install power grids. However, with low incomes, rural people struggle to afford the high costs of electricity. Solar energy from the new plants costs less than four euro cents per kilowatt-hour, making the energy more affordable than oil-based electricity and more accessible to rural areas with high poverty rates.

Attracting Investment and Igniting Economic Growth

These renewable energy projects attract potential investors to Senegal, giving the country even more opportunities to increase sustainable energy, including hydro, wind, thermal and off-shore natural gas. Senegal is also home to “the largest solar farm in West Africa,” with many private home-installed solar power systems. More micro-financing options and interest in infrastructure improves economic growth and increases access to electricity for those in low-income areas.

Although poverty rates are high in much of rural Senegal, one solution is growing the energy sector, which will improve the economy. The inability to access electricity puts a major constraint on economic growth. Solar power plants in Senegal bring people much-needed electricity at a low cost. Renewable energy sources are critical as the world is depleting its oil reserves. Bringing sustainable energy solutions to people living in poverty positively affects development indicators such as “health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods and poverty reduction.” Senegal is on its way to success as more and more countries switch to earth-friendly energy.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Unsplash

SELF
Many developing nations struggle with energy poverty, which is defined as “a lack of access to modern energy services.” According to Energypedia, “access to energy is a prerequisite of human development.” Electricity is also essential for the “provision of social services such as education and health.” Energy access also links to the economic growth and development of a nation. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a nonprofit organization with a mission of harnessing solar energy to support social and economic development in disadvantaged communities.

Benefits of Solar Power

According to ZenEnergy, the use of solar energy helps to decrease the effects of climate change by reducing fossil fuel reliance, air pollution and water usage. Solar energy does not burn fuel, eliminating the harmful gas emissions that stem from fossil fuel energy production. Additionally, unlike the finite nature of fossil fuels, solar energy is abundant. Furthermore, solar energy does not require water to generate electricity. Solar power is a cost-effective and sustainable renewable energy source that can help reduce energy poverty throughout the world.

Addressing Energy Poverty

SELF implements solar projects to sustainably create energy, which provides for basic human needs and economic development. When SELF was first established in 1990, the organization began by fitting individual home solar-powered systems. However, the company yearned to make a larger impact with more long-term benefits. As a result, SELF adjusted its goals to include the creation of a business model “that could be self-sustained in communities” in developing countries. Thus, the Whole Village Development Model was born.

This “all-encompassing approach” utilizes solar energy from the sun to power entire villages while improving “healthcare, education and food security.” In 2001, SELF celebrated the opening of its first “solar-powered computer lab” in a high school in Maphephethe, South Africa. Due to these solar-powered capabilities, student enrollment at the school increased by 40% and graduation rates rose by close to 15%.

Solar Power in Developing Communities

Although the entire world can benefit from solar energy, impoverished countries are especially targeted to improve air quality and reduce health issues linked to the burning of fuelwood, reports Science Direct. Solar photovoltaic is a type of technology that can provide renewable energy in impoverished communities. This particular solar source eliminates the financial burden of grid extensions. Grid extensions are not viable options in communities with scarce traditional energy sources. For many developing countries, solar energy provides the opportunity for a better life, and, environmental sustainability is a bonus.

Overseeing Vaccine Refrigerators

Among other projects, in partnership with PATH, “an international nonprofit global health organization” located in the U.S. state of Seattle, SELF recently pledged to enlist evaluation teams to ensure vaccine refrigerators are functioning effectively in vaccination sites around Haiti, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Developing countries often lack proper mechanisms to monitor the efficiency of vaccine refrigerators. The goal of the partnership is to provide this assurance.

Two solar technicians from SELF are responsible for visiting 42 sites in Haiti to evaluate refrigerators on a monthly basis. After a one-year evaluation, SELF analyzes the data and reports on it to the World Health Organization. As inadequate refrigeration can have adverse public health implications, the vaccine cold storage monitoring project is just one example of the important work SELF does to support global communities aside from solar energy projects.

SELF’s Commitment to Disadvantaged Communities

Presently, SELF is working on several different projects with the main objective of improving living conditions in developing countries. Some of its projects include bringing clean water to West Africa as well as expanding micro-grids and providing solar training in Haiti. SELF continues to light up communities in need with new projects and approaches that harness the sustainable power of the sun.

Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Electrifying the Rural Amazon
In the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, communities of people currently live on islands with no electricity. The Tucuruí hydroelectric dam on the Tocantins River in the Amazon provides electricity to countless people but not to those living in the area. In 2013, nearly a quarter of those living in this region lived in “favelas” or slums and 12,000 people were without electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon could improve the conditions of those living there.

Bringing Power

The Brazilian government’s original plan was to connect isolated communities to the national power grid. However, this was not feasible due to Brazil’s difficult terrain. The landscape made it very challenging to reach certain remote regions. Oftentimes, these remote areas have plenty of renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and water. This means that off-grid solutions, such as individual solar panels, can be much more effective in reaching these areas. Thus, a new plan emerged.

Omexom, through its Brazilian branch (VINCI Energies), plans to install mini photovoltaic power plants to bring electricity to these isolated communities. From January 2019 to January 2020, Omexom was supposed to install 1,361 solar panel systems to the islands surrounding the dam. Each of these solar panels has a capacity of 1.8 MWp, which is enough power to run lights and household appliances on the farms. This is all part of the Brazilian government’s program “Luz Para Todos.” This endeavor aims to provide electricity to more than 10 million people living in the rural areas of the country without access to the grid. Electrifying the rural Amazon and other rural areas in Brazil can help the country in a multitude of ways, including poverty.

How Electricity Helps Poverty Reduction

Very few farms on these islands have access to diesel generators for power as they are expensive. Many families use oil lamps for light and preserve food using ice they must bring back from the mainland daily. Renewable resources could help increase the quality of living for these families through sustainable development. In turn, this could reduce poverty overall.

According to an environmental research letter, “Electrification provides a solid basis for development of local communities.” Access to electricity aids communities in accessing other vital resources. Safe potable water, improved health conditions and food security are all linked to available electricity. By-products, such as time saved and less pollution, also aid the community.

Electrifying the rural Amazon can help improve Brazil’s Human Development Index (HDI) score. Studies have shown a clear connection between HDI and electricity consumption. One study even concluding that electricity consumption promotes human development. In the case of Brazil specifically, the states with the highest HDI score were also the states with the highest electrification levels in the country.

Lighting Up the Future

Brazil can help improve the lives of the rural populace by simply giving these communities access to electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon will help the people isolated by the Tucuruí dam and many others across the rainforest. With increased access to electricity, inhabitants can obtain a higher quality of life and have more opportunities in life. Electricity for those who live off-grid can help to decrease poverty levels. It is time to bring poverty-reduction efforts to the rural areas; it is time to electrify the rural Amazon.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Solar Taxi ProjectThe African country of Ghana is making significant gains in the realms of sustainability, female empowerment and poverty reduction. The Solar Taxi initiative is a project that focuses on producing solar-powered electric vehicles for use across the country. Started in September 2018, Ghana’s Solar Taxi project was launched by Kumasi Hive in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. The initiative aims to alleviate poverty, create employment and protect the environment.

Solar Taxi’s 3 Main Benefits

  1. Environmental Benefits. Ghana’s Solar Taxi project is all about using clean, renewable energy to solve problems. Utilizing solar power is a perfect fit for Ghana because the country receives 1,800-3,000 hours of sun annually. In addition, electric vehicles produce fewer carbon emissions than standard vehicles. Solar Taxi assembles a variety of vehicle options, including motorcycles, tricycles, sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs. All of these vehicles would typically require an electrical charge in order to function. However, the existing national electricity grid in Ghana is extremely unreliable. Solar Taxi instead designs solar hubs to provide an alternative source of power independently. These charging hubs can be found in four key Ghanaian cities. The progress of Solar Taxi brings Ghana closer to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030.
  2. Social Benefits. Solar Taxi strives to uplift Ghanaian women through extensive training programs and employment opportunities. The project set up the Solar Taxi Female Engineering Academy that teaches young women to assemble solar vehicles. The Academy has instructed 60 women so far. Academy facilitator, Erica, says that it is “a place of mentorship” giving women “the exposure to be confident.” Ghana’s Solar Taxi project actively empowers women in a society that places limitations on what women can achieve. The training gives students valuable problem-solving skills and engineering experience. The Female Driver Training Academy teaches local women how to safely operate and maintain electric vehicles. The academy also provides women with the support and education to obtain a driving license and become drivers for Solar Taxi.
  3. Financial Benefits. The Ghanaian startup also proves to be financially viable. Fuel prices in Ghana are already high and recent price increases only put more strain on companies and vehicle owners. The solar-driven technology completely cuts out fuel expenses. The cars that Solar Taxi assembles are used in the driving services it provides and others are made for sale to the public. In doing this, Ghana’s Solar Taxi project is expanding the reach of electric cars and bikes to members of the community. Those without a vehicle can conveniently request a ride with the Solar Taxi app at an affordable price. By making transportation readily available, this service has the potential to reduce poverty rates in Ghana. Whether someone needs to get to a job interview or buy clothes for a new job, Solar Taxi is playing a key role in energizing Ghana’s economy.

Looking Ahead

Though the startup is only a few years old, it is creating significant benefits for citizens. Solar Taxi gives Ghanaian women the opportunity to break gender norms and enter the solar-powered vehicle industry. In addition, the cost-effective energy source is relieving financial burdens in an environmentally conscious manner. Solar Taxi is certainly contributing to a brighter future for Ghana.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

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

Electricity Access in the SahelOn March 11, 2021, the World Bank approved $22.5 million of funding for the Regional Off-Grid Electricity Access Project (ROGEAP) in the Sahel region of Africa. This region is one of the most impoverished areas in the world and few residents have access to electricity. However, the funding expects to increase electricity access in the Sahel by turning to a new source of energy — solar power.

Electricity Access in Sahel Region

The Sahel region stretches across the Sahara desert and includes the countries of Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, among others. Besides having arid climates, the common denominator for countries in the Sahel region is poverty. None of the countries mentioned above have a GDP per capita of more than $3,000, and with this lack of capital, comes a lack of electricity access. Furthermore, approximately 50% of the 340 million people living in the Sahel region do not have access to electricity, representing one of the lowest modern electricity consumption rates for any region on Earth. Insufficient generation, high petroleum prices and lack of financing for large electricity grids have all contributed to the area’s low connectivity.

This lack of electricity access in the Sahel has had destructive physical and economic effects on regional residents. Several public health centers lack sufficient energy generation, which puts the lives of patients requiring electricity for survival at great risk. Furthermore, rural areas of the Sahel often lack any electricity, forcing residents to use firewood in traditional stoves for cooking, which has led to adverse health effects from smoke inhalation and the dangers of cutting trees for fuel. Even if the electrical grid reaches some rural areas, most families cannot afford the cost. Many countries in the region currently generate more than 90% of their energy from expensive diesel or heavy fuel, which results in high energy costs for both the urban and rural impoverished. Without any policy changes, energy poverty will continue to ravage the Sahel region for the foreseeable future.

Turning to Solar Power Solutions

Thankfully, solar power presents an exciting new possibility for expanding electricity access in the Sahel. Experts see the Sahel as an area with massive solar potential, as many people living there, especially those in rural communities, have access to vast areas of flat land needed for solar panels. Furthermore, off-grid (individually owned) solar power systems present the lowest-cost energy option for 65% of the rural population in the Sahel region. Off-grid power sources are already becoming regional hallmarks as many residents live a significant distance from the power grid. According to the International Energy Agency, about 70% of Africa’s new rural power will come from off-grid power sources by 2040.

Seeing this potential, the World Bank increased funding for the Regional Off-Grid Electricity Access Project (ROGEAP) by $22.5 million. Grants from the International Development Association and the Clean Technology Fund have made this funding possible. The main goal of ROGEAP is to support the development of stand-alone (off-grid) solar products and the advancement of the solar market in a unified effort to boost electricity access in the Sahel. This project will assist in accelerating the deployment of stand-alone solar products, provide credits and grants for off-grid solar home systems and coordinate policies and standards to develop a prosperous regional solar market.

How ROGEAP Will Help

  1. It will provide electricity for public health centers and schools, which will, in turn, improve health and education in the region. The projected increase in the standard of living will likely lead to more people being able to secure well-paying jobs to support themselves and their families.
  2. It will create jobs within the blossoming solar market for people of all skill levels. Transitioning to solar power creates the need for jobs in installation, transportation and infrastructure industries. Additionally, entrepreneurial ventures in solar power will likely sprout from the new funding.
  3. It will improve the output and ease of production for many different jobs. For example, farming communities can use solar water pumps for easier irrigation and milling communities can use new solar milling equipment for more efficient production.

Lighting the Way Forward

By supporting the advancement of stand-alone solar products, ROGEAP aims to enhance electricity access in the Sahel for more than a million residents. The project will increase the use of solar power across the region and subsequently provide electricity for homes, schools, hospitals, farms and small businesses that previously lacked connection. The new funding will likely have a positive impact on health, education and employment in the region for decades to come. If the World Bank and other international agencies hope to continue this endeavor of expanding electricity access in developing regions of the world, projects supporting stand-alone solar power sources like ROGEAP seem to be a winning solution.

Calvin Melloh
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

Makes Seawater Safe
A finalist in the 2021 Lexus Design Award, Henry Glogau created a skylight device that has the potential to solve water shortages worldwide. Glogau has utilized natural resources like sunlight and seawater. With these resources, he created an indoor desalination system that makes seawater safe to drink. The system has already provided drinking water and indoor lighting to homes in Antofagasta, Chile.

How the Skylight Makes Seawater Safe to Drink

Someone has to hand-pump the salty seawater into the skylight. From there, the solar panel absorbs sunlight, which heats the water to the point of evaporation. The evaporation turns into condensation. The condensation drips down to the bottom half of the skylight. There, a spout controls the release of the desalinated drinking water. The skylight can produce up to 440 milliliters of water a day. It takes the salinity of the seawater from 36,000 ppm, past the minimum drinkability at 500 ppm to a miraculous 40 ppm. The skylight leaves behind salty brine in the water. The device, however, lets nothing go to waste. Salt batteries generate a diffused light from the leftover brine.

Free Lighting

Not only does the device provide drinking water, but it also provides free natural lighting to many lacking it. Power lines generate life for many families in settlement homes in Chile. The boarded windows of the homes block out natural light, unfortunately. The boarded windows increase privacy and security. The natural light from the skylight, along with the salt battery-powered light strip for the nighttime, is a great, cheap alternative that allows families to not have to live in the dark. The skylight creates soothing light patterns on the floors and walls during the evaporation to condensation processes.

Implementing the Skylight in Antofagasta

Antofagasta, a city in Chile, utilizes the skylight. Antofagasta is a very dry, coastal region where there is a limited flow of surface water. A water sustainability study in 2016 found Antofagasta to have the most severe water scarcity index of five main Chilean regions. This region possessed a value of 24.4.  This value excludes the ecological flow requirements. The value rises to 51.6 with the inclusion of the flow requirements. The mean annual runoff for this region is 930 liters per second. Demand for this region is 22,704 liters per second.

In the Antofagasta area, there are approximately 110,000 families without access to clean water. The skylight innovation makes seawater safe, providing clean water to many families. Many people in Chile live in compartimentos. Chile categorizes compartimentos as eight or more houses lacking legal property and having access to one basic service. For many people, the service they lack is water. The privatization of resources such as water makes clean water difficult to afford. This is why the work Glogau has done is so important for these communities. To increase the impact of this system, the people of Antofagasta are participating in local workshops on desalination that uses renewable resources. Hopefully, more communities around the world suffering from lack of access to clean drinking water will utilize this system.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr