Renewable 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 its 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 a trouble that the world’s poor face and renewable energy in Egypt could be a key to alleviating poverty in the country.

Renewable Energy in Egypt

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 of private 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.

Solar Energy Projects

The result has been several large deals with international banks to finance projects like 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 as part of the project. This new initiative will provide power to over 350,000 Egyptians and generate over 6,000 for building greater renewable energy in Egypt.

Money for Social Programs in Egypt

The partnerships with the World Bank and the IFC have other benefits, like freeing government spending for spending on 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 cleaner and 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 Sector Reform 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. 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

Solar Power to IndiaElectricity will be one of India’s largest concerns in the next few decades. The population is both increasing and urbanizing. The International Energy Agency predicts that India will have almost 600 million more electricity consumers by 2040. Currently, India’s power grid coverage is inconsistent. About 360 million people live without electricity because the grid does not extend to their homes, while another 20 million people have only an average of four hours of electricity per day. With India in desperate need of new, efficient sources of energy, solar power is in demand. The Indian government encourages solar power and offers subsidies for small businesses and individual homes. For India’s poorest citizens, solar is still a major investment that can be difficult to afford. SELCO offers solar power to India that is affordable and made for India’s poorest citizens.

SELCO Solar Power

Harish Hande and Neville Williams co-founded SELCO in 1995. Headquartered in Karnataka, India, SELCO has more than 500 employees in operates in rural areas of Karnataka and surrounding southern states. SELCO offers a range of off-grid, completely solar-powered machines targeted toward rural Indians.

Its unique, localized financial model also means that it is able to provide products to people who traditionally would not be able to afford them. As stated on its website, a key myth that SELCO wants to dispel is that poor people cannot afford or maintain sustainable technology.

Affordability of Solar Power

To successfully bring solar power to India, SELCO argues that poor people cannot afford the traditional financing necessary to pay off these technologies. It has seen success from customizing payment plans to individual situations, which allows people to pay installments in sync with their own schedule instead of a bank’s set schedule. Today, Hande lobbies banks to allow for greater financing flexibility and international institutions including the United Nations now provide financial assistance after seeing the success of SELCO’S unconventional financing methods. This has allowed SELCO to grow at an annual rate of 20%, providing 450,000 “solar solutions” in the region.

It operates 25 satellite branches and a technician is less than two hours away from every customer. Technicians speak local languages to foster trust. Limiting its reach allows SELCO to adhere to its mission while making a profit. While institutions such as the World Bank have doubted whether providing solar to the rural poor can turn a profit, SELCO’s model allows it to defy expectations.

Flexible Solar Solutions

Just like its financing, SELCO’s products are successful because of flexibility. For example, Hande learned that many people needed light in multiple rooms but could not afford that many lights. So, SELCO devised a plan where it installs multiple electrical points but provides only one or two lights. The idea is that they don’t need lights on in every room at once and can move the bulbs from room to room. Sales soared. Being in tune with community needs allows SELCO to understand the needs of India’s rural poor and tailor solutions that other companies might not consider.

Besides lights, SELCO offers a range of solar-powered commercial and home products, from water heaters and sewing machines to milking machines and photocopiers. SELCO’s goal is to provide a new solar option every month. With the solar industry only expected to grow in the foreseeable future, expect SELCO to be at the forefront of bringing solar power to India.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

BECO’s Solar Power, Bringing Cheaper, Cleaner Energy to SomaliaIn June 2020, Somalia’s largest electricity provider, BECO, announced the opening of a new solar power plant in the capital city of Mogadishu. BECO is the only company that provides electricity for Mogadishu, Afgooye, Balad, Barawe, Kismayu, Marka, Jowhar and Elasha. Although the company turned to solar power primarily to cut down on the cost of diesel fuel, its decision will have the added benefit of lowering air pollution. Additionally, BECO’s solar power plant will grow in capacity over time and lower electricity bills. BECO’s solar power plant could have a significant impact on Somalis, lifting many out of poverty.

Electricity in Somalia

Lack of access to electricity is widely cited as a large contributor to poverty. Without electricity, families don’t have a non-polluting source of energy for cooking. Refrigerators are unusable. Children can’t do their homework after dark. Communities can’t access all that the Internet offers for education and upward mobility. Hospitals and schools can’t offer full services. As a result, increasing access to electricity is often a goal of development efforts.

Somalia has particularly struggled with a lack of access to electricity. Before the civil war broke out in 1991, Somalia had a national power grid that produced 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the whole country. But the power grid was destroyed during the war and private corporations now provide any electricity available to residents. Currently, BECO produces 35 MW of power for eight cities, which is much less than its demand of 200 MW. Many Somalis avoid using electricity in order to avoid the monthly costs as 69% of Somalis are currently living in poverty.

Power companies in Somalia heavily rely on imported fossil fuels for diesel-powered generators. These generators are CO2 emitters and can heavily pollute the air. Despite the widespread use of generators, Somalia has only 106 MW of power nationwide, according to the United States Agency on International Development. The World Bank reported in 2018 that 64% of Somalis didn’t have access to electricity.

BECO’s Solar Power Plant

Because Somalia struggles with a lack of electricity and high electric costs, BECO’s new solar power plant has the potential to positively impact many people’s lives. When it opened, the power plant had the capacity to produce 8 MW. The solar power plant is only in use four hours a day, with BECO’s preexisting generators providing the rest of the electricity that the city needs. But residents’ electric bills have already gone down.

With the addition of the solar power plant, electricity costs in Mogadishu have already dropped from $0.49 to $0.36 per kilowatt-hour. BECO had originally decided to invest in solar power because of the high cost of importing diesel fuel for generators. By cutting costs, the company can offer cleaner energy at a more affordable price.

BECO plans to invest $40 million to bring the plant’s capacity to 100 MWp by 2022. This increase would enable the power plant to produce more electricity than twice its current output. However, the success of the solar plant will depend on battery storage.

Somalia’s Potential Future with Renewable Energy

BECO’s solar power plant is just the first step in Somalia’s possible path toward renewable energy. The African Development Bank reported in a study that Somalia had a greater potential for renewable energy than any other country in Africa. Onshore wind power could produce up to 45,000 MW of electricity. Solar energy has the potential to produce 2,000 kWh/m². If other Somali electric companies follow BECO’s example, Somalia’s electrical production could increase many times over.

It’s fortunate that in Somalia’s case, solar power is more affordable than the alternative. Simple market forces might solve Somalis’ lack of access to electricity. Although constructing facilities to produce solar power is expensive, companies would be able to provide electricity more cheaply and easily if they switch from importing fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a result of this cost decrease, electric bills would drop considerably as well. Once electricity becomes significantly cheaper, more Somalis will be able to access its benefits. BECO’s solar power plant is already reducing costs, and there’s no reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Solar Energy in Rural Madagascar
Tech companies Groupe Filatex and Bboxx are teaming up to extend their solar panel services to rural Madagascar. The companies aim to install 170 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2022. In a country that receives about 2,800 hours of strong sunlight every year, implementing solar energy in rural Madagascar can be a “viable way to go.” Roughly 85% of Madagascar’s population has no access to electricity and they do have a national grid. Providing solar energy in rural Madagascar can give the people of Madagascar electricity, thus improving their way of life and reducing poverty.

Solar Energy Versus Fossil Fuels

Some argue that implementing solar energy can help alleviate poverty. Providing “access to a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water.” Some consider it a better alternative to the current option of expanding electricity. The current option involves fossil fuels, which can be impractical and expensive.

Also, solar energy can be a cheaper option compared with fossil fuels. Many villages in Africa use kerosene lamps as a source of light. Kerosene can cost a household from $40 to $80 per year, compared with solar lamps which can cost between $27 and $35. Kerosene can also emit pollutants proven to be dangerous to health. Examples of these health hazards are respiratory and eye infections, kidney or liver problems, and house fires.

Solar Energy Benefits

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can be the first step out of poverty by providing new skills and sources of income. An example of this is Barefoot College’s program for “solar engineers.” These engineers are from rural areas and are taught to install, repair and maintain solar lighting units to promote rural solar electrification. Consequently, this boosts incomes for poor villages.

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can help reduce current poverty levels. About 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is higher than the regional average, which is 41%.

Growth in Economic Development

Despite the high poverty rate, Madagascar has experienced a growth in economic development. During the past five years, Madagascar’s economic growth increased to around 5%. This was due to a peaceful transition after years of political instability and economic stagnation. The peaceful transition was considered “instrumental to this economic revival.” It contributed to “restore investor confidence, reopen access to key export markets, reinstate flows of concessional financing and encourage structural reforms.”

Implementing renewable energy is not new to Madagascar. In 2014, the Madagascar government decided to take on intensive reforms. With the help of the World Bank, the government started the Electricity Sector Operations and Governance Improvement Project (ESOGIP). The objective of the project is to increase production capacity and reduce energy loss. It also aims to expedite progress on renewable energies to provide a reliable, more affordable alternative to expensive and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators. The goal is to provide energy access to 70% of households by 2030.

The World Bank offers many solutions to reducing poverty in Madagascar. One of the main solutions is providing electricity. The more affordable, electrification in rural areas — the better the quality of life will be for citizens of Madagascar.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

saltwater into clean drinking waterAccess to clean drinking water is a major issue that continues to affect individuals around the world. Further, an estimated 35% of the entire world population lacks access to “improved sanitation,” for which, access to water (generally speaking) is imperative. The CDC estimates that more than 700 million people live without direct access to an “improved water source,” which includes drinking water, proper household plumbing and wells. As of 2018, new solar-powered technology can now supply individuals with direct access to drinkable water by transforming saltwater into clean drinking water. Innovative technology, it seems, may play a pivotal role in helping to solve yet another global challenge.

GivePower & Solar-Powered Technology

GivePower is an innovative nonprofit behind solar, saltwater farms. Comprised of 20-foot-tall containers and accompanied by solar-powered panels and water pumps, these farms are designed to supply deficient countries with safe, drinkable water. The containers hold 75,000 liters of saltwater, every day. Through clean solar energy, this saltwater is converted into safe drinking water and delivered to surrounding villages. Such technology is relatively new, as saltwater is difficult to convert into freshwater. This is due to its makeup and strong chemical bonds. Therefore, saltwater’s conversion into clean water takes a large amount of energy and money to fund. GivePower, however, can cut the costs by using solar energy to powers its saltwater farms.

In 2018, GivePower built its first saltwater farm in Kiunga, Kenya. An extreme drought had caused Kiunga to experience a major shortage of potable water for cleaning, drinking and cooking. At this time, the city’s only source of water came from saltwater from the Indian Ocean. Individuals living in Kiunga would often contract harmful diseases due to this lack of clean water. GivePower acknowledged this issue and intervened by using its technology to convert the abundance of saltwater into safe, usable water. Not only does the saltwater filtration technology provide more water than typical wells — but it also has a lower impact on the environment through the use of renewable, solar energy.

A Global Impact

This technology has helped to address the water crisis in other countries as well. In many developing countries, it is common to have an abundance of saltwater and a lack of clean water. Due to its high sodium content, individuals consuming large amounts of this saltwater can become very sick. Waterborne diseases such as Vibrio and E. coli can contaminate saltwater, causing severe symptoms and in extreme cases, death. By turning contaminated saltwater into clean drinking water, many communities cannot only increase the availability of clean water but decrease the prevalence of waterborne diseases as well.

Through the innovative technology of GivePower, over 19,000 gallons of safe drinking water has been provided to 25,000 individuals per day within the Kiunga community. Although the company started in Kenya, GivePower has already extended to communities around the world by supplying over 2,000 solar-powered systems to schools, villages and facilities in need of freshwater.

The Path Ahead

As GivePower and other organizations continue to develop technology to turn saltwater into clean drinking water — thousands of individuals around the world can obtain direct access to safe water.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Google Images

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in the Philippines
Electricity in developed countries is free-flowing and abundant, but there is a struggle to find a reliable and consistent power source in developing countries. In the Philippines, there is a struggle to provide the people there with sustainable electricity, particularly in rural areas. Reliable energy sources are a constant problem for those trying to live their daily lives and create a steady local economy.

The Situation

Nearly 30% of Filipinos do not have access to electricity or experience brownouts. Brownouts are unintentional or intentional drops in the amount of voltage that an electrical grid puts out. This reduction in electrical power occurs when there is an increased use of electricity and too much demand on the system. At times, energy providers will deliberately reduce the amount of power to avoid a full blackout of the entire system. Brownouts are common occurrences in the Philippines and can severely impact the lives of the people and those who rely on a rural-based economy.

Economic Impacts

According to a study that the Philippine Institute of Development published, those in rural households who run their own businesses would benefit directly from a steady stream of electricity going to their homes. For example, farmers who operate in rural areas will be able to increase production on their farms by bringing in equipment that can run during the day and night. This type of access could also allow them to expand their businesses into food processing and food storage to bring additional income to their household. Electricity in the Philippines can be a significant determinant in the daily lives of business owners.

Solutions

Despite the current state of access to electricity in the Philippines, there are signs of significant growth and improvement. The Philippines Development Plan for 2017-2022 has set a target to achieve universal electrification by 2022. A company called Solar Philippines that operates out of Manila is making strides to reduce brownouts and lack of electricity access. It has installed a solar-powered battery farm in Paluan, a remote area of the country that had previously had no access to electricity. Now, this area has enough consistent electricity for the nearly 20,000 people who live there. The company hopes to build solar farms like these in every town in the Philippines and provide lost cost electricity for those who use it.

Recently, the company proposed replacing the coal power plants currently in use throughout the country with 5,000 MW solar farms to provide clean energy. With these solar panels, the Filipino government will be able to save over 20 billion pesos in subsidies, which can go toward other programs to help the countries poor.

Brownouts are a severe problem for those living in rural areas of the Philippines. Economic growth must occur so that the country can improve the electricity it provides. Solutions are available that will give millions of people access to electricity in the Philippines, improving the lives of those who so desperately need it.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Solar WashWith the rapid spread of COVID-19, public health and hygiene habits are being promoted unlike ever before. The importance of handwashing has been particularly emphasized as it is, according to The World Bank, “one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease,” including COVID-19. However, in many countries where access to clean water is rare, disease and unsanitary conditions present an even greater threat.

Access to Water in Ghana

In Ghana, more than five million people utilize surface water to meet their basic needs.  Utilizing contaminated water is often the only option many people have. However, it leaves populations vulnerable to water-related diseases, infections and illnesses. In many cases, this discourages populations from practicing handwashing, taking daily baths, and ensuring their body is sufficiently nourished. As a result, the transmission of water-related diseases increases. This establishes and encourages poor hygiene, sanitary and personal care habits.

Solar Wash

Two native Ghanian brothers, Richard Kwarteng and Jude Osei, have developed a solar-powered handwashing basin in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and “encourage regular hand-washing etiquette,” Kwarteng said. The invention, called Solar Wash, uses just a few components. It comprises of an alarm, a sink, a sensor, a faucet, a motherboard and a solar panel. Solar Wash resembles a regular hand-washing sink but works in an even more hygienic, sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Solar Wash’s sensors ensure users do not have to physically touch the faucet’s tap. First, upon sensing motion, the sensor dispenses soapy water and enacts an alarm for 25 seconds. This is in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). After the 25 seconds, the tap dispenses just enough water for users to conclude washing their hands. Solar Wash acts as a handwashing station for 150 people during just one charging cycle.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is working with Kwarteng and Osei. They are working to ensure the continuation of Solar Wash manufacturing and its accessibility to people in all of Ghana.

Global Potential of Solar Wash

Solar Wash emerged in Ghana as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, continued manufacturing and placement of the invention would greatly improve conditions around the world, particularly those living in poverty. Continued use of Solar Wash, or similar technology, would:

  1. Reduce the spread of water-transmissible diseases – According to the CDC, “about 1.8 million children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.” The spread of pneumonia and diarrheal diseases can be significantly reduced with proper handwashing practices, protecting “about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.”
  2. Offer a sustainable solution to the global water crisis – In 2019, about two billion people were living in a country engulfed by high water stress. In other words, there were about two billion people without access to enough water to fulfill their basic needs. To globally address the water crisis, the world needs an affordable, sustainable and accessible solution, which Solar Wash offers.
  3. Reduce global poverty – UNICEF and the WHO said, “over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.” This contributes to the spread of many diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19, diarrheal diseases, cholera, adenovirus and salmonella. By reducing the spread of these infections, illnesses and diseases, populations have a lower chance of being engulfed by poverty. They will be able to work, attend school and so forth.

Conclusion

Innovations like Solar Wash demonstrate simple but important practices and solutions needed to alleviate poverty. Solar Wash offers a simple, affordable and sustainable means of practicing handwashing with its simple build and technical structure. An innovation like Solar Wash can play an immense role in reducing health-related concerns in Ghana. It can also help throughout the world with continued production and implementation.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr