Female Solar Technicians
In February 2022, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) teamed up with Renew Power, the prime renewable energy company in India and the Indian Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to train 1,000 women in Gujarat, India, to become solar panel and solar pump technicians. The project provides women who previously worked as salt farmers in India with the opportunity to develop fulfilling, well-paying careers in the solar energy industry. The program may eventually extend to other areas of India and help more women gain financial independence and security. Female solar technicians in low-income communities support themselves, their families and their communities by building infrastructure and promoting renewable energy.

From Salt Farmers to Solar Technicians

Salt farmers in Gujarat, India, endure strenuous physical labor to build huts, dig wells and extract brine they sift through to harvest salt. Female salt farmers rarely receive contracts for their work and earn minimal pay. As an alternative to salt farming, the UNEP, SEWA and the state of Gujarat provided about 1,000 women with opportunities to develop constructive skills and careers as solar technicians. The women learn technical skills at SEWA training centers and Renew Power solar facilities throughout the state. The Electronics Sector Skills Council of India has also provided participants in the program with technical training. As solar technicians, women in Gujarat who previously worked as salt farmers are able to develop valuable skills and develop stable career paths to support themselves and their families.

Sustainable Poverty Reduction

In 2019, 759 million people globally did not have access to electricity, a resource that plays a key role in efficient cooking, access to health care, education and more. Low-income families are often unable to afford electricity, so they live without it or purchase unsafe, nonrenewable energy options. Many low-income families rely on kerosene for electricity because they can buy small amounts of it at a time with the money they have.

However, kerosene can cost up to 30% of a family’s total income, according to a 2012 Yale School of the Environment article and it often pollutes the air passed safe levels for human health. Solar panels, on the other hand, provide up to 20 years of renewable electricity, but the initial 10-year investment is too expensive for most low-income families. Female solar technicians in Gujarat benefit from renewable energy careers not just through incomes but also the ability to help their communities by building a sustainable energy infrastructure that can serve low-income areas for decades.

Energy and Gender Equality

Women and girls account for 70% of people who live in energy poverty. Energy poverty has serious consequences for women, especially when it comes to cooking, girls’ education and the success of small businesses. Energy initiatives that improve access to electricity and train female solar technicians in low-income areas have social, economic and environmental benefits. Women participating in these initiatives attain well-paying jobs, gain access to affordable electricity and promote renewable energy in their areas.

Initiatives to employ women and install solar panels can be highly beneficial in low-income areas. Private organizations, companies and governmental institutions can work together to increase access to clean energy in countries around the world. Renewable energy boosts the quality of life while simultaneously conserving the environment.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy
Natural disasters are a major threat to all, yet even more so when electricity is absent. Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy and TekPaks to better endure hurricanes. Renewable solar energy has been on the rise for those in poverty, due to its inexpensive and environmentally-friendly aspects. A group of strong Filipino women is taking charge to bring solar energy and life-saving technology to their town.

Learning From Experience

In 2013, tropical cyclone Haiyan hit the middle of the Philippines, killing 6,000 and displacing 4 million. With winds reaching 195 miles per hour, this was one of the biggest and most powerful typhoons ever recorded. One town, Marabut, managed to have zero casualties due to its evacuation plan. The town did not have a designated building to go to for safety. As a result, residents had to find shelter in a cave.

The Tinabanan Cave has provided shelter for centuries and is 32 feet high. When the typhoon hit, more than 1,000 people made the trek up a stairless hill to safety. Lorna dela Pena was alone in Marabut when the super-typhoon struck. She described how her “grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs” when questioned on the evacuation, as Reuters reported. Building stairs and implementing solar energy became a priority after the tropical disaster.

The Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) trained Lorna dela Pena and Azucena Bagunas, both from Marabut, as solar scholars. They use their training to educate their community and implement vital technology.

TekPaks “Light” the Way

TekPak is a portable solar energy generator, which prepares communities for disasters preemptively. It is capable of powering phones, lights, kitchen appliances and more. The portable feature allows for easy evacuation and installation. Counting the number of people evacuated and communicating are greatly improved as well.

ICSC developed TekPaks and utilized them for storms since its first introduction. Azucena Bagunas described how ICSC used TekPaks “to power a nebulizer when someone had an asthma attack.” Additionally, it trained Pena and Bagunas on how to use TekPaks and educated others on its benefits.

Since electricity is a luxury for those in poverty, solar energy raises more ideas on its use, like harnessing solar energy as a replacement for coal energy. Not only is solar energy cheaper than coal, but it is safer as well. TekPak technology spread across the world for energy solutions and its new versions bring greater success.

Women Warriors in the Philippines

Bagunas and Pena work to educate and improve their community’s quality of life. Their women-led TekPak training sessions in their town make great strides to efficient evacuation drills and protocols. Women and children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, making solar energy a vital initiative.

Natural disasters disproportionately affect women since they “are more dependent on accessing resources that may be impacted.” Domestic work that women endure doubles during a disaster. Further, “women remain susceptible to poor health outcomes, violence and inequalities in all stages of a disaster,” according to Women’s Agenda. Solar energy provides solutions to many problems women face during and after natural disasters.

The use of solar lights rather than oil lamps has been extremely beneficial for the women in Marabut since it prevents crossing the sea for fuel. Collecting water after dark is hazardous for women yet once again, solar energy improves the task.

A Bright Future

Solar energy brings affordability and renewability together. Electricity is vital for the development and quality of life in communities. Solar energy provides a unique opportunity for those far away from power grids to have power. Ending extreme and energy poverty starts with basic necessities.

Women in the Philippines like Pena and Bagunas provide education and innovation to natural disaster victims. With the continuation of their work, the future of solar energy is bright.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

solar farms on brownfields
Brownfields are areas of land that are vacant due to contamination. In recent years, solar firms have built hundreds of solar farms on brownfields to utilize the empty space. Brownfields are often located near low-income communities that lack affordable access to power. Installing solar farms on brownfields promotes environmental sustainability and can provide cheap, clean power access to local communities.

Jobs and Access to Power

Building solar farms on brownfields can create jobs and transform abandoned land into an economic and environmental asset for low-income communities. Both site owners and local communities have saved millions in energy costs from transforming brownfields into hotspots of renewable energy, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Affordable access to electricity can help alleviate “energy poverty” in low-income communities that surround brownfields. Energy poverty is the phenomenon in which people experiencing poverty have the least access to power. Therefore, they are more likely to remain impoverished, according to the World Bank. Installing solar farms in brownfields could help provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to it. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a sustainable method of providing affordable energy to low-income communities.

Land Reuse and Protection

Installing solar farms on brownfields often involves land restoration, reuse and protection, which all serve nearby communities. For example, solar panels can sit atop a landfill without digging into the ground and damaging the land’s foundation, creating unwanted pathways for stormwater or puncturing the top of the landfill. Solar panels can also have a design that complements the pre-existing materials on the brownfield, like mill tailings, without further damaging or contaminating the land. Additionally, solar firms often avoid disrupting the soil as much as they can by mindfully designing, installing and operating their solar farms. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a non-disruptive, and often even protective, method of utilizing vacant land while simultaneously providing clean, affordable energy to low-income communities.

Benefits of Sustainable Energy

Brownfields can offer solar power as a main source of energy to low-income communities, and renewable energy has a variety of social benefits. For one, renewable energy can be less expensive than non-renewable energy, especially when it comes from a local source. It can also minimize low-income families’ reliance on public utilities to provide them with energy. Solar energy is a reliable source of power that essentially will not run out. Renewable energy also reduces pollution, which creates a healthier environment, especially in places with brownfields and ample contamination. A healthier environment can often lead to a healthier population, both mentally and physically. Additionally, solar farms require people to build, operate and maintain the equipment. Therefore, building solar farms on brownfields can employ people in surrounding communities and help them support their families while also preserving the environment.

Creating solar farms out of brownfields has social, economic and environmental benefits. Countries around the world can utilize vacant, contaminated land to preserve the environment and help lift low-income communities out of poverty. Turning brownfields into “brightfields” could be the next great step in reducing energy poverty.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Developing Solar Power in Zambia
Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa that receives between “2,000 to 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.” The country benefits greatly from its location along the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers and has become highly dependent on hydropower, with hydroelectric dams providing more than 85% of its total energy in 2021. Unfortunately, recent droughts have led to prolonged blackouts and an increase in energy poverty across the country. To help combat this issue, the government is investing in a new source of renewable energy: solar power. Solar power in Zambia has the potential to transform the country’s economy along with the lives of citizens.

Energy Poverty in Zambia

The U.N. defines energy poverty as a lack of “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.” According to USAID, approximately 69% of Zambia’s 17.35 million citizens suffer from energy poverty. Energy poverty is an even larger issue for people living in rural areas — USAID estimates that 96% of rural citizens do not have access to electricity in 2021.

Energy poverty has significant negative impacts on individual homes, affecting education, health and even political participation. However, widespread energy poverty also affects the economy as a whole as it is nearly impossible for businesses to operate without power. Furthermore, a lack of power in the home presents a barrier for remote work and remote education. Implementing solar power in Zambia could be the solution.

When droughts began to cause extensive blackouts, ZESCO, the leading state-owned power company in Zambia, had “to raise tariffs by as much as 200%” in 2019 to afford the cost of importing power from South Africa. While this short-term solution prevented total economic collapse, the Zambian government quickly came to the realization that a more reliable source of renewable energy is necessary. The development of solar power in Zambia has the potential to sustainably lift millions out of energy poverty, improving the lives of individual citizens and jumpstarting Zambia’s economy as a whole.

The Transition From Hydropower

The Kariba Dam is one of Zambia’s largest hydroelectric constructions. When droughts hit in 2019, water levels at the dam “plunged to their lowest level since 1996,” causing nationwide blackouts. This prompted the development of solar power in Zambia as sunlight in Africa is a much more dependable source of energy than water. Furthermore, while the energy from large-scale hydroelectric dams is very centralized, smaller solar power grids can serve as decentralized sources, allowing for power to reach isolated rural communities.

In March 2019, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu introduced the Bangweulu Scaling Solar Plant to Zambia, a 54-milliwatt power plant projected to lift 30,000 private homes and “several businesses” out of energy poverty. Following the inflated energy tariffs that power outages caused in 2019, the Scaling Solar Program was able to lower tariffs to $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour, a much more affordable price for Zambians suffering from energy poverty.

By 2030, the government of Zambia hopes to increase its electricity generation to 6,000 megawatts. A single 54-megawatt solar power plant saves Zambia nearly $140 million in capital over 25 years, serving as a game-changer for the country’s economy. The expansion of solar power in Zambia will alleviate pressure on local water sources and allow for the rejuvenation of hydroelectric power plants. The Scaling Solar Program’s innovative projects put Zambia in an optimal position to capitalize on solar technology and improve the well-being of all citizens.

Looking Ahead

The continued development of solar power in Zambia is a pivotal way for the country to address energy poverty, especially in rural areas. Not only will this innovation revitalize Zambia’s economy but it will also improve health and education on an individual level. Overall, Zambia is in a prime position to reduce poverty and enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the power of the sun.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

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