UK's Energy Efficiency Program
British politician Rishi Sunak recently announced the U.K.’s official energy efficiency plan. The £3 billion plan includes a £2 billion Green Homes Grant and £1 billion of funding to make public buildings more energy-efficient, among other initiatives. Each of these projects presents an important step toward sustainability, particularly the Green Homes Grant, and could even contribute to the reduction of poverty within the United Kingdom.

Green Homes Grant

The U.K. government hopes that the £2 billion Green Homes Grant will encourage homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers, starting in September 2020, to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The vouchers will cover at least two-thirds of the total cost, which is up to £5,000 for most households. For low-income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost of improvements, up to £10,000.

Effects of the Energy Efficiency Plan

The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan will create approximately 140,000 green jobs, improve the energy efficiency of over 650,000 homes, reduce carbon by more than half a megatonne a year and potentially shave £300 a year off of homeowner’s bills. These changes also have the potential to drastically alter the nation’s interaction with the environment for the better.

How will the UK’s Energy Efficiency Plan Help People in Poverty?

  1. Low-income households typically spend more on energy expenses. A 2010 study found that “low-income householders spend 10 percent or more of their income on energy expenses”, pointing out that as income goes up, expenses go down, since middle- and upper-income households tend to only spend 5% or less of their income on energy expenses. Therefore, the U.K.’s efforts to help low-income households become energy-efficient will allow them to have more disposable income.

  2. Low-income households have a more difficult time adapting to large fluctuations in natural gas prices, as they have less disposable income compared to middle and upper-income households. Due to market supply and demand, natural gas prices can experience fluctuations as large as 140%, as was seen in 2016. In March 2016 natural gas was $1.639/MMBtu, and by December of the same year, prices had risen to $3.93/MMBtu. The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan can help to alleviate low-income households’ concerns over the uncertainty of natural gas prices by making their homes less dependent on them.

  3. Low-income households are at greater risk of developing health problems. Many low-income households do not have enough income for necessary home improvements, meaning that these homes can often suffer from structural problems such as leaks, which can lead to the development of mold and infestations. Exposure to these issues can increase the chances of arthritis, respiratory disease, mental illness and heart disease. When homeowners make improvements to their homes to make them more energy-efficient under the Green Homes Grant, they will also lower their risk of experiencing these health issues.

The U.K.’s energy efficiency plan is taking the initiative that all developed countries should be to alleviate poverty in their country and increase the use of sustainable energy. By providing grants to homeowners and updating technology in public buildings, the U.K. is making great strides toward environmental stability.

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr

  Microgrid technology in African countriesIf you take a trip to Google Earth’s nighttime view of the world, you’ll see areas like the United States, Europe and Japan bursting with light. In these countries, electricity freely flows through a massive electrical grid, whirring through power plants and millions of electrical wires. Alternatively, satellite images of the African continent’s 54 countries show vast dark areas with a few scattered hotspots. However, this unequal spread of electrification may change in the near future. Microgrid technology in African countries is powering thousands of community’s electrical needs. The African continent’s electrification illustrates the broader trend of sustainable energy’s emergence in the developing world.

What is Microgrid Technology?

In simple terms, microgrid technology is a decentralized version of the massive electrical grids that exist in most developed nations. More definitively, a microgrid is “a local energy grid with control capability” that can work autonomously to both produce and supply power to small communities. The autonomy of microgrids limits the negative aspects of larger power grids, such as rolling blackouts.

In developed countries, certain essential businesses use microgrids to ensure a stable power source. For example, hospitals use microgrids in case a natural disaster would cut off power to large scale power grids. In many developing nations, governments are eagerly implementing microgrid technology in areas without pre-existing infrastructure.

Another benefit of microgrid technology is the easy integration of renewable energy sources. Presently, companies building microgrids in developing nations tend to rely on solar or wind energy due to their growing cost-efficiency. Peter Ganz, who studied microgrids through his master’s program in environmental management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and currently works as Senior Energy Storage Analyst at EDF Renewables North America, said that “The idea that many businesses have in developing countries is to make these microgrids sustainable. This is so that, as developing countries gain energy access, they’re not stuck with this large fossil-reliant grid that we’re dealing with here in the United States, the EU and other large, developed nations.”

Africa’s Need for Electricity

Many companies like PowerGen, Energicity and Tesvolt are installing microgrids in several African nations to power homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. Many regions of Africa provide the ideal environment for sustainable solar energy. In addition, the overall cost of installing microgrids has dropped an estimated 25 to 30% since 2014.

Centering on Africa for microgrid technology development is necessary for worldwide electrification. Today, 13% of the world’s population does not have access to electricity. In particular, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost two-thirds of the world’s population without power.

In the mass movements for sustainable energy around the world, developing nations without existing electricity infrastructure see some advantages. Due to this lack of infrastructure, developing communities can begin to electrify local homes, businesses, and services with renewable sources. The integration of renewable energy into the grid will effectively prevent any future need to rely on fossil fuels.

PowerGen’s Work in African Nations

Founded in 2011, PowerGen is one of the main organizations serving on the frontlines of microgrid development in African nations. With a mission striving to provide “cleaner, smarter” and “decentralized” energy to Africa, PowerGen has installed sustainable energy utilities for more than 50,000 Africans who previously lacked electricity. The organization is far-reaching, deploying microgrids in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Benin and Niger. PowerGen has also set up offices and planned projects in several other African countries The company also develops commercial and industrial (C&I) solar power for more widescale, sustainable electricity.

According to a statement by PowerGen CEO Sam Slaughter, the organization’s microgrids “typically serve 100-500 connections” and “have a geographic radius under one kilometer.” The grids can power anything running off electricity including refrigerators, TVs, electric cars and mobile phones. The payment is affordable for African users who use an easy “pay-as-you-go” system via “mobile money telecoms services” or cash.

PowerGen hopes to expand energy access to one million more Africans by 2025. One of the biggest challenges in installing new power in the continent is government cooperation and acceptance of microgrids, but the organization is actively working to broaden its microgrid coverage everywhere.

Importance of Smart Power in Developing Nations

In the mass movements for sustainable energy around the world, developing nations are actually at an advantage; since many developing communities have no or unreliable access to electricity, they can begin their energy journey with renewable sources, effectively cutting off reliance on fossil fuels in the future.

“Our electric grid is very much the product of a time before renewables when most, if not all, generation was from carbon-intensive fossil fuels,” said Ganz. “Now that we have developed technologies that are carbon-free or carbon-neutral, it would be great to help these [developing] countries achieve the levels of grid resiliency and electric reliability that we [in developed countries] have without the carbon intensity.”

– Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable TechnologyTechnology is constantly evolving in the 21st century and through it, MPOWERD is alleviating the ailments that impoverished communities face. In 2016, 1.6 billion people across the globe lived without energy access. MPOWERD’s mission to bring sustainable technology to all points of the globe through practical, portable and affordable solar power impacts millions of lives each year. A dramatic reduction of communities without electricity as of 2019 suggests that 13% of the world’s population currently live without power. In addition, MPOWERD hopes to eradicate unaffordable energy costs and provide clean solutions to all of the world’s poor by 2030.

Form, Function, Empowerment

Since 2012, MPOWERD has reached over 3.7 million lives through sponsorship with community programs, disaster relief and health initiatives. The patented design of the “Luci” inflatable solar light reduces exposure to toxic kerosene fumes and provides light to those in crisis after storms. It also promotes healthy environments for the administration of medication, urgent health care and completion of schoolwork after sunset.

Moreover, MPOWERD focuses on helping women being more involved in their community and family decisions. Through a partnership with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, local ethnic groups in Kenya participate as resellers of the sustainable technology Luci lights in conjunction with E³Merge to stimulate investment in the local economy. The Maasai women cultivate spaces of undeniable empowerment where issues of Female genital mutilation, domestic violence and other inequalities are discussed. Additionally, alternative practices such as dance and song are now permitted in place of FGM due to newfound empowerment as business leaders.

Impact on Poverty

The distribution of the sustainable technology Luci lights fosters economic and social empowerment. Local craftsmen and women may work in the nighttime to create products for sustainable income without the worry of daylight. Furthermore, with a Luci light, children can study at night. This ensures the completion of homework and health clinics in rural areas can stay open late. In addition, workers who commute in the dark run less of a risk of injury. Women can feel safe from predators with MPOWERD’s compact light-source technology.

To put it simply, markets and businesses that stay open past daylight have the potential to earn more capital. As local markets thrive and expand, employment opportunities arise. Rural communities with limited trade commerce have more capital to exchange when electricity is not a concern. Thus, it allows freedom to invest in other pressing issues. According to the World Economic Forum, education is one of the most efficient steps to reduce poverty. In turn, reducing the need for basic electricity infrastructure allows for higher funding of various social programs. This includes agriculture, healthcare and education. As a result, it diminishes overall poverty.

Sustainable technology launches emerging nations into the global market through basic principles of infrastructure aimed towards poverty-reduction. The provision of portable solar lights in rural communities boosts local economies and establishes business expansion and stability. It also constructs safe environments where education and empowerment are centered at the forefront of improvement. MPOWERD is a force for good that does good through accessible sustainable technology in impoverished areas.

Natalie Williams

Photo: Flickr

Hydroelectric Power in ParaguayHydroelectricity is one of the few renewable energy resources that can be used to generate electricity. Many countries around the globe have used hydroelectricity to varying degrees. One country that has used this form of renewable energy to a largely successful degree has been the South American country of Paraguay. Hydroelectric power in Paraguay has proven quite successful.

Turning to Hydroelectricity

Paraguay uses massive amounts of hydroelectric power to produce much of its electricity. There are a few key reasons why Paraguay turned to hydroelectricity in the first place. One is that the country wanted to simply “increase domestic energy consumption”. Prior to this Paraguay was reliant on oil and diesel imports. Another reason Paraguay turned to hydroelectricity was out of an agreement that it made with Brazil in 1973. The result of this agreement was what became the Itaipu Dam, which was built on The Parana river.

The Itaipu Dam provides a large amount of hydroelectric power in Paraguay. In 2018, it produced 90.8% of the electricity for Paraguay. The Yacyreta Dam was also built for similar reasons. The dam was built in 1973 out of an agreement between Paraguay and Argentina to share the dam. The Parana River, where these dams are located, and the Paraguay River form what is called the Plata River basin, which runs along “Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.”

Along with The Itaipu Dam and The Yacyreta Dam, Paraguay also has the Acaray Dam. All three of these dams contribute to providing hydroelectric power in Paraguay. Paraguay’s electricity is 100 percent produced from ample renewable resources within the country. In 2018, only 35% of the power production from hydroelectric resources was needed to meet the country’s domestic demand.

The Economy in Paraguay

The excess energy was then exported by Paraguay to other countries. Because of this excess supply of electricity, Paraguay is the fourth largest country to exports electricity. Of the country’s overall GDP, about 7.1 percent of it was attributed to electricity. The fact that Paraguay is able to meet its energy needs with hydropower and then use what electricity it has left over to sell to other countries is most beneficial to its economic situation. The three dams in the country also provide people with jobs.

Despite this abundance of hydroelectric power though, the domestic economy of the country still suffers system losses. The country is also strongly dependant on its agricultural sector, which can be unreliable depending on the weather. However, the situation is not entirely bleak. The Columbia Center on Sustainable Development has offered solutions to this problem. In the future, Paraguay can use its excess electricity to continue to diversify its economy. Doing so would also help in the further reduction of fossil fuel consumption. The country could also use past revenue streams to help predict the best way to maximize revenue in the future.

Hydroelectric power in Paraguay might not be seeing extreme economic gains yet. However, it is providing the country with a sustainable energy source. With the suggestions made by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Development, it is possible that it could improve even further in the future.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Development in Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia relies heavily on foreign aid, yet under its Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025, it plans to gain self-reliance and growth in six main areas. In addition, the Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project and the Maritime Investment Project, funded by the World Bank, are two major projects that are already underway. The developments are in key areas, such as fishing and island connectivity, which many Micronesians rely on for their livelihood.

Federal States of Micronesia Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025

As part of Micronesia’s Infrastructure Development Plan, economic growth and self-reliance are two areas of improvement. Micronesia is a remote region containing more than 600 islands northeast of Papua New Guinea, 74 of which are inhabited. Due to its remoteness, tourism and investment in the main regions of Micronesia are sparse. The Infrastructure Development Plan is focused on six main areas: macroeconomic stability, good governance, developing a private sector-led economy, health and education services, infrastructure improvement and long-term environmental sustainability.

Under this umbrella, Micronesia already has a number of accomplishments under its belt. Specifically, the School Facility Repair and Construction Master Plan came to fruition in 2013. Likewise, the Airport Master Plan was completed in 2012 and involves safety and security in air transportation. There are four international airports, and development in air transportation is another step to attracting tourism to Micronesia, and therefore, income to those employed in the tourism industry. Although infrastructure development in Micronesia covers many areas, positive economic growth and progress in becoming self-reliant are two important goals for developing its economy.

Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project

The World Bank donated $30 million to Micronesia’s Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project in December 2018. The project aims to increase electricity access and quality and to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. The four main states of Micronesia, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap rely on fossil fuels like diesel. About 96 percent of electricity use in Micronesia comes from fossil fuels, and about 75 percent of the total population has access to electricity.

The project’s goals are the following: increase electricity status in the state of Chuuk, increase renewable energy generation in the states of Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap, improve performance of the Pohnpei Utility Cooperation and provide technical assistance relating to governance, accountability and financial performance of the energy sector. Electricity access varies on the islands. Only 27 percent of the population in Chuuk has access to electricity, yet Pohnpei has a 95 percent electrification rate. The project aims to provide access to renewable energy to the islands for long-term use.

Federated States of Micronesia Maritime Investment Project

The Maritime Investment Project is another source of infrastructure development in Micronesia that was approved on May 9. At a cost of over $38 million, its focus is to increase efficiency, safety, security and climate resilience of maritime infrastructure and operations in Micronesia, including upgrades or repairs to terminal structures at Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap ports. The project will also improve the connection between the islands with regards to access to food, water and emergency response services.

More than 90 percent of exports are fish. The project benefits not only for infrastructure development in the major ports but also for Micronesians that work in the strong fishing industry. The project ends on August 1, 2024. Sihna Lawrence, Microneisa’s Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said, “Guided by our Infrastructure Development Plan, we look forward to working with the World Bank to improve our maritime transport and develop stronger connectivity across the archipelago.”

Ongoing Infrastructure Developments

Micronesia’s goal of self-reliance is given through the development plan and projects. Infrastructure development in Micronesia is a major move toward reducing the 41 percent poverty rate and improving health, education and the overall wellbeing of Micronesians.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Green Energy in Kenya

Kenya has big plans for its future as a major green technology user. About 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable energy, which is almost three times the global average. The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, which was completed in 2018, and the Meru County Energy Park are two important developments in wind and solar power, each helping Kenya to reach its target of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Meru County Energy Park

Meru County Energy Park will be Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar photovoltaic and battery storage project. It will provide 80 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy that could power more than 200,000 households. The project is a great step in producing green energy in Kenya and also acts as a model for other countries seeking to advance in low-cost, clean energy. Construction begins during 2021 in Meru County, Kenya.

The $150 million investment consists of 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels. The Meru County Energy Park is a lead project by the Meru County Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) and its partners WindLab and Eurus Energy. WindLab is a wind energy developer that has completed projects across three different continents. During the signing of the agreement between Meru County and Windlab, Governor Peter Munya stated that “The development, construction and operation of a large scale renewable energy project within the County will bring employment, energy security and expertise to the region.”

Lake Turkana Wind Farm

The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, operational since 2018, is another major development in Kenyan green technology. It’s Africa’s largest wind power project, consisting of 365 turbines with a capacity of releasing 310 MW of sustainable low-cost energy. The wind farm is located in the Turkana Wind Corridor that channels wind between the mountains in the north and south of the desert region.

It’s also another stride in achieving Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya’s long-term development plan to create a better nation by 2030. The energy provided by the Lake Turkana Wind Farm is helping to create “a newly-industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.” The entire energy sector has grown tremendously. Thanks to advancements in green energy in Kenya, electricity access in 2018 stood at 73.4 percent, an increase from 56 percent in 2016.

Since September 2018, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm generated 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and saved taxpayers about $77 million from reduced use of diesel-operated power. The project proves that wind power is an efficient and low-cost alternative for rural regions that often rely on more expensive and environmentally harmful methods of electricity, such as diesel.

Future of Green Energy in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to continue reducing Kenya’s carbon footprint by welcoming private investment in green technology. Major investments from corporations such as WindLab and Eurus Energy are simply the beginning to Kenya reaching its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. The nation ranks ninth in the world for geothermal power generating capacity, making green energy in Kenya a viable option to help those in poverty who struggle to access electricity. Since 70 percent of Kenya’s current power usage is already from renewable sources, the country is on an upward trajectory to achieving its green technology goal.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty
Eliminating global poverty will not be accomplished strictly through emerging opportunities and resources for the world’s most vulnerable people but will be done by redefining ideas about poverty. Instead of defining poverty by a purchasing power baseline, Rajiv Shah, the current Rockefeller Foundation President, thinks we should define and measure poverty in terms of power connectivity and electrification, in other words, energy poverty.

Rajiv Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, suggested this idea at the Affordable and Clean Energy for All event in Washington, D.C. Shah points to the idea that poverty is traditionally measured by a “basket of goods” stemming from a “total calories mindset.” Energy poverty defines poverty by the extent of the lack of access to modern energy.

Poverty Definitions Today

Currently, poverty is defined with a mere dollar amount. Extreme poverty is defined as a daily income of less than $1.90, and moderate poverty is living on less than $3.10 a day. The idea of moving from defining poverty from purchasing power to energy accessibility has some weight to it. For example, India in the 1970s defined poverty as the ability to purchase 2,100 to 2,400 calories of food per day depending on if the person was living in the city or in rural areas. In 2011, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee, a namesake for the late economist Suresh Tendulkar, defined living below the poverty line as spending between 27.2 and 33.3 Indian rupees (or between $0.38 and $0.46) per month on electricity, food, education and health.

This measure is thought to be far too conservative, but it does touch on the expanse of resources and services, specifically electricity, that factor into basic living standards. India is said to have 300 million people with little or no access to electricity. That is roughly 23 percent of its population. By taking energy poverty into consideration, a much clearer picture of global poverty rates can be analyzed.

Providing Energy to Areas In Need

Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation are not just providing mere lip service to the conversation on extreme poverty but also real energy service. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsors Smart Power for Rural Development, a $75 million program launched in 2015 that brings solar power to villages. This program has already powered 100 Indian villages with mini-grids that supply renewable energy to over 40,000 people.

Investments in mini-grids such as Smart Power for Rural Development or the $20 million raised from Husk Power Systems (the largest for an Indian mini-grid company) are thought to be the most efficient solutions for securing energy goals for sustainable development. Without reliable energy connectivity, almost half Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 cannot be achieved. Two of such goals are “no poverty” and “affordable and clean energy.”

Energy is vital to attaining Development Goals such as health, education, inequality and food security. “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty,” says Gerth Svensson, chief executive at Swefund, a Swedish development finance institution that works to eliminate poverty by establishing sustainable businesses.

Metrics to Define Energy Poverty

Defining poverty through the proxy of energy poverty can leave vague perceptions. Yet, one metric illuminates the reality of what it means to be energy poor. Energy poverty is being quantified by the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI). The MEPI measures energy deprivation, as opposed to energy access. It is made up of five dimensions: cooking, lighting, services provided by means of household appliances, entertainment/education and communication.

Each dimension has one indicator to measure the importance of the activity, with an exception to cooking, which has two indicators. Each indicator has a binary threshold that indicates the presence or lack of a product or service. Energy poverty defined through the cooking dimension is measured by cooking with any fuel besides electricity, natural or biogas since it would leave a family vulnerable to indoor pollution. The lack of several other products or services complete the index—the lack of access to electricity (lighting), a refrigerator (household appliances), a radio or television (entertainment/education), and a landline or mobile phone (communication).

Measuring Poverty Through Energy

According to BRCK, a Kenyan organization that works to furnish internet connectivity to frontier markets, 18 of Africa’s 54 total nations have at least between 50 and 75 percent of their population without access to electricity, and 16 have more than 75 percent of their population lacking. On the measure of communication, only four of those nations have mobile-phones access for more than half their population, the highest being South Africa at 68 percent.

Using the current standard, roughly 736 million people worldwide are considered to be living in extreme poverty, yet 1.1 billion people were still living without access to electricity in 2017. The means for microeconomic power and poverty alleviation via education, healthcare, business and communication seem to be less about cash flow and more so concerning reliable energy flow, redefining poverty with the idea of energy poverty.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Energy
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) initiative in 2011 with three goals in mind.

He aimed to secure universal access to energy services, to double the global improvement rate in energy efficiency and to double the amount of renewable energy used globally.

Through doing so, he hoped to work toward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 7. This goal aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The initiative focuses largely on bringing together groups from different sectors to collaborate on a common goal.  

Sustainable Energy for All Forum

With partners from different governments, the private sector and civil society, SEforAll is able to use a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue of sustainable energy access.

Partners of the program come together each year at a Sustainable Energy for All Forum, where attendees from over 80 countries discuss the progress that has been made and what still needs to be done.

Partners can present their work for the previous year and announce plans for the next one. Different organizations have the opportunity to meet together and potentially collaborate on new projects.

They give evidence and ideas in various working sessions that cover topics such as maximizing the impact of energy, city-level action, gender equality in sustainable energy and challenges that countries are facing.

This information ultimately helps countries who have aligned with SEforAll fulfill their pledges to improve sustainable energy access. After each forum, numerous follow-up meetings and events are scheduled.

Examples of these events are People-Centered Accelerator, Sustainable Energy in Somalia and other. Partners come together to apply the information from the forum to their individual projects.

Forum Topics

While the forum discusses a variety of issues, SEforALL also provides targeted accelerators with specific topics. Participants discuss energy efficiency in terms of appliances, building efficiency, district energy, among other topics.

These meetings are also focused on action, so participants can talk about policies, business models and solutions.

Many initiatives have come out of these accelerators, including the U.N.-coordinated District Energy in Cities Initiative. It works toward increasing the adoption and funding of district energy, a sustainable way of heating and cooling buildings.

Other Sustainable Energy for All Projects

SEforAll also works towards projects of its own, including improved data collection. They created a website with “heat maps” that tracks which countries are making progress and which are not.

They use collected data on clean cooking, electricity access, energy efficiency and renewable energy to identify trends in different countries. With this information, countries can evaluate the success of their policies and SEforAll can target countries that need more progress.

To further evaluate the progress of different countries, SEforAll and The World Bank Group launched Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy  (RISE), a set of indicators used to thoroughly assess each country and the manners in which they address sustainable energy access. It covers 111 countries, which roughly makes around 96 percent of the global population.

It categorizes each country into three zones, according to how much progress they are making. Each country is also given scores based on their performance in energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, based on specific indicators in each of the categories.

Sustainable Energy for All ultimately encourages countries to take action towards improving sustainable energy access. It provides them with evaluations of how well their current policies and efforts are working and information on how they can improve their work.

Through collaborations with other groups from different sectors, countries are given the tools to make progress and to develop in the right way.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr

environmental degradation and poverty
At a historic United Nations Summit in New York in September 2015, countries from all over the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda aims to end poverty and inequality while protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development. To do this, the agenda established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. These SDGs emphasize the relationship between environmental degradation and poverty and how sustainable development is critical to achieving these goals.

Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable development is defined by the U.N. as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Such a practice involves using natural resources in a way that will leave future generations with a healthy planet and enough resources for survival.

Earth has only a limited amount of natural resources, and how people and countries currently use these are unsustainable. Current consumption patterns and national policies of developed and developing nations alike are severely damaging the environment and jeopardizing the future of the planet.

Inefficient use of resources, wasteful consumption, pollution and waste are all key factors in environmental degradation. These practices also contribute to global poverty; poverty, in turn, then damages the environment. This vicious cycle will not end unless countries and individuals change their practices.

How Countries and People Harm the Environment

Natural resources are currently allocated to meet the wants of the few instead of the needs of the many. Developed countries account for 24 percent of Earth’s population but consume 70 percent of the world’s energy and 60 percent of its food.

Though developed nations are more energy-efficient than developing nations, consumption is so high that they still contribute a great amount to pollution. The extremely high demand of these countries leads to extensive deforestation so more land can be used for agriculture.

Developing nations further contribute to environmental degradation through inefficient energy use and environmentally-harmful practices like resource stripping. Countries resort to these harmful practices for a variety of reasons. Natural resources account for a majority of many developing countries’ exports. In an attempt to grow their economies, countries overexploit these natural resources.

In addition, a large part of many developing countries’ budgets is used to repay their debt, leaving little money to fund sustainable development programs. Many nations “believe they cannot afford the luxury of environmental protection” and feel forced to accept long-term environmental damage to meet their immediate needs.

Many poorer individuals in developing countries feel the same. They depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which leads many to deplete these resources in order to survive.

How Harming the Environment Harms People

This environmental degradation disproportionately affects the poor, particularly those in developing nations. Overconsumption in wealthy countries means many people in poor countries don’t have enough food. One billion people worldwide are hungry, yet 1.2 billion are obese.

Air and water pollution are health hazards. Lack of clean water and air and poor sanitation and nutrition leaves people vulnerable to diseases and causes extremely high rates of death among children.

Poor people are also more susceptible to natural disasters, as they are more likely than wealthier individuals to live in areas where earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires and other disasters are common. These disasters destroy people’s livelihoods and homes, often forcing people to move to other areas. These environmental refugees can cause overcrowding and environmental stress in the areas they move to, which worsens both environmental degradation and poverty.

Unless people and countries change their practices, both environmental degradation and poverty will worsen. Natural disasters are becoming both more extreme and more common because of industrialization and human actions. As the world population continues to grow, more and more people will be hungry, live in overcrowded conditions and ultimately, live in poverty. Promoting sustainable development is crucial to a better future.

How to Change

Governments, businesses, organizations and individuals: all have a role to play in the effort to protect the environment and end poverty.

Wealthy nations must change their policies that are detrimental to the environment. Expressing support for the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and implementing policies that align with these goals provides an example for other nations and encourages them to behave the same.

Foreign aid to developing countries can stabilize their economies, make them more financially and technically capable of focusing on environmentally-friendly development and help them establish practices that are consistent with the SDGs.

Accountability and Responsibility

Governments should also encourage individuals to take more responsibility for living sustainably and educate people on how to do so: eat less meat, shop locally, reduce food waste, use less plastic, recycle, switch to alternative forms of energy — the list goes on and on. (See here for more ways you can live sustainably). Businesses can do many of these actions as well as change their practices to be more environmentally-friendly.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight” said Ban Ki-moon, the previous U.N. Secretary-General. “Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” Environmental degradation and poverty are directly related; to end one, the world must address both.

Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr