The Personal Solar Power Station is energizing Haiti with a mission to bring the 1.3 billion people in the world without electricity the basic right to energy.

Energy poverty’s progress has been regressing in over a quarter of the world’s population. According to the WakaWaka site, hundreds of millions face regular blackouts, and, even if they have access to kerosene lamps, they are extremely inefficient, dangerous and expensive, and also pose risks to health and the environment.

WakaWaka, which translates to “Shine Bright” in Swahili, works to create and market advanced solar-powered lamps and chargers at affordable costs. WakaWaka works to replace kerosene lamps with safer, cheaper and more sustainable energy sources, and their off-grid solar powered products do just that.

Intivation, a mobile solar products manufacturer, partners with WakaWaka Light to patent and distribute the most efficient models for solar technology.

The self-proclaimed impact-driven social venture fights to abolish energy poverty throughout the world with its original lamps. Currently, WakaWaka Power produces the “most compact power station in the world.”

What began as a kickstarter via crowd funding developed from a “buy one, give one campaign” to a full-blown sustainable enterprise and benefit corporation.

Maurits Groen and Camille van Gestel launched WakaWaka in 2010. They looked to revolutionize the energy market in South Africa by designing “an ultra-efficient LED lamp.” The award-winning model took first place in an international competition for emission-reduction ideas. WakaWaka’s bright future developed in its vision for bringing South Africans living off the electricity grid the chance to try solar-powered lamps.

Five years running, WakaWaka found partners around the world, from NGOs to national and local companies. WakaWaka lamps are charged by nothing but the sun. As of 2013, more than 12,000 LED lamps were provided to Haitian communities without electricity. WakaWaka also provides its lamps to Syrian refugees and those hit by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Mali, Liberia and Indonesia have also been impacted by WakaWaka’s off-grid lighting solutions. So far, WakaWaka has been established in more than 200 aid, crisis, and relief projects among developing nations.

The business model follows that all proceeds made from Western purchase go toward making them freely available to off-grid areas around the world at much lower prices.

As if WakaWaka was not doing enough, every WakaWaka product sold in the United States donates a WakaWaka Light to The International Rescue Committee, one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations that has helped deliver tens of thousands of WakaWakas in regions that need them most.

Lin Sabones

Sources: Waka-Waka, Kickstarter
Photo: Kickstarter

An estimated 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity. Countless more have limited access or are unable to use it with any regularity. Electricity may seem like a modern luxury, and to some not a necessity, but a lack of electricity has a large number of negative consequences. Much of the developing world and the communities without proper electricity rely on the burning of wood and fossil fuels as a source of heat and to cook. This practice of open-fire and kerosene usage leads to health risks, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation. However, with recent advances in technology those lacking access to electricity, otherwise known as energy poverty, is on the decline.

Solar power is the leading solution to energy poverty. It is renewable, readily available, and the devices used to generate solar power are becoming less and less expensive. Companies like Goalzero and WakaWaka have already developed compact solar panels for the use of charging small devices like mobile phones and laptops. But these devices cannot power a house, or aid in the cooking for a whole village. That’s where SMILE comes in. SMILE stands for Solar Mobile Independent Low-cost Energy System. It is currently being designed and tested by Norwegian company Heliac. Heliac CEO, Heinrik Parnov states that the developing world needs “a cheap, robust, and self contained” device to be used to generate power.

SMILE is a large piece of specialized foil that, when used with companion devices like a stove or heating unit, generates large amounts of energy. SMILE is cheaper to manufacture and more durable than glass framed solar panels. While not meant to replace large power grids or increased infrastructure, SMILE is being developed to create safer, smarter, and healthier developing communities and by extension a healthier world. Currently, the project is seeking funding on Kickstarter and has met about a quarter of its $44,000 goal.

– Joe Kitaj

Sources: IEA, Waka-Waka, Kickstarter, Engineering
Photo: Kickstarter

Nigeria’s crude oil reserves are currently estimated at 35 billion barrels; its natural gas reserves an estimated 185 trillion cubic feet. Though import levels have since dropped dramatically, in March 2007 the United States imported 41,767 barrels of Nigerian crude oil and petroleum products.

Despite this, 44 percent of Nigerian households have no access to electricity.

Indeed, even in Nigerian homes with electricity, the quality of service provided is often intermittent while growing increasingly unaffordable. In an op-ed in the International New York Times, published August 8, 2014, author Adewale Maja-Pearce explained that in February 2014 his monthly bill jumped from $30 per month to nearly $185 per month, despite the fact that he was receiving roughly three hours per day of power. This price increase occurs at a time when 92.4 percent of Nigerians live on less than $2 per day, and 70.8 percent live on less than one dollar per day.

The problem of energy poverty is not exclusive to Nigeria. According to the International Energy Agency, “over 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion are without clean cooking facilities. More than 95% of these people are in sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia and 84% are in rural areas.”

Though the problem is not unique to Nigeria, it does bring to light the global inequality behind the phenomenon of energy poverty despite Nigeria’s status as a major energy exporter. It is seemingly paradoxical for a nation which began exporting large amounts of liquid petroleum gas through Chevron in 1997 to have a per capita liquid petroleum gas usage rate of 0.4 kilograms per second, one of the lowest in the region.

Addressing energy poverty is a key point in the fight against global poverty. Greater access to alternative energy sources will reduce unnecessary deaths, such as the 95,300 Nigerian deaths which occur annually from smoke created by the use of solid biomass fuels. It will enhance the financial capabilities of those nations currently struggling to provide power to businesses. This, in turn, will expand the global community of consumers.

Regardless, the importance of treating energy exporters as nations, and not simply as trade partners, remains a primary challenge moving forward in the fight against global inequality.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: NY Times, CAI, UNICEF EIA, International Association for Energy Economics, Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research 3.2 International New York Times
Photo: Vanguard

Lack of electricity is more than just an inconvenience—it is life-threatening. Two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia comprise 95 percent of all people without electricity. While this region hosts only 13 percent of the entire world’s population, at least 48 percent of sub-Saharan Africans make up the total population of people without electricity globally. The already at-risk economies continue to fail due to the lack of electricity affecting health and education. Thirty percent of all schools and health centers are without electricity.  Without proper health and education, the chances of escaping poverty are slim to none.

“Energy plays a big role in this: from mass communications to the refrigeration of vaccines,” says Richard Bridle, an energy analyst with the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Global Subsidies Initiative. “We don’t usually talk about how the global economy will benefit because that isn’t the key motivation, though economic growth will certainly benefit if we enhance health, education, clean water, sanitation, heating, transport, cooking add communication services.”

Some argue that putting more investment in infrastructure would fix the issue, but this notion has proven itself to be easier said than done. “Infrastructure can only be deployed and operated in a financially sustainable electricity sector that can recover costs, make investments, provide reliable electricity and meet social and environmental obligations,” explains Bridle. “So, really, it is the lack of a viable electricity sector that is the key gap.”

The funding needed to give sub-Saharan Africa electricity by 2030 is reportedly an enormous amount that affected nations would have to pay themselves. The best shot at fixing this is outside support, which is why many are eagerly waiting to hear about the 2015 version of the U.S.’s Electrify Africa Act. This bill would ensure progress on the issue.

“Energy poverty matters for the same reason that poverty matters,” Bridle says. “We have a duty to ensure that those less well-off then ourselves have access to a good standard of living and equal opportunities.”

Melissa Binns

Sources: Fuel Fix, World Finance
Photo: United Nations Foundation

Energy Poverty
Energy poverty is an issue that is little known by people around the world. Many people assume that poverty only means lacking money or food, but it also means cooking and living with very primitive energy sources, which could be even deadlier than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. If nothing is done by 2030 about the energy poverty crisis, 4,000 people could die each day of the toxic smoke and fires from primitive, unsafe stoves. Also, there are a few surprising facts about energy poverty that many people may not know.

1. There has been a tremendous amount of progress in delivering safe energy to people who need it, but it makes little difference. From 1990 to 2010, 1.7 billion gained access to electricity, and an additional 1.6 billion gained cleaner cooking fuels. But because the population grew by 1.6 billion during those years, there were still billions without safe energy.

2. It’s the quickly-developing countries that have the biggest energy problem. India is the fastest country to get her people access to electricity, and China has the most efficient energy on the planet, yet both countries have millions of people without electricity and other forms of safe energy.

3. About 3.5 million people each year die from indoor pollution caused by the smoke when cooking on wood and biomass cookstoves. Cookstove smoke is considered by some to be the largest environmental threat because it kills more than malaria (1.2 million) and HIV/AIDS (1.5 million) each year.

4. Countries with the most energy have people with the least. Nigeria produces the highest quantity of oil in Africa, yet it has the second highest number of people without safe energy in the world (behind India).

5. Renewable resources are currently not enough to provide safe energy across the world. The UN’s Sustainable Energy For All programs rely on creating more energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, to provide energy without polluting the earth, but renewable energy only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s energy consumption.

Katie Brockman

Source National Geographic, National Geographic


Energy Poverty Key in Healthcare DeprivationAccording to this year’s “Poor People’s Energy Outlook,” published by the NGO Practical Action, more than 1 billion people have been left with inadequate medical care because of energy poverty. The report cites such circumstances as emergency surgeries performed in the dark, lack of proper sterilization of supplies, and health centers being unable to store temperature-regulated vaccines.

The report states that over half of all health centers throughout India have no access to electricity – these centers are responsible for the health care of over 580 million people. The situation is similar throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 255 million people are serviced by healthcare facilities that lack power.

The report also highlights that even if health facilities do have access to electricity, it can be unreliable and frequently cause blackouts. In Kenya, only 25% of facilities have consistent energy services, making it extremely difficult for staff to aid patients at night, and putting emergency patients and mothers giving birth and their babies at risk. The Kenyan centers experience blackouts on an average of 6 times per month. “It can also lead to wasted vaccines, blood and medicines that require constant storage temperatures,” the report says.

Although the Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), sponsored by the UN, has pushed energy access for all people by 2030, the report warns that health and education should be the top priority, not simply energy development and efficiency. The report states that the program has put too much emphasis on energy “mostly on domestic use and access for enterprise,” ignoring the critical needs of huge numbers of medical facilities and clinics.

The report also addresses the need for consistent energy access in schools, and asserts that over 291 million children throughout developing countries attend schools with no access to electricity.

The report suggests that attaining numbers on poor people’s access to energy will be much more efficient than examining solely large-scale energy development, and has proposed a new system for doing so with World Bank and UN cooperation.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Belinda Otas