Energy PovertyGermany has typically received most of its oil and gas imports from Russia, being more reliant on them than any other EU country. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, these imports have plummeted, through EU sanctions and pipeline closures by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy conglomerate. Germany has further committed to ending all reliance on fuel from Russia by 2024. Making this transition quickly is a monumental task, compounded by worldwide inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic. As Germany’s energy market struggles to maintain affordable fuel for its citizens, many Germans are at risk of falling into energy poverty. Many different solutions are needed to combat this issue, such as reducing fuel usage, restructuring affordability, and finding alternative uses for fuel.

The German Gas Market

Natural gas accounts for 27% of Germany’s energy. Before the Ukrainian invasion, 55% of it came from Russia. EU sanctions and the partial closure of the Russian-owned Nord Stream pipeline has caused significant disruption to Germany’s energy market. Since natural gas is mainly used in Germany for heating homes and other buildings, there is a risk of many Germans falling into energy poverty this coming winter.

Energy Poverty in Germany

Energy poverty is when the cost of purchasing energy impacts one’s ability to cover other bills and expenses, or when a reduction in energy consumption impacts mental and physical health. One in four Germans are currently energy impoverished, up from one in six in 2018. The poor and disenfranchised are far more likely than others to slip into energy poverty. A member of Germany’s lower-middle class is now twice as likely to fall under the “energy poor” category compared to only one year ago. The German government is scrambling to ease the pressure of increasing prices for suppliers and consumers.

Germany’s Efforts to Curb Energy Poverty

One of Germany’s efforts to curb energy poverty is through reducing the use of natural gas, through both energy-saving measures and switching to different fuels. Most public buildings are lowering their thermostats, and monuments will no longer be lit at night. Heated swimming pools are banned. Germans are being encouraged to take cold showers. The government is also reducing taxes on other forms of fuel, giving discounts to people who switch to public transportation, and reopening old coal power plants.

Another measure in Germany’s efforts to curb energy poverty is a new gas levy, or tax, for consumers, which will be in place from October 2022 through April 2024. While this will alleviate the pressure of surging prices from suppliers to help them remain solvent, there are concerns that it will push many vulnerable Germans into energy poverty. To counteract this, the government is giving subsidies to low-income households and households with children.

The German government is also shoring up gas reserves for the winter, when need will be the highest. As of early September 2022, gas reserves had reached 80% capacity, which is much earlier than expected. The filled gas reserves will help stabilize the supply during the winter, and reduce the risk of people becoming energy impoverished.

The subsidies, gas reserves, and the cutting of gas usage will save thousands from pressures of gas usage, and ease some of the burdens off the market. Reduced market burdens will give Germany’s efforts to curb energy poverty the time to stabilize the market, stop German citizens from falling into energy poverty, and lift those who have out.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Thorium-Based Nuclear EnergyThe 2021-2022 global energy crisis is the most recent in a series of energy shortages in the last 50 years. However, because of the rise in gas prices along with the strain on the world oil supply caused by the Russia-Ukraine War, impoverished countries reliant on oil and gas as their primary sources of energy are affected by this crisis much more. Now more than ever, the importance of alternative energy sources, such as thorium-based nuclear energy, is evident as countries reliant on the now strangled supply of oil and gas face struggles.

What is Causing Increased Energy Prices?

The primary source of energy in the world is usually a type of fossil fuel such as oil, natural gas and coal.

However, as a result of the current global energy crisis, every form of fossil fuel has rocketed in price. Due to the sudden hike in prices, some countries could find it difficult to afford their required quantities of fossil fuels. As such, countries could be unable to obtain enough energy-producing resources.

What is Thorium?

Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive element that can be used to derive nuclear energy. It is also far less radioactive than uranium.

Thorium does not contain fissile material and therefore it is far safer than uranium. It can be immediately switched off in the case of a disaster, preventing a meltdown, while the latter will continue to produce energy during a disaster, causing a meltdown to occur.

Along with being safer, thorium is cheaper and more plentiful compared to uranium as well. This is partly because the concentration of uranium within the earth’s crust is far less abundant than thorium, making uranium much rarer. This could make thorium-based nuclear energy a much more affordable option.

How Thorium Can Help Energy Shortages?

While the initial cost of mining thorium and constructing power plants would be costly, it is an investment that could pay off in the long run. Thorium is extremely efficient when compared to the most commonly used sources of energy in the developing world. For instance, a ton of thorium is equivalent to around 3.5 million tons of coal.

Even when compared to other nuclear resources, thorium still holds out as superior to uranium, to which thorium is around 200 times as efficient.

Throughout history, energy sustainability has been one of the forefront issues when dealing with fossil fuels. This is especially true in developing nations, as many rely on coal as their main source of energy.

However, due to recent developments in nuclear technology, thorium-based nuclear energy puts humanity a step forward in achieving energy sustainability. The use of thorium could possibly eliminate one of the biggest problems faced by those in poverty, being a reliable source of energy that does not cause frequent power outages while being able to readily supply heat.

Hope for the Future

Energy crises are complex and even life-threatening disasters. In developed countries like the U.S., reserved power and backup sources of deriving energy encourage recovery. However, even with these resources, truly getting out of an energy crisis could take years; if unsuccessful, many could lose their jobs/livelihoods along with losing their comfortable standards of living.

In developing countries, years easily turn into lifetime struggles with a crisis that could prevent much of their population from advancing out of poverty. Fortunately, many countries in the developing world are realizing the potential of nuclear power and are funding programs to provide its energy to their citizens.

For example, in 2021, Nigeria established the Russian-Nigerian Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) which plans to build the largest nuclear power plant in Africa by the end of the decade.

In 2018, Bangladesh’s signed into law the funding for a second VVER-1200 nuclear power plant, one of the most efficient in the world.

While thorium-based nuclear energy may not be the perfect solution to the energy problem, it certainly could be a good start in helping those in poverty live a life without energy instability.

– Humzah Ahmad
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in FranceIn 2015, nearly 200 countries signed off on the Paris Agreement to combat changing weather patterns. Since then, the agreement’s host nation, France, has made considerable, yet, insufficient progress towards its goals. The issue of climate has become a common topic of discussion in recent years. Changing weather can have various effects on the planet such as natural disasters. In an effort to confront the matter, the Treaty of Paris originated to get countries around the globe to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly, France, the country in which the treaty emerged, has fallen behind in trying to reach this goal. Here is some information about the state of renewable energy in France as well as the types of energy France uses in addition to it.

Sources of Power in France

In order for most nations to reduce their carbon emissions, they had to first reduce their use of fossil fuels. A large majority of greenhouse gasses come from the burning of these resources. France, on the other hand, does not really have this issue.

While renewable energy in France did not make up a large portion of power production, the country had another option to look to. For decades, France has primarily relied on nuclear energy for its power. In fact, in the year 2000, more than 70% of the country’s power came from nuclear energy, which emits much fewer greenhouse gasses than burning fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, nuclear energy comes with its own dangers. While nuclear power reduces the quantity of greenhouse gasses that release into the atmosphere, it produces nuclear waste that can prove to be harmful to the environment. Additionally, more nuclear energy means a higher risk of a nuclear meltdown which can have even more detrimental environmental effects. Overall, many countries, including France, have decided that renewable energy is the best option.

New Environmental Policies

France has implemented various laws and policies to help the country reach its Paris Agreement objectives. For example, the country’s environmental program, EN MARCHE, intends to close multiple coal based power plants, provide more funding for renewable energy and create a new recycling model. Also, the Environmental Transition Law (ETL) allows more renewable energy project funding to local authorities and single-use permits for wind energy, biogas and hydropower, and creates more than 35 million smart meters.

On top of this, France also has various future projects planned. In 2020, the French Energy Ministry created 1.7 gigawatts of renewable energy projects. Total, an energy company, will have its largest solar power plant located in Valenciennes. Overall, France expects 40% of all of the nation’s power to come from renewable energy by the year 2030.

Renewable Energy in France

According to the general delegate of the Renewable Energy Trade Administration, Alexandre Roesch, renewable resources generate 25% of France’s power. Hydropower supplies most of this energy. Out of all the nations in the European Union, France produces the most hydropower.

 Behind that is wind power, although that may not be the case for much longer. Wind power has progressed rapidly in France and the country has planned various projects for the future as well. Wind power could overtake hydropower by 2030 and could be key for France in meeting its renewable energy objectives.

 Like wind energy, solar power generation has also increased in France. While many do not expect it to surpass hydropower anytime soon, it could still significantly contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

Falling Behind

While France has increased its renewable energy production and has various renewable energy projects in the works, the country is still at risk of not reaching its Paris Agreement goals. Much of this is due to internal debates that are slowing the process of constructing renewable power stations.

For example, creating new wind farms could greatly boost renewable power production in France, but there are other factors that French citizens are concerned with. Wind farms drastically increase noise pollution and many believe that their construction could eradicate biodiversity.

While the citizens continue to debate over these and various other issues, France is unable to complete its projects because of these internal disagreements. France could end up falling behind its fellow European nations in its own treaty if it cannot develop its renewable energy at a faster rate.

Renewable Energy’s Impact on Poverty

Energy poverty is an issue that impacts many countries in Europe, including France. In 2019, 12% of France’s population did not have adequate access to energy. Much of this is due to high energy prices and low incomes. This has resulted in many French citizens being unable to warm their homes during cold winters or cool their homes during increasingly hot summers.

The implementation of additional renewable energy in France could mitigate this issue in a couple of ways. Firstly, the cost of renewable energy has dropped significantly over time and is actually more affordable than nonrenewable energy now. This will make it easier for poorer citizens to have access to the power they need. Also, many of the households experiencing energy poverty are located along France’s coastal regions, which also happens to be where many wind power stations will undergo construction. The price and proximity of renewable energy could be helpful in lifting France out of energy poverty.

In addition to lowering energy poverty, more renewable energy could lower unemployment as well. Currently, France sits at an unemployment rate of 7.3%. France’s various renewable energies account for about 60,000 full-time jobs. If France’s future renewable projects come to fruition, it could create thousands of new jobs and lower the unemployment rate drastically.

Overall, renewable energy in France has become more prominent in recent years albeit, not at the rate they hoped for. Unfortunately, if the country wants to reach its ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, they have to pick up the pace exponentially. There is time and potential for France to become an even more renewable nation as long as the government and its citizens can reach an agreement that will yield positive results in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in VenezuelaOn March 7, 2019, Venezuela entered the worst power outage in the country’s history. Plunging all 23 states into darkness, the blackout lasted over five days in majority of the country. The economic losses triggered by this event exceeded $800 million and led to the deaths of an estimated 46 people. Electricity in Venezuela has since become a huge cause of concern for people.

Blackouts in Venezuela

Regrettably, this blackout was not an isolated incident, although it was the longest. Blackouts have become a routine aspect of Venezuelan life, dating back to as early as 2010. In a country where 96% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, these blackouts serve only to exacerbate the struggles of a vulnerable population. They strip people of access to basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Their root causes are often unclear although the key contributing factors are widely agreed-upon.

Understanding the Power System

In 2007, Venezuela’s private power companies were nationalized and transformed into one state-run monopoly known as Corpoelec. The company is underfunded, rife with corruption and unable to recover its own operating costs. The factors creating this untenable situation for Corpoelec date back even further to 2002 when national electricity rates were frozen. In Venezuela, “consumers pay only 20% of the real costs of producing power, delivering Venezuelans the lowest electricity prices in Latin America.” The drawback to these low rates is that energy is extremely overused and that Corpoelec is unable to generate sufficient revenue to fund infrastructure investments or even basic maintenance of its facilities.

Overdependence on Hydropower

The aforementioned problems are exacerbated by Venezuela’s near-complete reliance on hydropower from just one dam. The Guri Dam located in the eastern state of Bolívar accounts for 80% of the country’s electricity production and its systems are woefully neglected. The dam currently operates at a capacity considered unsustainable, “jeopardizing the machine room in the case of a flood,” according to experts. In a region where flooding is common, this is cause for concern.

Whereas other countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric power like Brazil and China have made large investments into other forms of energy, Venezuela’s ability to shift away from hydropower is crippled by underfunding, a lack of engineering power from within the country and corruption.

Corpoelec has stagnated progress as well. The company, “paid millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political connections,” to maintain its dominance. Projects to build new dams and other forms of electricity production like thermal or wind have routinely been stalled due to a lack of funding and inadequate staffing.

The Cause of the Blackout

The March 7 blackout that heavily circulated the news was caused by a system failure at the Guri Dam. It was initially painted as a terrorist attack by president Nicolás Maduro, who tweeted, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

The Venezuelan president’s claim was that the U.S. had caused the power outage through a cyberattack on the hydroelectric plant. However, engineers who worked on the dam later clarified that the plant’s electronic monitoring system is not actually connected to the internet, proving a foreign attack to be an unlikely root cause. The plant has been poorly maintained and neglected for a very long time. In actuality, failure to properly manage the electricity grid may have caused a fire has been deemed the likely cause, and unfortunately, there is no quick-response system in place at the facility to protect its systems from damage.

The Future of Electricity in Venezuela

To ensure the return of consistent electricity to the people of Venezuela and protect against future blackouts, massive overhauls would be beneficial. However, such agendas seem unrealistic given the current economic and political climate in the country. Rather, a focus on increased upkeep and basic maintenance of power plants offers a more realistic path forward. This requires access for NGOs to bring in engineers and consistent revenue toward infrastructure repair. Without this basic funding and commitment from the government, the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer through blackouts.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Energy Projects in MozambiqueOn September 9, 2020, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) approved two energy projects in Mozambique. The recent decision resulted in a loan of $200 million to Centra Térmica de Temane for a power plant and $1.5 billion in risk assurance to support the commercialization of Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The purpose of these projects is to create access to energy and an opportunity for economic growth fueled by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The DFC energy projects in Mozambique constitute a substantial investment by the U.S. that will make good on the Prosper Africa pledge which aims to increase U.S. investment in Africa.

Keeping its Promise to Africa

The Prosper Africa initiative serves to create business opportunities in Africa and increase two-way trade and investment with the intent to benefit companies, investors and workers in the U.S. and Africa. Dennis Hearne, U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, spoke highly of the two projects stating, “These projects will have a significant development impact in Mozambique, improve lives and create a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the country to build a more prosperous future for all Mozambicans.”

Jumpstarting Economic Growth

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of less than $500. It is the job of the DFC to prioritize projects in areas that are low income. DFC investment for energy projects in Mozambique could create a lot of private capital in the country and jumpstart economic growth.

The DFC will provide up to $1.5 billion in political risk insurance to advance the development, construction and operation of an onshore liquefaction plant that will commercialize Mozambique’s natural gas reserves in the Rovuma Basin. This project could turn the country into a major energy exporter and increase the GDP by an average of $15 billion per year, creating long-term economic growth. The development will envelop the entire country, boosting sectors aside from oil and gas.

Diversifying Power Resources

Those in Mozambique who are lucky enough to have electricity rely almost entirely on one colonial-era dam called Cahora Bassa. The dam provides more than 2,000 megawatts out of the approximate 2,800 megawatts installed capacity. Due to extreme weather conditions, the Zambezi River, which powers the dam, flows irregularly, “putting the country’s entire power system at great risk.” The DFC’s proposed power plant will be powered by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves, providing a different source of electricity that is also reliable.

Creating a Power Infrastructure

Only 29% of Mozambicans have electricity in their homes, making it an energy-poor country. Companies with a grid connection still rely on diesel 17% of the time and biomass (wood and charcoal) accounts for 60% of the country’s primary energy use.

In order to develop, construct and operate a 420-megawatt power plant with a 25-kilometer interconnection line and 560-kilometer transmission line, the DFC will loan Central Térmica de Temane up to $200 million. Not only will the power plant diversify the country’s power resources but will also reduce the cost of electricity. Furthermore, it will allow Mozambique to use its own natural gas supply to increase power generation and support the government’s plans to develop the national electricity system.

Balancing Exports and Domestic Use of Natural Gas

Mozambique’s natural gas reserves are abundant and will provide the country with an incredible income. However, Mozambique is uninterested in exporting all of its natural gas to Europe and Asia. The DFC will help Mozambique attain the generation infrastructure that will allow the country to use natural gas to power its homes and businesses and it will support large-scale liquified natural gas export facilities in order to bring revenue into Mozambique.

The completion of the DFC energy projects in Mozambique will take Mozambique from one of the poorest countries with regard to revenue and energy to a major energy exporter with long-term economic growth. These projects will help the economy grow, provide the country with a diverse power infrastructure and balance its natural gas usage. These investments will also fulfill the Prosper Africa pledge in which the U.S. vowed to increase investment in Africa. Overall, U.S.-Africa relations will benefit, and more importantly, a prosperous future will lie ahead for the people of Mozambique.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

energy, poverty and politics
Americans are burning through fossil fuels at historically high rates. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. ranks number one in top energy producers and consumers as of 2019. While the domestic effects of oil, gas and coal consumption may feel familiar, the industry’s impact reaches beyond U.S. borders, influencing energy, poverty and politics.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Bret Gustafson, professor of sociocultural anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and author of “Energy and Empire: Bolivia in the Age of Gas,” explained the interplay among energy, poverty and politics.

Socioeconomic and Ecological Consequences of Fossil Fuels

Gustafson views the connection between fossil fuels and poverty as a paradox. Large profits bolster the wealth of companies and their owners rather than those living and working near industrial hubs of fossil fuel extraction. Similarly, many of the resource-rich countries that source of much of the world’s fossil fuels seem to benefit far less than the countries they supply.

The regions involved in fossil fuel production exist as “sacrifice zones.” These zones are so named because the social and environmental rights of people nearby are forfeited for profit. Gustafson argues that corporate heads of fossil fuel companies realize their industry’s detriment. However, the “logic of the corporate CEO is that anything that is negative can be paid for.”

Fossil fuels also wreak environmental and social destruction. From extraction to transportation, drilling and mining may lead to accidents, toxic spillage and water/air pollution. Moreover, fossil fuel production involves human risk. In fact, between 2008 to 2012, 34 fatalities and more than 1,400 injuries resulted from offshore oil rigs.

The Industry’s Role in US Politics: Subsidies and Lobbying

Energy, poverty and politics intersect in the U.S. as well. Despite evidence of socioeconomic and ecological harm, fossil fuel industries enjoy favorable political support in the U.S. Credible estimates of annual domestic fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies range between $10 billion and $52 billion per year. These estimates are likely to remain high with the current administration’s goal of “energy dominance,” a term synonymous with President Trump’s efforts to ramp up fossil fuel production and end the “war on coal.”

The fossil fuel industry and some U.S. politicians maintain a symbiotic relationship. The oil and gas industry was the fourth-largest industry spender in the U.S. for political lobbying in 2019.  In addition, from 2017 to 2018, companies tethered to fossil fuels spent nearly $360 million in campaign donations and lobbying. Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Chevron were the leading spenders. In comparison, renewable energy industries spent $26 million during the same period of time.

A Sustainable Future in Energy, Poverty and Politics

Successfully addressing issues tied to energy, poverty and politics will likely require parallel streams of infrastructural change and public pressure. Experts at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute advocate for more efficient reconfigurations of the energy grid, such as a shift to electric transportation and renewable-powered buildings.

Gustafson believes awareness and protest will catalyze the political action necessary to make these changes mainstream. “It won’t happen by itself,” he says. “We need people in the street, marching, demonstrating.”

Though the fossil fuel industry operates within complicated socioeconomic and political contexts, individuals can walk, bike, vote or protest in the short-term for just, sustainable energy.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

Light in the Philippines

Kerosene lamps are used all throughout the developing world as a way to have light at night. Unfortunately, these lamps produce carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide which harms the lungs and could cause asthma and even cancer. These lamps also produce black carbon, a major contributor to global warming. The harmful effects of kerosene lamps are why Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) is focused on bringing light to the Philippines.

Aisa Mijeno, engineer, co-founder and CEO of SALt, lived in the Philippines and through her time with the tribes, she found that they relied heavily on kerosene lamps to see at night. She knew that these lamps are harmful to your health, which is why she looked for a solution that could work easily for tribes in the Philippines. Mijeno realized that the Philippines have an abundance of saltwater, which allowed her to create a lamp powered by the saltwater surrounding the Philippines or through a glass of water and two scoops of salt.

The technology behind the lamp is actually quite simple, and it allows for less maintenance than a typical kerosene lamp. The lamp has two metal rods inside that are the electrodes, and when saltwater, the electrolyte, is added to the lamp, it creates light and electricity for eight hours. SALt lamps only last for six months, because the metal rods will wear out, but once these are replaced, the lamp is back to its working function.

Kerosene lamps are harmful to people and to the environment, and they also don’t last very long. These lamps can provide light for four hours at the most, half the time SALt lamps can run for. SALt lamps also provide electricity for the eight hours, as it has a USB port that can charge any kind of device.

SALt has called itself a social movement, as it looks to empower others to donate. Through their website, you can learn about different communities needing light in the Philippines and see how many lanterns they are in need of. This allows for anyone to be able to impact an entire community by providing safe and more efficient alternative to kerosene lamps.

Although 93 percent of Filipinos have access to electricity, there are still millions of people in rural areas like Mindanao and other surrounding islands that are left without this crucial necessity. By making and providing saltwater powered lamps, SALt is providing a solution for millions of Filipinos that reduces emissions and is safe for their health. Through the use of these natural resources in the Philippines, it allows for less maintenance than a kerosene lamp that can last twice as long, allowing them access to light and electricity throughout the night.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Ukraine has a history of attempts toward developing its infrastructure that have failed thus far. Infrastructure in Ukraine has great potential, but its development has been delayed for multiple reasons, including mismanagement during Soviet rule and periods of economic instability.

The local energy sector, in particular, is in a poor state. Earlier this year, radical politicians blockaded coal from the unrecognized People’s Republic of Donetsk region of Donbass from delivery to the rest of the country, exacerbating the issue of underdeveloped infrastructure in Ukraine. This threw the country into turmoil, as Ukraine does not have enough resources to serve its power plants without the coal, leading to a downward economic spiral and state of emergency.

Currently, Ukraine is working on modernizing its infrastructure with a focus on making it more energy-efficient. Konstantin Grigorishin, owner of Energy Standard Group and vast assets in the energy sector of Ukraine, stated in an interview with RealClearEnergy, “We should not reconstruct the old infrastructure but introduce complete modernization of the Ukrainian energy system in line with the latest industry trends.”

The World Bank ranks infrastructure in Ukraine at 80 out of 160 countries in its annual Logistics Performance Index. This is mediocre at best, and its transportation systems are out of date with respect to speed, safety, and efficiency. To remedy this issue, Ukraine came out with a plan, Ukraine’s Transport Strategy 2030, that focuses an updating all its internal transportation systems until it is on par with the rest of Europe.

Ukraine is strategically located between the E.U., Russia and the Black Sea, forming a critical point for maritime trade. Its position, and the Dnipro River linking its coast to the interior of the country, makes it uniquely capable of both international and regional trade. The only thing required to make this trade plan possible is a viable route along the Black Sea and the Dnipro River, and this is where issues arise.

Infrastructure in Ukraine requires an investment of at least $2 billion from private investors for maritime trade to be a viable option. To increase investments, the Ministry of Infrastructure intends to establish private-public partnerships (PPPs) with businesses. The Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on November 14, 2017, declaring their intention of mobilizing infrastructure development through PPPs.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Volodymyr Omelyan, has stressed the importance of these partnerships, stating, “Ukraine’s infrastructure needs are enormous. We need to crowd-in private investment to modernize the country’s infrastructure and upgrade it. IFC’s support and technical expertise will help ensure we are implementing the best possible solutions efficiently and transparently.”

Ukraine’s economy is relying on the success of these investments and the jobs they will create. With continued cooperation between the government and the PPPs, the country will steadily overcome its obstacles to infrastructure development.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

Energy in TanzaniaAlong the coast of eastern Africa sits Tanzania, home to the continent’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Beside Kilimanjaro resides a population of 45 million people; the majority of them live in a rural setting- a full 74 percent. Yet, despite this rural majority, only two percent of rural residents have access to electricity – an issue which has contributed both to the rise of environmental issues and the cementation of cyclical rural poverty. A disconcerting 93.6 percent of rural residents are forced to use wood as fuel for cooking, which is a time-consuming necessity that has enabled deforestation and robbed individuals of time that could be spent in other ways had there been a different and viable energy option. Consequently, the issue of energy in Tanzania is one which requires efficient and diverse solutions.

Into this scenario walks a Dutch energy company called Devergy, whose innovative approach makes clean energy accessible to rural Tanzanians across the nation. Devergy works on a pay-as-you-go model, relying on mobile banking – a financial practice which is already widely used across many African nations.

This model allows consumers to control their energy consumption and their financials; one uses as much or as little as necessary based on his or her need and financial situation. It is a financially accessible option – energy “credits” cost as much as phone credits and less than kerosene lighting – that gives the consumer complete control. This ultimately empowers individuals by giving them the (literal) power to light their homes and businesses as much or as little as they need, all within the confines of their personally-dictated financial arena.

Importantly, the energy provided is also clean. Most rural areas do not have access to electrical grids, and the cost of expanding those grids is currently not economically feasible, which is why 90 percent of all energy consumption comes from biomass materials such as wood. Instead of trying to create access to the general energy grids already in place, the company instead installs solar micro-grids in villages. These micro-grids generate renewable energy, which is connected to homes by locally-trained technicians and accessed by the village inhabitants through the aforementioned model.

In the last two years, more than 150,000 lives have been impacted by implementing these micro-grids across the nation. Though there is still much work to be done to solve the energy issue in Tanzania, the future is looking bright as Devergy paves the way by providing clean, efficient energy to citizens of the country.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

PoaPower Provides Energy to Rural CommunitiesAccording to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity globally. Over 95 percent are located in either sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia, and 80 percent live in rural communities. Access to clean energy sources directly affects health, education and income, putting rural communities at a severe disadvantage.

The Global Innovation Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to investing money in new innovations that combat poverty issues in the developing world. One of their recent investments aims to combat the clean energy disparity in rural communities in Africa. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities at an affordable “pay-as-you-go” rate. The Global Innovation Fund has invested £150,000, or just over $191,970, in a pilot program based in Kenya that has brought energy to over 100 households.

In 2015, over 34 million Kenyans lived in rural communities throughout the country. Located in eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, Kenya’s primary energy usage is industrial. According to PoaPower, 80 percent of Kenyans lack affordable electricity, with data showing that 75 percent of families have children that require adequate lighting to finish homework. Another issue is the use of kerosene lamps in homes that have risks of indoor air pollution and fires.

By signing up with local PoaPower agents in their area, Kenyan households are able to receive enough energy to run their homes on an affordable “pay-as-you-go” model through the pilot program. The model allows for PoaPower to sell energy at a metered rate with no upfront costs. This allows even the lowest income households to receive energy quickly and when they need it. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities in Kenya that would otherwise be completely off-grid.

Testimonials provided by PoaPower include that of Samuel Mwangi, who stated, “Although power lines run over my house, I could not afford the connection fee. Now with PoaPower I have all the electricity I need – it’s even enough to run my laptop!”

In 2015, PoaPower received recognition for its efforts from Menorca Millennials, who invited the team to a 20-day focus program in Spain highlighting startup innovations that focus on tackling world issues on a global scale with new business models such as their pay-as-you-go program.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr