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Investing in Renewable Energy in MongoliaEnergy access has surged in Mongolia in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, the percentage of the population that had access to energy in Mongolia increased from 78.5% to 98.1%. In rural areas, the percentage of people who had access to electricity in 2010 was roughly 41.9% and that number grew to about 94.6% in 2018. This increase in energy access coincides with renewable energy projects in Mongolia that the country has invested in.

Mongolia and Energy

Mongolia relies on imported coal for most of its energy. In 2018, 93% of all power generated from the country’s Central Energy System came from coal plants. However, the coal sector cannot maintain the country’s energy demand for the growing population. Fortunately, the potential for wind and solar energy in Mongolia is believed to be 2,600 gigawatts. This would provide enough energy for all of Mongolia and even Northeast Asia.

The Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP)

One of the first projects to capitalize on renewable energy in Mongolia was the Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP) which was completed from 2007 to 2012. The goal of the project was to provide herders access to electricity by selling and installing solar home systems (SHSs). At the time, herders were among the most impoverished people in the country. Fortunately, the SHS units provided under the REAP project greatly improved more than 70% of herders’ electricity access in Mongolia.

Photovoltaic Solar Energy (PV)

In 2017, the Second Energy Sector Project (SESP), presented by Mongolio’s Ministry of Energy, was approved by the World Bank. The project’s objective is to renovate and expand Mongolia’s energy infrastructure. The $54.4 million in funding would help supply nine of the country’s provinces and install Mongolio’s first large-scale build photovoltaic solar energy (PV) plant.

Mongolia’s investment follows the successful implementation of PV systems in China. According to Nature, “Of China’s 10 poverty-alleviation projects, its development of photovoltaic-based solar power has been one of the most successful.” In just three years, the solar installations helped 800,000 impoverished households in China. In Lixin, a county in China, the PV systems provided about $440 in extra yearly income to families.

Looking Forward

The government continues to invest in renewable energy in Mongolia. In April 2020, funding was approved to install the world’s largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). The project is set to be completed in 2024 and will “supply 44 gigawatt-hours of clean peaking power annually, and support the integration of an additional 859 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity into the CES grid annually.” The PV systems and BESS are just two new installations of many that are set to tap into the potential of renewable energy in Mongolia and help improve the quality of life for many.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Improving Energy in AfricaOne in 10 people in the world (800 million) have no access to electricity and the access of an additional 2.8 billion people is considered insufficient and unreliable. In regions with insufficient access to electricity, the standard of living is poor, particularly with regard to adequate healthcare and education. Africa is such a region. Half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives without electricity. Improving energy in Africa is essential for economic growth and prosperity across the continent.

The Consequences of Inadequate Energy Access

Energy is vital to reduce the cost of business activities and for creating economic opportunities and jobs. More than 640 million Africans lack access to electricity. When the sun sets for these individuals, workable hours in the day end. Insufficient access to energy can also restrict the economy more indirectly, by way of increased risk of deaths related to wood-burning stoves, restricted hospital and emergency services and compromised access to education.

Along with appropriate infrastructure, household health and productivity are essential for boosting economies. The persistent use of wood-burning stoves is evidence of lacking infrastructure that presents a burden to health and productivity. This dated method has drawbacks that include indoor pollution, deforestation and unpaid time spent collecting biomass fuel. In 2017, an estimated 600,000 Africans died due to indoor pollution.

Fulfilling household responsibilities requires more time and must be done within restricted hours when electricity is unavailable. These responsibilities often fall on women and children and prevent their participation in the formal economy or pursuit of education that could encourage later participation. African economies suffer because of these barriers to participation. Industrialization is key to economic growth in Africa. To industrialize the continent, energy in Africa needs to be sustainable and easily accessible to all.

Improving Energy in Africa

Africa already has significant capacity for improvements in energy. Much of this potential lies in renewable energy sources. For example, one-fifth of Africa’s current energy is produced using hydropower. Hydropower, however, is only being utilized to one-tenth of its potential. Along with hydropower energy, solar, biomass, wind and geothermal energy all show promise for further development.

There are several existing avenues for further development of energy in Africa. As a shift toward renewable energy is gaining momentum across the globe, largely due to its environmental advantages, the resulting new and affordable technologies may provide the needed boost to further industrialization in Africa. Ensuring that renewable energy innovations reach Africa and are suited to build on current capabilities is essential for economic growth throughout the continent.

The 2020 African Economic Conference (AEC)

The African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme jointly hosted the 2020 African Economic Conference (AEC) from Dec. 8 to 10. The conference facilitated presentations and discussions among leading academics, early-career researchers, policymakers and decision-makers. The central theme of the conference was how to ensure continued sustainable development in Africa amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific topics included the role of governments and private institutions in regulating and developing African economies, adjusting goals and methods to conditions brought on by COVID-19 and preparing Africa for future resilience in crisis. The conference has been held since 2006 and helps to maximally inform efforts toward development in Africa, consider the challenges unique to local economies and emphasizes the importance of sustainable and renewable energy.

The New Deal on Energy in Africa

The AfDB Group is leading the New Deal on Energy in Africa to help develop energy in Africa and achieve universal electricity access for Africans by 2025. Its strategy is to build awareness of barriers to economic development, secure innovative funding for energy developments and strengthen energy policy and regulation. According to the AfDB, without stable energy in Africa, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved. The emphasized ideal for energy in Africa is renewable; nevertheless, efficient and less expensive methods of energy production can quickly work to stimulate the economy. Gas will be an important transition fuel as efforts are made to establish cleaner, maintainable methods.

Electricity Access for Economic Growth

Improving energy in Africa means that the continent needs reliable power grids and universal access to electricity to further economic stability. The path to sustainable energy in Africa is evolving thanks to new momentum derived from the global and continental potential for renewable energy development. Keeping energy progress in mind throughout pandemic response efforts is a goal of international organizations as they work together with Africa toward economic growth across the continent.

Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in UgandaAs of 2016, it was estimated by the World Bank that only 26% of Uganda’s population has access to electricity. In urban areas, the percentage is higher, at about 60%. However, in rural areas, the amount of people with electrical access is limited to only 18%. The use of solar energy in Uganda hopes to bring increased access to electricity, specifically in rural areas, as well as make electricity more affordable for the population.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy from the sun that can be used electrically or thermally. It is a renewable energy source that provides a sustainable and clean alternative. Through photovoltaics (solar thermal collectors) solar power is collected and then converted into an energy source that can be used as a heating system or for electricity.

Solar Energy Fighting Poverty

Solar energy in Uganda can bring poverty reduction. It is an affordable and reliable source of energy that rural areas can depend on. It can also produce jobs within the community. Since solar energy makes household chores easier, women and girls have more time available to search for jobs or pursue education and development opportunities. Overall, renewable energy is a valuable component to provide electricity access, financial empowerment and sustainable economic and social development.

European Investment Bank (EIB)

With solar energy, more of the country will have access to electricity. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is using its finances to help people without electricity in Uganda. As it is the rural communities that are more affected by a lack of electricity, programs are more focused on maintaining reliable resources for those areas.

Through EIB’s efforts, more than one million people in Uganda will have access to electricity for the first time, making for easier cooking and the ease of many other household activities. Families will also be able to save money since the household will not be using as much kerosene, candles or charcoal. Indoor pollution will decrease from less kerosene usage and fire hazards will be reduced.

Reliable electricity has many benefits, with access to health opportunities being one of them. With access to phones, radios and televisions, farmers will be open to markets that can increase their income. EIB has given a loan of $12.5 million to build 240,000 solar home systems throughout Uganda, increasing economic and social opportunities.

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL)

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) created an agenda that was adopted by Uganda’s government to help provide an increase in accessibility. The goal is to provide more than 99% of the population with access to electricity by 2030 and improve the energy efficiency of power users by at least 20% by 2030. SEforALL plans on accomplishing this ambitious goal by building energy savers throughout the country in households, industries, commercial enterprises and more.

It is clear that Uganda is in need of more access to electricity throughout the nation. Solar energy is one of the sources that hopes to increase those numbers. There is still a lot to be done to raise access to electricity from 26% to 100%, but with efforts from Sustainable Energy for All and the European Investment Bank, the situation looks exceptionally hopeful.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in MoroccoIn 2018 and 2019, Morocco became a powerhouse in renewable energy, exporting an increased 670% of energy and decreasing imports by 93.5%. This can be attributed to the nation constructing the largest concentrated solar farm in the world. The solar plant, known as the Noor Complex, has the capability to power one million homes and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuel.

Solar Energy in Morocco

Prior to this renewable attitude, 97% of Morocco’s energy was produced by fossil fuels. The construction of solar farms is able to offset the nation’s energy usage, lessening the demand for energy imports and creating opportunities for more exports, ensuring a self-sufficient nation.

The decrease in energy consumption in the country has saved funds on energy costs. In 2018, the Moroccan Government decided to move to the GMT+1 timezone resulting in less electricity consumption by citizens. This shift toward sunnier days allows Morocco to overproduce energy and afford to export energy.

The advantages of solar energy in Morocco extend into multiple areas, creating a positive impact for not only Morocco but the African continent as a whole.

Poverty Eradication Benefits

In past years, poverty in Morocco has seen a significant decrease. While an optimistic stride for the nation, the decline in poverty was disproportionate between rural and urban areas.

This disparity between the living areas is often attributed to the difficulty in distributing energy to the rural regions. The hope is that the efficiency of solar energy in Morocco will allow for energy distribution to residents living outside the city to be feasible.

In 2016, poverty in Morocco was reduced to 23% from 45% in 2014. As solar energy in Morocco becomes more efficient, the living conditions of the average resident should improve as solar power makes electricity more affordable and easier to access. The solar farms popping up across the country also create jobs for the population to earn a living wage.

Economic Benefits

Solar energy in Morocco helps the nation be less reliant on energy imports and capable of exporting more energy, boosting the economy and relationships with other nations.

As Morocco’s economy strengthens with its excess of energy, it looks to make connections with European countries. In 2016, the construction of the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline project was announced. This pipeline perfectly positions Morocco to become an energy hub for the Mediterranean, African and European nations.

These connections to other nations allow Morocco access to flourishing markets and new business opportunities. As Morocco forms these foreign connections, it is becoming a greater political power in Africa.

Political Benefits

The continent of Africa currently has a leadership vacuum that Morocco is preparing to fill. As it produces more energy and builds stronger relationships with European nations, it is seen as a serious economic and political figure for the continent.

In 1984, Morocco left the African Union (AU) because of a disagreement over the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). After many years, Morocco now seeks to rejoin the AU and strives to make the continent of Africa a robust, independent continent.

Now, the country is setting an example for the other nations of Africa to become self-sufficient and gain economic ground with foreign countries. Morocco has invested 85% of its foreign funds to other countries in Africa in an attempt to boost its leadership role as well as improve the struggling African economies.

The current Moroccan King, King Mohammed VI, has confidence in the continent’s abilities and wishes to lead Africa to success. He has made Morocco the second largest investor in African affairs.

Environmental Benefits

The positive environmental impact is often considered when looking at renewable energy. Morocco is heavily invested in combatting climate change and the environmental crisis the world is facing. Along with many green policies, Morocco is implementing the Green Generation 2020-2030 plan to help farmers conserve water and energy and grow crops more efficiently.

In addition to its pivot toward solar energy, Morocco is developing an environmental code to reduce pollution and work toward a greener society.

A Brighter Future

Morocco’s turn to solar energy is improving the living standards of its residents and empowering the country in the political arena all while reducing the harmful effects fossil fuels have on the planet. While Morocco has seen hard times, it is propelling forward and bringing the continent of Africa along with it. As Morocco constructs more solar resources and spreads its influence to other African nations, it plays a significant role in poverty reduction.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

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

SELCO Solar Power

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

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

Affordability of Solar Power

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

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

Flexible Solar Solutions

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

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

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

South Africa’s Transition to SolarDespite having the 33rd largest economy in the world, South Africa ranks among the top 15 countries worldwide in greenhouse emissions, both total and per capita. Currently, the country mostly relies on coal for energy. However, the last decade has seen frequent and lengthy power outages that have convinced South African cities and companies to search for alternative energy sources. South Africa’s transition to solar has already started and both companies and cities strive to be less reliant on the national power grid within the next 10 years.

Ford Motor Company: Solar Car Park

The automotive industry is one of South Africa’s largest sectors, consisting of more than 13% of all exports and employing over 100,000 people. The Silverton Ford factory is among the country’s largest, employing 4,300 people. Due to the unreliability of the power grid, Ford announced its new solar project, named “Project Blue Oval” on November 14, 2020. Ford, in partnership with SolarAfrica, will install a 13.5 MW solar system that will supply about 30% of the plant’s power. It will contain more than 31,000 solar panels and provide coverage for more than 4,000 cars, making it the largest solar car park in the world. Ford will also install other green energy systems in the coming years, with the goal of being completely carbon neutral and off the grid by 2024.

Eskom: South Africa’s Electricity Supplier

South African cities are also transitioning to solar energy. City governments cite the sometimes weeks-long power outages as concerns and worry about the steadily rising cost of electricity. Currently, Eskom supplies most of the country’s power through coal power plants. Eskom is by far South Africa’s largest polluter, accounting for 40% of the country’s greenhouse emissions. Both the Cape province and Johannesburg have plans in place to move away from coal energy. The Northern Cape will complete a photovoltaic solar plant in 2023 capable of producing electricity for roughly 75,000 homes. Johannesburg has not yet committed to a specific plan for a solar or other green energy plant but has expressed interest.

Eskom is currently in $30 billion of debt and the large-scale transition away from the electricity provider will threaten Eskom’s financial stability even more. Eskom has announced on November 8 its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. This will threaten the livelihoods of the 120,000 people who work at its 15 coal plants so the transition will be intentionally slow to lessen economic hardship.

Solar Energy in Agriculture

The agriculture industry is also starting to shift to solar energy. The periodic blackouts affect farmers’ abilities to freeze goods and irrigate crops, among other issues. Power from the grid is also expensive. Sun Exchange is a major player in bringing solar power to farmers across southern Africa. Its funding model of providing free equipment and installations while profiting off the energy usage allows agribusinesses to immediately lower energy costs by 20%. The market for solar energy in agriculture strong. GreenCape, a nonprofit green energy advocate, expects yearly solar market growth of 10% as companies like Sun Exchange continue providing low cost, reliable energy to farmers.

The Future of Solar Energy

The rise of solar and green energy in South Africa has less to do with environmental concern and more to do with issues of cost and reliability. Even energy giant Eskom will eventually switch over to renewable energy in the coming decades. South Africa’s transition to solar energy could make it a leader as the world slowly starts moving to green energy.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Costa RicaThe country of Costa Rica has an abundance of natural resources available. The particularly abundant renewable resources that Costa Rica uses in great quantity is its wind and hydro energy. Costa Rica has embraced renewable energy and has benefitted from it in a multitude of ways but there are also some less obvious ways it has benefitted from renewable energy.

Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Renewable energy has helped small business owners and farmers. This would explain why so many of them are supportive of renewable energy. Since deforestation has been largely stopped because of renewable energy, the biodiversity in Costa Rica has been able to remain. Costa Rica’s mass only makes up 0.03% of the Earth. Nonetheless, 6% of the Earth’s natural wealth and biodiversity is located within Costa Rica.

It is this biodiversity that has become so useful to the farmers of Costa Rica. Biodiversity reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides that the farmers would normally use. Other natural resources can be used for farming as well. Cacao shells, for example, can be used for mulch and logs can be used to make the soil richer.

Renewable Energy Helps Tourism

Tourism has also benefitted from renewable energy in Costa Rica. Tourism is an extremely important part of Costa Rica’s economy. Tourism alone brings in about $1 billion to the country and employs around 155,000 people. This is a substantial amount of people in a country home to about four million people. Renewable energy indirectly helps protect tourism in Costa Rica, in particular, ecotourism. By protecting these natural resources, Costa Rica ensures that people will continue to visit the country to see the beauty of its natural and conserved environments.

The Los Santos Wind Power Project

Renewable energy has also helped small and local communities in many ways. Los Santos is one such area that has seen these positive impacts. Los Santos has particularly benefitted from the use of wind energy. The area is one of the windiest regions within Costa Rica. Currently, the Lost Santos Wind Power Project is installing wind turbines in the region.

The project has built enough windmills in the area that the region is able to generate 12.75 MW of wind energy, provide 50,000 inhabitants with the electricity they need and prevent around 15,000 tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year. The energy produced by the wind turbines can then be sold to the government. The money that is earned can be used to help the local community. For example, the money made from selling energy that is produced can be used for the construction of new schools. Additionally, the installation of wind turbines will also create new jobs for people. To keep turbines functioning and ensure they receive repairs when needed, technicians must be available to work on them.

Renewable Energy, Renewable Hope

Renewable energy in Costa Rica is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, as set out above. The money from the generation of renewable energy can be used to help small communities. The tourism industry in Costa Rica will continue to thrive and because the environment will remain undamaged so will the amount of biodiversity that helps farmers.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

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

Electricity in Somalia

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

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

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

BECO’s Solar Power Plant

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

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

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

Somalia’s Potential Future with Renewable Energy

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

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

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in HondurasHonduras is one of the many countries in Central and South America that has begun using a variety of different forms of renewable energy. In 2012, the government passed reforms to help the country adopt renewable energy at a faster rate. Before the reformations, 70% of the energy produced in Honduras was from fossil fuels while only 30% came from renewable energy. Now, Honduras believes that by the end of the decade it will be able to use renewable resources for 95% of its energy needs.

Types of Renewable Energy

The two particular renewable energy resources that Honduras will be able to use is its hydropower and solar power. As of 2018, most of the renewable energy being produced in Honduras has been from hydropower—it makes up 34% of country’s renewable energy. The country is estimated to be able to produce 5,000 MW with its hydropower alone.

Solar power is also another dominant form of renewable energy which makes up 10% of energy consumption. Honduras’ solar market is now the second largest in all of Latin America, with Chile being the first. Honduras is also one of the first non-island countries that has been able to use 10% of its solar energy for electric generation.

Other forms of renewable energy include biomass at 10%, wind at 7% and geothermal at 1%.

Honduras has switched to renewable energy as a means of being self-sufficient. This is especially important considering that it was the second poorest country in Central America as of 2017. Thankfully, the country can reach the energy self-sufficiency it desires with its abundant renewable energy sources.

Private Sector

One way renewable energy has helped Honduras has been by allowing private companies to be more efficient with their energy usage. One such company is the Invema Plant. The Invema Plant is the primary plastic recycler in Honduras. The company installed solar panels on its buildings and reduced their electricity usage by 30%. As a result, the company reinvests the monetary electricity savings to further recycle plastic.

Where it Stands

The transition to renewable energy has also been beneficial to impoverished rural communities. These communities are receiving electricity that they previously had no access to. Under the Honduran Renewable Energy Project for Rural Development, solar energy projects have been implemented in rural communities where there is limited access to electricity. The project has already benefited 1,075 communities spreading across Ocotepeque, Lempira, Copan, Intibuca, Santa Barbara and La Paz. This type of improvement in rural communities is especially helpful considering many impoverished Hondurans live in rural communities.

While it is impressive that renewable energy efforts have been made in Honduras to improve people’s quality of life and stimulate the economy, much work remains to be completed. Hondurans still do not have universal access to electricity. Only 87% of the population had access to electricity in 2016, which largely compromised of Hondurans living in urban cities. For citizens to feel the full benefits of renewable energy in Honduras, everyone must have access to electricity.

Regardless of the challenges that still face Honduras, that country has been able to make a good deal of progress in building energy self-sufficiency since the reform implementations.

—Jacob Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Desalination in Micronesia Could Alleviate Water ScarcityMicronesia, a cluster of hundreds of islands nestled in the Southwest Pacific, is a region with unique obstacles to development. Nationwide efforts to fight poverty are difficult to execute because of the disconnected nature of the islands. One of the greatest barriers for Micronesian communities in the fight against poverty is access to safe water. As of 2015, around 15% of the rural population lacked access to basic drinking-water sources. Water supply in the South Pacific is particularly susceptible to the climate, with certain weather patterns making the water too brackish, or is diseased with cholera, typhoid and other deadly water-borne illnesses.

Hardships and the Importance of a Stable Water Supply

In 2016, the region experienced one of the worst droughts in Micronesian history. An emergency response coordinator at the International Organization for Migration explained that the drought’s impacts went beyond just providing drinking water. In early 2020, some preparatory schools in Weno were forced to close because wells were drying up.

Furthermore, because agriculture employs almost half of the nation’s labor force and produces 60% of food supply, groundwater supply is critical. In the past, severe droughts have led local farms, which are the backbone of the economy, to be shut down.

A Promising Solution

Since problems of national drought and water insecurity in the country continue to resurface, many understand that there must be a restructuring of the Micronesian water infrastructure. Fortunately, the islands’ seafront location is leading many to suggest the potential of desalination in Micronesia. This process makes ocean water drinkable and has the potential to meet Micronesia’s needs. The Marshall Islands, one of the five states in Micronesia, recently completed a desalination project that purifies 1,600 cubic meters of seawater a day. Partially funded by the Asian Development Bank, the project has been revolutionary for the Marshall Islands’ water independence. Beyond the South Pacific, nations around the world have caught on to the capabilities of desalination, from Saudi Arabia and Oman to China and India. Plants operate in more than 100 countries, and many areas, like Dubai, have been able to shift to almost 100% desalination.

The Role of Renewable of Energy

Not only does desalination in Micronesia give islands the autonomy to have a stable water supply, but the desalination plants typically encourage the growth of renewable energy, like solar panels. This is partially a result of the fact that most modern desalination plants are powered through solar energy. When government funding is available to introduce solar energy, a presence for renewables is better established in the economy and further investment is more likely. The new plants in the Marshall Islands are solar-powered and have catalyzed the development of solar street lights estimated to significantly reduce energy consumption. These plants also provide reliable drinking water to 3000 Micronesians.

 

While poverty and child mortality rates have steadily dropped in the region in the last decades, Micronesia cannot continue to improve on this progress without access to a stable water supply. Fortunately, the development of infrastructure to encourage desalination in Micronesia alongside current plants in the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu is a groundbreaking step in this effort for nationwide water security.

Jack Berexa
Photo: Flickr