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South Africa’s energy crisisSouth Africa faces an energy crisis, especially in off-grid informal settlements, which house some of the poorest people in the country. Ten percent of the South African population, or 4.4 million people, lives in informal settlements, with 2 million of these people living without access to formal grid electricity. These settlements often have poor infrastructures that do not allow for proper electricity connections, and rapid population growth has led to dense and congested living spaces with massive demand for energy. Within these settlements, inhabitants resort to illegal connections to the grid to access electricity or use paraffin or petrol-powered generators that have harmful effects on health. Without clean energy, citizens suffer from health risks when using harmful cooking fuels, and children fall behind in education when they are unable to use electricity to study after dark.

GreenCape

The nonprofit organization GreenCape has partnered with The iShack Project to launch a solar panel project that aims to deliver renewable energy to households in informal settlements. This project has helped install solar systems in 580 households, and inhabitants pay less for solar panels than they used to pay for harmful fuels like paraffin. Not only has GreenCape’s project brought clean energy to communities, but it also has helped combat South Africa’s high unemployment rates. Locals are also trained and employed to help install and maintain these solar structures, creating job opportunities for unemployed members of the community – this project created around 50 new jobs. Their training is ongoing, allowing them to continually develop employable skills and generate income for their families.

Zonke Energy

Zonke Energy is a South African Company that aims to provide safe and renewable energy to informal settlements and markets outside the formal national grid, especially within congested and urbanized environments. It delivers clean energy to informal settlements in Cape Town through a distributed solar system that is powered by a 1.5kW solar photovoltaic generator. Each system provides energy to 10-15 households, powering everyday appliances such as a television, lights and refrigerators from a central power hub, and is provided at a low cost for inhabitants of informal settlements. Zonke Energy has taken strides to solve South Africa’s energy crisis — in one of the informal settlements, it has delivered over 6MWh of clean electricity to 160 households since 2021.

The Umbane Project

The Umbane Project operates in Qando Qando, Cape Town, targeting South Africa’s energy crisis by installing solar microgrids to help power refrigerators. By setting up seven solar towers, with each tower powering up to 16 households, it has supplied over 100 families with clean and safe power. The supply of power for refrigerators in particular has had a positive impact on the local community, as many residents have expressed that the most important use for electricity is refrigeration.

Powering refrigerators allows citizens to store food for themselves and their families, as well as to generate income by selling cooled food and beverages. Part of the project also involves the provision of business support for female entrepreneurs through powering refrigeration, and dozens of people participated in a six-week entrepreneurship training course. As seen in a recent project evaluation, the project has been a success, with multiple participants reporting improvements to their start-ups and increases in their sales and revenue.

Striving Toward Clean Energy in South Africa’s Informal Settlements

With such a high demand for clean, safe and affordable energy, it is crucial to adopt innovative solutions to help improve the lives of local communities and lower-income families. By utilizing solar power, households in South Africa’s informal settlements can slowly but surely gain access to renewable energy at a low cost, and the installation of these solar grids can also create jobs, tackling high unemployment rates at the same time. Taking innovative approaches to bring safe and cost-effective energy to many households is crucial to solving South Africa’s energy crisis.

– Stephanie Chan
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in LaosLaos, a Southeast Asian nation renowned for its abundant natural beauty and culturally diverse heritage, has grappled with the enduring challenge of poverty for several decades. As of 2018, a staggering 18.3% of its population lived below the poverty threshold, and this burden disproportionately affected those residing in rural areas. Moreover, 22.5% of Laos’s population lacked access to even basic sanitation facilities while 7.8% were deprived of access to clean, potable drinking water.  Despite these challenges, recent years have witnessed remarkable progress in poverty alleviation through the adoption of renewable energy, marking a significant step toward a more sustainable and prosperous future for Laos.

The Energy Landscape in Laos

Laos has abundant natural resources, including a vast network of rivers and forests that form the foundation of Laos’s renewable energy potential. The Mekong River and its tributaries traverse the country, offering immense hydropower potential. Additionally, Laos benefits from abundant solar energy resources due to its location in a region with high levels of sunlight. 

Harnessing Hydropower for Prosperity

One of Laos’ most remarkable success stories in addressing poverty is developing aggressive hydropower projects, many of which export electricity to neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, thereby generating substantial revenue. This revenue becomes a critical source of funding for social development programs aimed at reducing poverty. Electricity sales from projects including the Lao PDR’s Nam Theun 2 (NT2) generated more than $170 million for the government over the 25-year concession period, allowing the government to invest in priority development with education and health sectors receiving the largest investments.

The NT2 plays a crucial role in expanding Laos’ hydropower sector, which has minimal private involvement initially. Following its success, private financing led to the completion of five additional projects and 13 more projects achieved financial closure, creating a significant market. This surge in hydropower development directly and indirectly generates job opportunities for construction workers, maintenance technicians, administrators and others, substantially improving employment prospects and livelihoods for many Laotians.

Addressing Energy Poverty

Access to electricity is a fundamental driver of poverty alleviation. In Laos, rural regions often lack reliable access to energy sources, constraining economic opportunities and social development. Renewable energy in Laos, particularly micro-hydropower systems, bridges this energy gap in remote areas. Micro-hydropower projects are designed to provide electricity to small communities or villages in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. By electrifying rural areas, they enable the establishment of local businesses, such as small-scale agriculture and cottage industries, which can elevate income levels and reduce poverty rates. The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program helps bring power to 14,000 households in 230 villages through individual solar home systems and to 52,000 households in 570 villages through grid extension. 

Educational Opportunities

Access to education is a fundamental right that can break the cycle of poverty. Currently, however, a significant barrier stands in the way of their schooling as nearly 30% of Laos’ rural villages do not have access to electricity. In rural areas of Laos, lack of electricity can hinder students’ ability to study after dark, limiting their educational opportunities. While the presence of electricity is taken for granted by many across the world, its absence is preventing many citizens, especially girls and women in Laos, from pursuing an education that would in the long term, empower them to break the cycle of poverty.

Renewable energy, through the electrification of schools and the provision of solar-powered lighting, extends study hours and improves the quality of education by helping school children do their homework in the evening. Additionally, the availability of electricity facilitates the use of technology in classrooms, enabling students to access a wider range of educational resources. This enhances the learning experience while equipping students with skills necessary for future employment, further contributing to poverty reduction.

What’s Next?

Renewable energy in Laos is a technological advancement and a powerful tool for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. By harnessing the abundant hydropower and solar resources, Laos unlocks new opportunities for its people, providing them with access to clean energy, better livelihoods and improved education. As Laos continues to invest in renewable energy, it makes significant strides toward eradicating poverty, fostering economic growth and building a brighter future for its citizens.

Marnie Woodford-Venables
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in LuxembourgSituated in the heart of Europe, Luxembourg, a nation nestled among three major countries, boasts a rich cultural and historical tapestry woven from the influences of France, Germany and Belgium. Notably, Luxembourg stands as a pioneer in renewable energy initiatives, underscoring its commitment to environmental progress. Despite its modest size, this nation wields significant cultural and environmental influence on the global stage.

The IEA (International Energy Agency) often records and reports on the progress of its member countries, which Luxembourg (a.k.a. The Grand Duchy) is part of. 

The Luxembourg government plans to reach its target of a “50-55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030” by supporting several projects, including electric cars, wind farms and solar power.

On the Road: Electric Cars

When it comes to progress and advancement with renewable energy in Luxembourg, the country shows potential to pave the way because “…the Grand Duchy (Luxembourg) continues to have one of the densest charging networks in the European Union.” Especially given its geographical position in Western Europe, many travelers need to charge their electric vehicles as they drive through the picturesque landscape of Luxembourg on their way to Belgium, Germany or France. In June 2023, Luxembourg inaugurated its first “SuperChargy” station that will help the public quickly charge their vehicles.  

The “ultra-fast recharging stations” are essential for long-distance travel across Europe, enhancing the efficiency of charging and minimizing disruptions to travelers’ schedules. This extensive network of public charging stations, referred to as “Chargy terminals,” has seen significant growth. In 2022, more than 700 charging stations were deployed throughout Luxembourg, providing convenient access to the public.

Wind Farms and Renewable Energy

According to RTL Today, “Wind energy ranks first among renewable energies in Luxembourg.” In 2023, the expansion of Wind Farms looks to get better as Luxembourg currently has “…62 wind turbines …with 17 currently awaiting approval.” Although the attention and care it takes to operate just a single wind turbine is extensive, just one provides a significant amount of power to the sovereign nation’s regions and towns (on average one onshore wind turbine can produce up to 6 million kWh, which gives power to about 1,500 EU homes). 

Wind turbines “…are becoming increasingly efficient.” Not only are they beautiful to look at, but seeing them pop up from place to place around the Luxembourg landscape is a testament to their importance and efficiency. 

Solar PV

Another way the Grand Duchy is pushing toward renewable energy in Luxembourg is through “photovoltaic panels,” or solar energy as many know it, which converts sunlight into electricity. European renewable energy companies SOCOM (Luxembourgish) and Evocells (Belgian) join forces in the Grand Duchy to progress together. By joining forces, their goal is to produce “100,000 panels… each year in Luxembourg-Hollerich… thus creating more than 20 direct jobs.” And continuing on with that same drive of ambition, “…there are also plans to double the production capacity by 2026.” This is definitely a push for such a small country like Luxembourg, but if their outlook and estimations are correct, they are on a positive path toward a future that will only get better.  

Looking Ahead

While a small sovereign nation, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg justifies its prominent position on the global stage when it comes to renewable energy. Luxembourg’s significance is underscored by its strategic geographical location, leaving it in a position to shape the energy policies and advancements of numerous neighboring countries.

– Matha Mathieu
Photo: Pixabay

Renewable Energy in SerbiaSerbia is a nation with a population of around 6.7 million in the Western Balkans. It became a sovereign state in 2006 after the intense violence of the Yugoslav Wars. Since 2014, Serbia has been engaged in accession negotiations to join the EU. However, as of 2022, a U.N. Joint Programme reported that 12.3% of Serbians are living in absolute poverty, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine negatively impacting many families.

Many of these poor Serbians are also subject to energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford up-to-date dwellings and appliances or spend most of their income on energy bills. Introducing renewable energy in Serbia could be a solution to this issue, as it would help provide Serbians currently living in poverty with more efficient energy and a resulting higher standard of living, as well as create new jobs, foster economic growth and prevent further environmental damages associated with fossil fuels. 

Energy Access

Currently, the state-owned Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) monopolized Serbia’s electricity market. According to Our World in Data, 100% of Serbia’s population has electricity access. However, this is not a particularly high benchmark to meet as it only requires that a source of electricity is capable of providing basic lighting and a few other services like charging a phone or powering a fan for a few hours per day.

While Serbia has complete electricity access, not everyone in the country can use clean sources of gas for cooking. The percentage of people who can procure clean and safe fuels is only around 80% as of 2020. The other 20% of the population must use sources such as charcoal and animal dung, bringing down the number of people who have complete access to energy.

Fossil Fuels

Renewable energy in Serbia is still developing and a substantial amount of Serbia’s energy continues to come from coal plants. As much as 70% of the nation’s energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels. Serbia’s heavy reliance on coal as its primary source of electricity has caused severe instability in the past. For example, floods, which have become more common with changing weather patterns, caused several coal mines in Serbia to become unusable in 2014. More recently, in 2021, two of Serbia’s largest coal plants suffered massive breakdowns, launching the country into a crisis and forcing the government to import electricity. Despite efforts, thousands were left without power as the coal plants struggled to meet their previous output potential.

Hydropower

Hydropower is the most popular form of renewable energy in Serbia, contributing 30% of the country’s energy. Serbia has built the most extensive hydropower infrastructure in the Balkan region, with a capacity of 2.935 MW currently operational. However, Serbia has not yet reached its full potential in harnessing this renewable energy, as an additional 7,000 GWh of hydropower remains unused. Locals have expressed concerns over the installation of hydropower plants due to environmental damage compared to the relatively low electricity generated.

Wind and Solar

Renewable energy from wind and solar sources is limited in Serbia. Several private renewable energy companies, such as Masdar, Fintel Energija, Nova Commodities, New Energy Solutions and CWP Renewables, focus on these forms of power.

There are 398 MW of wind power available in Serbia and the country is looking to generate even more. Due to its strong winds, projections show that Serbia is capable of producing 2.3 TWh of energy from wind farms.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Serbia has a solar power potential of 3.6 GW, and government officials hope to build on that potential. Along with an average of 270 sunny days per year, the average solar radiation in Serbia is 30% higher than that of Western Europe, making it a strong candidate for solar power plants. Unfortunately, by the end of 2021, only 52 MW of solar power were installed in Serbia, although the country recently opened its largest plant to date in April 2023, and it has a capacity of 10 MW alone.

Further Steps

In 2022, the World Bank granted Serbia a $50 million loan for its Scaling Up Residential Clean Energy (SURCE) Project. This initiative aims to provide clean and efficient heating solutions and rooftop solar panels to 25,000 households over five years.

In March 2023, Serbia updated its Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources. The new amendments allowed for the Serbian government to implement auctions to install more renewable energy plants, as well as helped provide solutions for overloads occurring when connecting wind and solar farms to the existing power system.

As a result of the updated law, the Serbian government introduced plans to launch its very first renewable energy auction in June, offering to support wind power projects with a capacity of 400 MW and solar PV projects with a capacity of 50 MW. The government hopes this auction will be the first round in a three-year cycle that will produce 1000 MW of wind power and 300 MW of solar power.

Looking Ahead

Serbia’s implementation of renewable energy brings extensive benefits, particularly for those facing energy poverty and struggling to afford clean and safe electricity and fuel. Although there is still room for progress in fully realizing its renewable energy potential, the country’s efforts demonstrate continuous growth, and the government is taking concrete steps in the right direction.

– Sofia Oliver
Photo: Unsplash

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

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 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

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Rise of Solar Energy in AfricaThe future is bright for Africa. The continent is beginning to tap into an energy source that is plentiful, clean, renewable and self-sustaining. Unlike other energy sources such as coal or oil, solar energy is a path to energy independence for African nations developing their economies. This desire for energy independence has led to the rise of solar energy in Africa.

Growth Potential

Since sunlight is the most intense closest to the equator, Africa has a great opportunity when it comes to solar energy. The equator runs through the center of the continent, earning Africa the nickname, “The Sunshine Continent.” Companies such as Kenyan-based M-KOPA are tapping into the abundant resource. M-KOPA has, so far, created 2,500 jobs in East Africa. Although the rise of solar power is relatively new, Africa’s access to sunlight could fuel the future.

Independence

Other energy sources are often imported and therefore create a reliance on other nations, whereas solar energy is often independently operated. Nations with vast oil reserves are able to consolidate control over the resource, but not all citizens benefit from the nation’s wealth. The average citizen is not able to drill for oil and process it. Although oil and coal provide money for the nation, only a few wealthy people can control the resource. Individuals cannot build dams or nuclear reactors, but they can install their own solar panels and power their homes. M-KOPA helps foster self-reliance by supplying 750,000 homes and businesses with solar panels to produce electricity.

Additionally, 46% of households that are powered by M-KOPA solar panels generate income from their solar panels. They can essentially sell their excess energy back to the grid. Solar power empowers individuals because they have control over their energy. The ability to sell excess energy allows the people of Africa to collect passive income and invest in their future. Most importantly, electricity is a requisite for many activities and is necessary to live a more autonomous life. Access to electricity allows people to be more productive with their time, as they can see and work at night. Unfortunately, only 43% of Africa has access to electricity.

Companies such as SolarNow provide solar power systems for people that live off the grid. Considering 60-80% of people in Uganda and Kenya live off the grid, companies like SolarNow have an enormous market to serve. SolarNow has sold more than 50,000 units in East Africa. The rise of solar power in Africa will continue to grow the economy of African nations and allow people to take control of their lives and energy.

Clean and Renewable

Unlike other resources, solar power is clean and does not pollute the atmosphere. Solar power is renewable, utilizing energy from the sun, which is relatively infinite. Since much of Africa lacks electricity, it is important that the continent develops sustainably. This way, people do not suffer from the harmful effects of pollution. The rise of solar energy in Africa has been successful so far, considering M-KOPA has conserved 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 since 2011. Although solar panels are expensive, they are a cleaner and more sustainable option than the coal that is currently burned to produce electricity.

A Bright Future

Despite having room for further improvement, the future is bright for the people of Africa. Investing in solar power is a key component to reducing poverty because it empowers individuals to harvest their own energy and potentially profit from it. Far too many African people lack access to the electrical grid, and solar energy is a viable path to powering the continent. The rise of solar energy in Africa will continue to create jobs and produce clean, renewable energy that can help grow the economies of African nations.

– Noah Kleinert
Photo: Flickr