Energia16 - - RENEWABLES -

Ac­cess to energy sour­ces cons­ti­tu­tes one of the main cau­ses of inequa­lity between de­ve­lo­ped nations and the poo­rest re­gions in the pla­net. Al­ter­na­ti­ves such as pho­to­vol­taic or even wind po­wer could be a proper op­tion to brid­ge the gap. Ho­we­ver, the lack of qua­li­fied staff, tech­no­logy, and fi­nan­cial re­sour­ces cons­ti­tu­tes a th­reat to this pos­si­bi­lity. Ne­vert­he­less, a win­dow of opportunit­y emer­ges. How we de­ci­de to fa­ce it will be cri­ti­cal for the fu­tu­re of man­kind.

Jose Luis is a stu­dent at the Jo­ma­ka­ba Ya­ba­no­ko School, in the com­mu­nity of Ma­ka­reo (Del­ta del Ori­no­co) near Ve­ne­zue­la’s exit to the Atlan­tic Ocean. It is an in­di­ge­nous com­mu­nity ca­lled the wa­rao. In spi­te of ha­ving been born in the 21st cen­tury, he is prac­ti­cally un­fa­mi­liar with elec­tri­city. Only the lo­cals that ha­ve ho­me fuel plants ha­ve the pri­vi­le­ge of ac­ces­sing this ser­vi­ce. It seems li­ke a pa­ra­dox, con­si­de­ring the com­mu­nity is just 200 ki­lo­me­ters from the Gu­ri, a lar­ge hy­droe­lec­tric com­plex.

This si­tua­tion can be seen, with so­me va­ria­tions, in neigh­bo­ring Bra­zil, as well as Me­xi­co, Afri­ca, and Asia. Iso­la­ted com­mu­ni­ties with no

ac­cess to energy sour­ces or basic tech­no­logy.

The crazy thing is that, in light of the pro­gress ma­de with green energy, it is now ea­sier (at least in theory) to get elec­tri­city to re­mo­te com­mu­ni­ties. Pho­to­vol­taic or wind sour­ces, for ins­tan­ce, eli­mi­na­te the need for co­los­sal pro­jects and lar­ge bud­gets to ins­tall po­wer li­nes, ther­moe­lec­tric or hy­droe­lec­tric plants. Why is this re­la­ti­vely inex­pen­si­ve, easy to ins­tall, low-im­pact, re­ne­wa­ble, and ef­fi­cient tech­no­logy not wi­dely used in si­tes whe­re it is so nee­ded?

A debt from the nations of the world

It has been four years sin­ce the Uni­ted Nations ap­pro­ved the 2030 Agen­da on Sus­tai­na­ble De­ve­lop­ment, which has 17 goals that range from eli­mi­na­ting po­verty to figh­ting climate chan­ge, edu­ca­tion, gen­der equa­lity, the en­vi­ron­ment, and ur­ban de­sign. The energy transition is al­so a cri­ti­cal fac­tor.

Mo­re than 3 bi­llion peo­ple, mostly from Asia and Sub-saha­ran Afri­ca, use po­llu­ting fuels and inef­fi­cient tech­no­lo­gies to cook.

What do we need?

On one hand, it is ne­ces­sary to in­crea­se in­ter­na­tio­nal coo­pe­ra­tion to fa­ci­li­ta­te ac­cess to clean energy re­search and

tech­no­logy, which in­clu­des re­ne­wa­ble sour­ces, energy ef­fi­ciency, and ad­van­ced tech­no­logy that is less po­llu­ting than fos­sil fuels. Ad­di­tio­nally, it is al­so im­por­tant to pro­mo­te in­vest­ment in energy in­fras­truc­tu­re and clean tech­no­lo­gies.

Fi­nan­cing, edu­ca­tion, and po­li­ti­cal will stand out as basic re­qui­re­ments. It is worth analy­zing each one by one.


Crea­ti­ve In­vest­ment

In­deed, the gap between the rich and the poor be­co­mes a vi­cious cy­cle. Li­mi­ted ac­cess to fi­nan­cial re­sour­ces re­du­ces the pos­si­bi­li­ties to un­der­ta­ke plans that ma­ke way for eco­no­mic growth.

In coun­tries whe­re po­verty and lack of re­sour­ces for­ce peo­ple to prio­ri­ti­ze, tech­no­lo­gi­cal pro­jects (in­clu­ding in the energy and en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tor) are fre­quently left behind. No­net­he­less, whi­le this cons­ti­tu­tes an obs­ta­cle, it is not an in­sur­moun­ta­ble ba­rrier, es­pe­cially con­si­de­ring that re­ne­wa­ble ener­gies offer a broad range of low-cost options. On the ot­her hand, ac­cess to the­se sour­ces would help re­du­ce po­verty, thus tur­ning a vi­cious cy­cle in­to a vir­tuous cy­cle.

Crea­ti­vity is a good way to ap­proach the pro­blem. A good exam­ple is Co­li­brí, an en­tre­pre­neurs­hip de­ve­lo­ped in Ni­ca­ra­gua th­rough Tec­no­sol, a lo­cal energy com­pany.

The com­pany part­ne­red with the Mul­ti­la­te­ral In­vest­ment Fund (MIF) to pro­mo­te a via­ble bu­si­ness mo­del. The pro­gram pro­po­ses gran­ting low in­co­me com­mu­ni­ties li­mi­ted ac­cess to energy net­works by pro­vi­ding long-term fi­nan­cing to pur­cha­se so­lar pa­nels.

The initia­ti­ve has ma­na­ged to ins­tall mo­re than 45,000 so­lar pa­nels, sa­ving 11 mi­llion li­ters of ke­ro­se­ne and pre­ven­ting the emis­sion of 26,000 tons of CO2. The firm ope­ra­tes 17 ru­ral bran­ches and is ex­pan­ding to Hon­du­ras and El Sal­va­dor.

This is not a uni­que ca­se. Anot­her re­mar­ka­ble exam­ple is Ilu­mé­xi­co. In 2009, a team of eight elec­tric en­gi­neers led by Ma­nuel Wie­chers had the idea of using re­ne­wa­ble po­wer as their main tool to im­pro­ve li­ving con­di­tions for mar­gi­na­li­zed com­mu­ni­ties in Me­xi­co.

Es­ti­ma­tes in­di­ca­te that mo­re than half a mi­llion fa­mi­lies in Me­xi­co de­pend on cand­les and die­sel for illu­mi­na­tion in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

To da­te, the Me­xi­can com­pany has be­ne­fit­ted mo­re than 18,000 peo­ple in 254 villages by ins­ta­lling over 3,000 equip­ment. This has hel­ped pre­vent the emis­sion of ap­pro­xi­ma­tely 1,940 tons of CO2.

It is not all about mo­ney. The ca­se of Ve­ne­zue­la, whe­re re­mo­te areas lack energy ser­vi­ces, is a good exam­ple of this. Whi­le the South Ame­ri­can country is cu­rrently in the pu­blic eye for na­vi­ga­ting a hu­ma­ni­ta­rian cri­sis, not so long ago this OPEC mem­ber was known for its hu­ge oil po­ten­tial and eco­no­mic sol­vency.

Ho­we­ver, whi­le this pri­vi­le­ged si­tua­tion allo­wed ma­king re­mar­ka­ble ad­van­ces in terms of in­fras­truc­tu­re, ac­cess to certain ser­vi­ces (such as elec­tri­city) was li­mi­ted, inef­fi­cient or no­ne­xis­ting, es­pe­cially in re­mo­te areas. Ot­her coun­tries in the re­gion are going th­rough si­mi­lar si­tua­tions. If it is not a mat­ter of fi­nan­cial re­sour­ces, what is going on? In reality, it is a mul­ti­fac­to­rial is­sue, but it can be sum­ma­ri­zed as a lack of plan­ning.

Edu­ca­tion is es­sen­tial

But fi­nan­cial re­sour­ces and po­li­ti­cal will are not enough. It is es­sen­tial to ha­ve the hu­man re­sour­ces ca­pa­ble to un­der­ta­ke and par­ti­ci­pa­te.

In Sub-saha­ran Afri­ca, even though re­ne­wa­ble ener­gies could be the so­lu­tion for the over 600 mi­llion peo­ple with no ac­cess to elec­tri­city, the­re is a shor­ta­ge of wor­kers trai­ned to ins­tall and main­tain so­lar, wind, and ot­her clean energy sys­tems.

The Po­we­ring Jobs cam­paign - laun­ched in la­te 2018 ai­med to train a mi­llion peo­ple world­wi­de by 2025, in or­der to meet the de­mand for wor­kers specialize­d in re­ne­wa­ble po­wer.

Ove­rall im­pro­ve­ment of the qua­lity of li­fe

Pro­grams fo­cu­sed on in­clu­sion in energy ac­cess would be cen­te­red on key as­pects such as wa­ter avai­la­bi­lity, job sour­ces, edu­ca­tion, and im­pro­ve­ment in food dis­tri­bu­tion and qua­lity, to name a few.

For exam­ple, mi­llions of small far­mers in Sub-saha­ran Afri­ca ha­ve inade­qua­te ac­cess to sus­tai­na­ble and con­sis­tent wa­ter sour­ces. The­se peo­ple suf­fer from the lack of rain­fall du­ring the dry sea­son and un­cer­tain pre­ci­pi­ta­tion du­ring the rest of the year. Whi­le the ma­jo­rity has ac­cess to wa­ter in their area, they fa­ce the cha­llen­ge of inade­qua­te in­for­ma­tion and al­so a lack of fi­nan­cial re­sour­ces to pay for the high up­front costs of a re­lia­ble irri­ga­tion sys­tem.

The so­lu­tion ca­me from Sunny Irri­ga­tion, a com­pany fo­cu­sed on al­ter­na­ti­ve ener­gies that crea­ted a sta­te-of-theart so­lar wa­ter pump that is af­for­da­ble and por­ta­ble.

The firm’s stra­tegy is ba­sed on the pre­mi­se that a so­lar­po­we­red irri­ga­tion sys­tem will enable far­mers to in­crea­se crop yield and ge­ne­ra­te hig­her re­ve­nue.

Sunny Irri­ga­tion es­ti­ma­tes that the­re is a po­ten­tial mar­ket of mo­re than 10 mi­llion small far­mers in Rwan­da, Ugan­da, and Ken­ya. The lat­ter al­ready laun­ched a pi­lot pro­gram un­der a lo­cal bu­si­ness de­ve­lop­ment team.

This is just an exam­ple of how bet­ter and mo­re in­clu­si­ve ac­cess to energy can im­pact a cru­cial as­pect, such as agri­cul­tu­re and, with it, nu­tri­tion.

The so­lu­tions are on the ta­ble. That new tech­no­lo­gies furt­her open the gap between the rich and the poor or if, on the con­trary, they con­tri­bu­te to build a mo­re equi­ta­ble world will de­pend on the ac­tions of the in­ter­na­tio­nal com­mu­nity, go­vern­ments, and com­pa­nies.


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