HUMANA DAY 2017 - Access to Energy
Today, one in five people across the world still lack access to modern electricity. This lack of access to reliable sources of energy has far-reaching implications across almost every area of our lives. It has a central role in producing and preparing the food we eat and the water we drink, how we move throughout the day and night, the amount of time we can dedicate to daily tasks, as well as how we receive information and interact with each other. However globally, 1.1 billion people still do not have access to electricity, and about 2.9 billion still use solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal and dung, for cooking and heating.
The socioeconomic benefits of access to reliable and affordable sources of energy are well-documented. Children can read and do homework in the evenings, and families can listen to the radio or watch television. Farmers can use water more efficiently, health clinics and stores can open during longer hours, and people can move about more safely at night. Particularly for women in rural areas of many developing countries, access to energy can save hours of time and physical effort: water pumps mean that water no longer needs to be physically drawn from wells, processing machines mean that hours no longer need to be spent pounding cereals, and cooking can be done without exposing women and children in particular to harmful smoke from wood or kerosene. It is clear that people need access to efficient and affordable sources of energy in order to achieve long-term sustainable development. However, in Europe for example, fossil fuels are responsible for 42% of all gross electricity generation. Developing countries face an immense challenge in expanding energy supply, which is crucial for development, in a way that limits greenhouse gas emissions. Where possible Humana People to People members have begun integrating renewable energies into rural development programs, empowering communities to take the lead on certain aspects of access.
Sustainable Energy for All
Sustainable Development Goal 7 is for universal access to modern, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services by 2030. In order to achieve this, the global community needs to radically re-think existing models and ensure that governments, communities and the private sector work together to expand infrastructures, upgrade technologies and provide the resources and support necessary for people to access energy in the hardest to reach communities.
Renewable energies are becoming cheaper, and large-scale solar plants are now able to produce cheaper power than new fossil and nuclear power in many countries. Even in hard-to-reach areas, off-grid options provide communities with the opportunity to achieve energy supply through mini-grids and even individual household solutions. However, there are many reasons for the energy poverty that exists today; untapped renewable options, inefficient utilities, and perceived investment risks are just a few. Furthermore, the concept of access to energy itself is complex, as it can refer to household or community level, for personal or public use. Even within a family home, energy access can mean different things. It could be for light, cooking or heat, water, or all of these things together. Furthermore, the gaps in funding, capacity, access and availability of technologies, know-how on utilization and local capacity for maintenance support must be covered in order to any initiatives to become sustainable.
Humana & Sustainable Energy
Over the last decade, Humana has had the opportunity to address some of these gaps in the communities they work in, through three programs in particular:
Solar power for community facilities in Guinea Bissau
ADPP Guinea Bissau implemented the Renewable Energy for Local Development in Bissora project from 2011-2016, establishing off-grid stand-alone solar power systems in 51 community facilities. In total, these included 24 community centres, 11 schools, 7 health centres and 9 mosques. Facilities provide light and power for small AC appliances. The project also established 36 solar-powered pump systems including water tank and distribution system to communities and fields. Furthermore, ADPP staff and communities constructed 7 community processing centres.
The project has had a significant impact on the lives of approximately 14,000 people across the 24 villages it was implemented in. Community centres have become a place where people can watch football and movies, as well as organise community events and celebrations. Some community centres and schools have begun adult literacy classes, particularly for women, and community preschools for young children. Young people interviewed during the evaluation period reported an increased feeling of community resulting from having a central point in the village to gather and have access to information and entertainment through televised events.
Furthermore, project activities have had significant implications for women in participating communities. Solar powered water pumps for both household and agricultural use has meant a reduction in the physical effort required from women to collect water. In villages where community processing centres have been opened, users can now process their main crops in minutes, instead of spending hours pounding them the traditional way. “I have more energy now,” explained Domingas Chas, one participant from Culucunhe village. “My body doesn’t hurt at the end of the day anymore.”
Biogas for families in India
Humana People to People India has implemented two phases of the “Biogas for Enhanced Quality of Life” project since 2011. As of the end of 2016, 400 biogas plants had been constructed across 100 villages in the Dausa district of Rajasthan in order to increase access to clean energy for cooking and lighting.
HPPI worked with local masons and connected families to available government subsidies to encourage the uptake of biogas as an alternative to more commonly used dung cakes and wood for cooking and heating. For these purposes, self-produced gas is not only cheaper, but also does not produce smoke, which can be harmful for those who are most-often exposed such as women and children. In addition, the by-product of biogas production can be used as an alternative to common fertilizers with the potential to further reduce costs linked to agricultural production. The project evaluation revealed that 99.3% of participants were using the plants for fuel and 94% were using by-product as fertilizer in their fields. Women in the project reported saving an average of 3.3 hours per day on daily tasks, primarily due to a significant reduction in the need for firewood and dung cakes, as well as being able to prepare food more quickly. Many women also reported a reduction in eye and throat problems, which could have been due to high exposure to smoke.
Solar Lanterns in Mozambique
ADPP Mozambique carried out “The Solar Energy Project” between 2011 and 2014 with in the Quissanga and Ancuabe Districts of Cabo Delgado Province in the north of the country. The project established 40 solar charging stations which rent rechargeable solar lanterns to local communities and also provide phone charging services. The project trained 40 solar power station managers and an additional 200 small business entrepreneurs to build demand for lanterns and strengthen income generation capacity among participants.
Being able to rent lanterns has had several important benefits for both the community and small business owners. Shop keepers have been able to extend their operating hours to after dark; bakers are now able to prepare their bread and other products outside market hours; and several barber shops have also opened, charging their razors at the solar power stations. Other community members also report that costs for lighting have been reduced and children are now able to study after dark.
It is clear from these three examples that the impact of Humana’s work with communities to increase access to renewable sources to energy is significant and positive. However, there remain significant gaps to be filled. The traditional model of large-scale grids servicing large populations will not meet the needs of people living with no or limited access to energy. New approaches must be developed that cater to people in developing countries that include addressing imbalances in access to energy and resources for women in particular in order to guarantee that all members of a given community enjoy the benefits of energy access equitably.
The particular needs and constraints of communities where Humana works present both significant challenges and impressive opportunities for different actors to work together towards achieving SDG7. Communities are taking the lead where financial and human capacity obstacles can be overcome with support from Humana members, however efforts must be significantly increased in order to achieve reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for all by 2030.