Light, heat, energy: powering poor communities


April 2015 — Within global conversations about empowering the poor, one critical area for urban policies and programs is the question of literally powering poor communities. Light, heat, and energy are essential resources that can enhance opportunities in education, health, and employment, as well as the general quality of life. Poor communities tend to lag behind richer neighborhoods in terms of access to energy, but financial constraints and weaker traditional infrastructure also make them ideal sites for piloting sustainable energy infrastructures that can serve as models for the rest of the world.

For the month of April, we focus our lens on strategies, policies, and programs that provide reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy to poor and informal urban communities. Follow the conversation as it travels from city to city, and please contribute to the conversation in the comments below.

Solar energy companies focus on needs of urban poor

Bangalore, 17 April 2015 — Solar energy initiatives have mainly focused on lighting up rural communities around India, but organizations are increasingly realizing that urban slums are also energy-poor. Pollinate Energy has been leading the way toward sustainable energy for India's urban off-grid communities by empowering local community members to become clean energy entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs connect Bangalore's poor to affordable solar products — a move that has radically transformed their lives. See more.

Iniciativa de techos verde en la Municipalidad de Chacao

Caracas, 16 abril 2015 — Los techos verdes han demostrado un impacto positivo en las ciudades. Sin embargo, al ser una nueva tecnología puede ser costoso de implementarla y replicarla. El proyecto de la Biblioteca de Los Palos Grandes es un primer paso para empezar a construir techos verdes en Caracas. Leer más.

Energía alternativa contra la pobreza

Mexico D.F., 15 abril 2015 — En la Ciudad de México esfuerzos para combatir la carencia de energía de bajo costo para las viviendas marginadas están presentes; un ejemplo es la instalación de fuentes de energía sustentable y subsidios para subsanar el costo del consumo de fuentes de energía. Leer más.

সৌর বোতল বাতি: আলোকজ্বল দরিদ্র বাসভবন

Dhaka, 14 April 2015 — চ্যাইঞ্জ, ঢাকা-ভিত্তিক একটি গবেষণা প্রতিষ্ঠান ব্রাজিলিয়ান সংস্কারক, আলফ্রেডো মোযার’এর 'লিটার অফ লাইট' – এর অনুকরণে 'বোতলবাতি' প্রকল্প শুরু করেন। এই বোতল লাইট এখন ঢাকায় অবৈধ এবং ব্যয়বহুল বৈদ্যুতিক সংযোগের উপর নির্ভরশীল বস্তিবাসীদের একটি সাশ্রয়ী বিকল্প খুঁজে হিসেবে সাহায্য করছে। See more.

Sampah kota yang membawa berkah

Surabaya, 13 April 2015 — Sampah kota merupakan pekerjaan rumah besar bagi tiap kota besar dimana penyelesaiannya membutuhkan kemauan politik yang kuat dan partisipasi masyarakat yang tinggi. Pemerintah Surabaya melihat potensi sampah menjadi tenaga listrik melalui penggunaan teknologi yang menghasilkan nol sampah dan advokasi kebawah yang mendorong penerapan 3R. Baca lebih lanjut.

Can solar solve Mumbai's deplorable sanitation situation?

Mumbai, 10 April 2015 — Activists in Mumbai were outraged recently when a woman died after falling through one of Mumbai's dilapidated community toilets. While access to clean, functional toilets is a major issue in the city's slums, one community toilet initiative has transformed its toilet block into a community center and managed to run the entire program on solar energy. See more.

Haciendo accesible la energía solar a las viviendas de menores ingresos en Cali

Cali, 9 abril 2015 — La energía solar ha sido demasiado costosa par a las familias de bajos recursos. La caída del precio de los paneles solares y el diseño de soluciones financieras innovadoras puede cambiar la ecuación. Cali ha lanzado un programa piloto que utiliza los subsidios a la energía para llevar la energía fotovoltaica a las casas con menores recursos. Leer más.

Powering health care services: from diesel power to solar energy

Lagos, 8 April 2015 — Renewable forms of energy, such as solar energy, provide more sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of power. With that in mind, Lagos has begun using alternative energy to provide dependable health care services. See more.

Biogás — uma nova solução para dois antigos problemas do Brasil: excesso de lixo e carência de energia

Rio de Janeiro, 7 abril 2015 — Uma lei que demanda o fechamento de todos os lixões do país até 2018 tem fomentado investimentos no biocombustível, produzido a partir do lixo. No Rio de Janeiro, o biogás já é uma fonte de energia considerável, graças a um moderno aterro sanitário construído pelo governo. Ao mesmo tempo, agentes civis estão testando o potencial do gás em microescala, construindo biodigestores caseiros. Leia mais.

Locally produced cook stoves promote energy efficiency in Malawi

Lilongwe, 6 April 2015 — With formal electricity access off the table, more efficient and sustainable energy solutions for Malawians rely on simple local solutions with potentially wide-reaching impacts. One such solution is the chitetezo mbaula, or improved cook stove. See more.

التقنية الخضراء منزلية الصنع المُعاد تدويرها: أداة للتنمية المستدامة في الأحياء الفقيرة بالقاهرة

Cairo, 3 April 2015 — في مبادرة مبتكرة وجدت مؤسسة SolarCITIES (ربط محفزات المجتمع ودمج التقنيات للأنظمة الصناعية البيئية)، طريقة لإشراك الناس في منطقة عشوائية في القاهرة من أجل تحفيزهم على إنتاج الطاقة النظيفة الخاصة بهم باستخدام نفايات المطبخ وأسطح المنازل لإنتاج الطاقة الشمسية بطريقة منخفضة التكلفة. اقرأ المزيد عن ذلك

Sửa chữa điện miễn phí cho hộ nghèo: Cải thiện cũng là một phần của Sáng tạo

Ho Chi Minh City, 2 Tháng Tư 2015 — Kể từ năm 2009, mỗi cuối năm Đoàn thanh niên thuộc EVNHCMC lại tìm đến một khu dân cư nghèo để bảo trì miễn phí mạng điện cho từng hộ dân. Dự án thầm lặng, đơn giản nhưng hiệu quả của họ đã giúp đỡ được 4.500 hộ nghèo trong TP. Hồ Chí Minh, thu hút sự tham gia của 6.000 đoàn viên. Và hiện dự án đã phát triển hơn thế nữa. Xem thêm.

From waste to renewables, how one organization is working to transform life in Nairobi's slums

Nairobi, 1 April 2015 — Residents of informal settlements in Nairobi lack widespread access to affordable and sustainable energy sources. One innovative organization is working to transform raw waste into energy that is both affordable and accessible to impoverished individuals. See more.

 

Join the discussion on powering poor urban communities in the comments below.

 
You can also join our March discussion on visualizing urban poverty to reshape community.


Join the discussion for this month's topic!

Comments

Shaima Abulhajj's picture

Nice article Tam. Indeed, and as you stated here, green living is not only about applying new methodologies rather it can lie in improvement, fixing and maintenance. We have here in Egypt a big problem in regard to lack of education on "power saving" and replacing old wires for example with new electrical wires as a mean to save energy. It is good point really to be indicated here and great that an article pointed to this issue which usually exists in undeveloped countries of South.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Hey Tam, I agree with Shaima you raise a critical point about also investing in the maintenance and upkeep of existing systems. For many households investing in newer "green" technologies may be prohibitive and often there is extensive [if decaying] energy infrastructures that the poor are reliant on. Providing services to families while also employing and training youth workers is such a cool aspect of Vietnam Electricity's approach. It is encouraging to see them engaging with not only the youth but ensuring that services are directly targeted to impoverished households. This is often the last group that is accounted for by state-controlled enterprises anywhere in the world. The direct outreach to landlords is also an innovative approach that removes some of the burden placed on the individual household and holds landlords accountable to their tenants in a unique way that has direct benefits to both parties.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Shaima, I really was inspired by the initiative you covered this month. The re-proposing of waste materials to provide sustainable energy solutions is an innovative field by necessity, but to often high-cost inputs prohibit access to low-income populations as Tam points out in her article. The group you cover not only addresses the problem of waste but does so in a manner that transforms trash into an asset. As our cities continue to become more dense these types of solutions will become more critical. Thanks for sharing about this project.

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Shaima, interesting article as Hilary points out. I was just wondering if there are efforts under way to scale up the project you describe? Or was it a one-off or pilot? 20 households is great but really just a drop in the ocean, and I've noticed that (generally) many of these kinds of innovative projects fail to scale up to really make a wider difference and become real energy (or other) options.

Carlin Carr's picture

Nora, you bring up a good point about how to move pilot projects to scale. I was thinking about the same thing as I was writing my piece on the solar-run toilet block in Mumbai. It's a project that receives a lot of attention, both in the city but also internationally. It has won a few awards, etc. But, despite all the attention and its obvious potential, there hasn't really been much success replicating the project elsewhere in the city. So, it's a good question--what do great pilots need to scale up? Political will? A viable financial model? For a toilet block, for example, where do they get the initial investment for the solar panels? I know that when I was working with a safe water NGO, how to scale up was always the big question. Even bigger, though, was how to sustain those projects long-term. It's more than just widespread replication; interventions need to be able to be repaired and maintained and have the funds to do so. Good point--thanks for reminding us that highlighting pilots are great but it's just as important to think about how their reach can be expanded sustainably.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Hey Andrea, this month I looked at Biogas among informal settlements at a small scale that also provided local organizations and individuals with income-generating opportunities and revenues to cover the cost of upkeep in slum facilities. Your article on Brazil was really encouraging as it highlights how this same technique can be used on a large infrastructure scale to tackle city-wide waste management issues. I was surprised by the criticisms regarding cost the project received. On a small-scale the cost benefit to citizens in accessing energy in Nairobi was significant. I wonder if that was linked to a local centralized site that individuals had to physically go and access themselves. It would seem that converting existing natural gas and oil infrastructure to handle biogas would be minimal and the cost able to quickly be recaptured once such a system is operational. It would be interesting to see what [if any] companies or energy sectors are represented by those critics.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Olatawura, your article really hits home about the issue of politics, access and availability of key services to poor individuals and how large-scale infrastructure investments can be derailed by political interests that are not well aligned with the needs of the citizens. Solar-powered street lamps, and lighting in general for slum residents is so critical. The link between street lighting and violent crime victimization is well established. It is encouraging to see organization like the World Bank getting involved, do you know if they are providing these slum upgrading services on a grant or loan basis? Energy diversification has increasingly be recognized by environmentalists and industries in the energy sector as a pro-growth and sustainable approach to ensuring that electricity can be provided at a consistent and stable rate. As you point out though, keeping the political in check to insure that access for all is the primary motivator remains a significant challenge in many countries.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Jorge, I was really interested by your comment on the bi-directional energy capture that the solar units allow for. Many household level or closed solar systems only provide electricity to an individual unit and as a result end up "wasting" a lot of potential energy due to a lack of storage capacity. By integrating the surplus energy into the overall grid it sounds like EMCALI will find some significant benefits from the systems that allow them to expand serviced to additional households and further cut the costs of electricity for all households.

jorgebela's picture

Hi Hilaryzainab, one of the main issues that underlie all of the alternative energy generation systems discussed this month is cost. In fact, even though cost of solar energy generation is plummeting, as cost of photovoltaic panels falls, it is still not competitive. What may tip the balance in Cali is that electricity is already subsidized. Directing those subsidies towards the installation of solar panels might be a smart decision, but in this particular project the beneficiaries would not be the final consumers (their subsidized cost would not go down), but the entities that pay up the subsidies. This is an interesting approach from a financial viewpoint. It also does not encourage an increase of energy consumption by the users. Of course, it also brings about the benefits of greener energy consumption. I will follow up on the pilot, and let the URB.IM community know if it ultimately proved successful.

Thanks for your comment!

Andréa Azambuja's picture

Hi Hilary,

Sorry for taking so long to reply. When you said you would write about biogas I was very curious, and I was pleased to see that this new alternative is already making the difference in Nairobi!

When I mentioned that some experts pointed out high costs in the production of biogas, it was indeed related to macro-scale projects, to big production centers. According to some industry researches (and I think maybe this is a general understanding), the production of biogas in much more expensive than using fossil fuel, while it has a lower thermodynamic efficiency.

Seropedica, for example, cost R$ 4 million to be constructed but has a lifespan of only 25 years, then it has to be shut down; the costs related to the waste management (the garbage travels long distances until reaching the final destination) is huge, accidents happen a lot (what consume more money)... at the same time that "In a time of crisis, the price of biogas in the spot market is above R$ 600 the megawatt / hour, while wind power, for example is R$ 100 a megawatt / hour", according to the Electricity Sector Study Group (Gesel) from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

Nevertheless, Seropedica is still a model in the country, and most industry researchers agree that biogas can be a great solution considering our environmental conditions and support investments in this technology – lots of them, however, say that it is a relevant part of the solution, but just a restricted thing. Probably that's because it's still something really new and that needs to evolve a lot, I don't know. What I can say is that, at least in small-scale projects, it sure seems that the great potential of biogas is being confirmed everyday without any doubts, and that is a good start :)

Did I answered your question? I'm not sure :) I was looking for some articles in english to send you and found this page where you can explore the subject if you want: https://energypedia.info/wiki/Macro-economic_Evaluation_of_Biogas_Plants

jorgebela's picture

Hi Widya, I was wondering if the power generated with waste in Surabaya is competitive in cost, or if it requires public subsidies to persist. Thanks!

jorgebela's picture

Hi Shaima,

I join the voices commending your article. Simple, almost home made technological solutions to energy needs is in fact the holy grail. I loved the idea of home made solar panels, built with recycled materials. Gas ingestors are also a clever approach to cooking gas supply. Still, 500$ might be a prohobitively expensive proposition for most lower income houses. Some form of support will have to be given by the government or NGOs.

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Carlin, thanks for your article it shows a very innovative and creative strategy for addressing the problem of sanitation through alternative energy. It is very interesting that international organizations are developing sustainable solutions; is there any interest for scaling the project through the alliance of these actors and government in order to increase the coverage?

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.