On-site renewables impact developing communities

Steve Hodgson

Three winners of this year’s Ashden Awards for sustainable energy projects in the developing world illustrate the strength and local impact of sophisticated on-site renewables, finance systems and micro-grid technologies installed in some of the poorest countries of the world.

The overall winner, from microgrid developer SteamaCo, combines solar PV power generation with micro-grids that use a cloud-based metering and payment system that monitors energy use, allows people pay for power using their mobile phones, and troubleshoots any problems – to serve rural communities in Kenya.
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Solar power is hardly new for East Africa, but SteamaCo’s intelligent monitoring and control capabilities make a complete system. Using the natural energy of the sun, they work like mini power stations for each village, supplying enough energy to run small businesses, as well as to power TVs, radios and lights in the home.

Two other winners show how on-site renewables can make dramatic differences to the prosperity of local people and businesses.

In Costa Rica, small dairy farmers are befitting from new solar water heaters that make hot water for washing their milking equipment and tanks. The cost of electricity is very high in Costa Rica, making electric heating water a major expense. Local solar enterprise Enertiva developed the solar heaters especially for the dairy farmers, working with the milk-purchasing cooperative Dos Pinos, which lends the farmers the money to buy them. The costs of the heaters are usually paid back within a year from the saving in electricity costs.

Last, the Sarhad Rural Support Programme of Northern Pakistan has built 189 micro-hydro schemes in the remote Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region since 2004, bringing electricity to around 365,000 people and transforming communities in the process. The region, close to the Afghanistan border, is one of the most remote and challenging areas of the world to live. With no mains electricity in many villages, life used to grind to a halt at sunset. Now, electricity makes studying easier and health care safer, while access to power enables a multitude of new businesses to start up, from flour mills to hotels.

On-site renewables can have huge positive effect on communities in developing countries – the UK-based Ashden Awards exist to recognise, reward and publicise the best examples.



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