Turning on the Light for rural communities
Electricity has become a vital part of our lives. Although we can survive without it, we cannot progress and enjoy the benefits of science. The world’s large oil companies have predicted that by 2050, one-third of the energy required will have to come from solar, wind and other renewable resources, therefore the adoption of a renewable resource in place of fossil fuel is the best approach that can be developed by off-grid systems or communities.
In the world today, 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity. In addition 3 billion are still cooking on dangerous and inefficient stoves. Many of them live in extremely remote rural village communities. Until communities like these have access to modern, sustainable energy services, little progress can be made to develop their economies and improve their lives.
The Smart Villages Concept
The concept of Smart Villages is a global modern approach for off-grid communities. The vision behind this concept is to assist policy makers, donors and socio-economic planners for rural electrification worldwide, with special focus on Asian and African countries. Smart Villages engage in efforts to combat the real barriers to energy access in villages with technological, financial and educational methodology, particularly in developing countries.
Sustainable energy—a catalyst for development
In this way sustainable energy becomes a catalyst for development—enabling the provision of good education and health care, access to clean water, sanitation and nutrition, the growth of productive enterprises to boost incomes and enhanced security, gender equality and democratic engagement.
Renewable energy solutions are already benefiting communities in Kenya, Cameroon, India, Nigeria, South Sudan and Zambia where access to electricity has fostered entrepreneurial growth and allowed villagers to increase their productivity. When villagers no longer have to rely on the polluting fuels of diesel and kerosene, observable health improvements become possible and there is less harm to the physical environment. Lighting improves lives through healthier living in a smoke-free environment, there are better educational opportunities for children due to an extended day for studying, additional opportunities for leisure and leisure activities such as radio and television and increased opportunities to expand work and earn a better living. The effect on quality of life by far outweighs any money the villagers could hope to generate or save by using solar kits.
Getting a charge to take home
Community charging stations powered by clean renewable energy rely on a walk-up battery exchange/recharge model. People from the local community bring their batteries from home for recharge or replacement. Walk-up models avoid the cost and effort of installing and maintaining an electricity distribution network.
Haiti—a prime candidate for Smart Villages
Accessible, efficient and dependable energy resources (electricity in particular) are key elements to advance and promote Haiti’s long-term development objectives. However, modernising Haiti’s energy sector will be a challenge as Haiti’s power sector is one of the weakest in the Western Hemisphere. Even prior to the 2010 earthquake, some seven million people were without power; only an estimated 25 percent of the population had access to electricity services, half of those were illegally connected to the power grid and the average person in Port-au-Prince had access to electricity for only 10 hours per day.
In 2010, the combined technical and commercial losses of electricity were approximately 75% according to World Bank data. In 2012, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated that Electricité d’Haiti (EDH) —the government-owned electrical utility—requires an annual government of Haiti subsidy of more than $170 million a year to maintain its operations. In addition most of the generation infrastructure in Haiti is very old and costly to maintain and operate. In 2006, total installed capacity was only 270 MW, of which about 70% was thermal and 30% hydroelectric. This makes Haiti particularly vulnerable to fluctuating global oil prices and pollution.
Tens of thousands of households and institutions (hospitals and schools) still have to rely on their own diesel generators and as a result spend large portions of their income on fuel to run them.
Haiti could therefore benefit enormously from the installation of Smart Villages.
In line with its focus on inclusive social and economic development, LSL World Initiative (LSL) is now extending its focus to partner with the Louis G. Lamothe Foundation in developing Smart Villages in Haiti.