This small, community-owned dam and hydropower plant provides enough electricity for more than 1,500 people in remote La Taña village, Guatemala.
The power plant produces environmentally-friendly electric power from a renewable source, and is managed by the communities themselves, providing 300 families with access to affordable water and lighting. Their payments are pooled to cover maintenance costs and employ four local electricians to manage the equipment.
Building a small community-owned hydropower plant proves how indigenous communities and marginalised groups can utilise the natural resources found in their territories. Through this initiative, communities have guaranteed access to a sustainable source of electric power and all the benefits that brings.
In the poorest areas of Malawi, access to electricity is still a challenge. People’s activities are limited to daylight hours. Isaac Chilemba, from a village in Malawi, has become a successful ‘solar entrepreneur’ after an orientation session organised by our partners, Eagles Relief (ECRP) and Solar Aid.
Isaac told us: ‘We were briefed of the benefits and given a chance to buy the solar lights. I realised there is a market for solar power.’ However, it wasn’t easy to get started. ‘I could not even manage to buy a set of two gadgets so I paired with a friend and we shared one each.’
Sales have been building steadily since and he has now sold nearly 100 gadgets. ‘I have managed to buy fertiliser, seed and paid for my field that I am renting,’ he says. ‘We live a better life now because of this business. My wife and I are members of groups where we have access to small loans.’
Photo credit: ECRP/Nicola Milne
Arturo Tahup from the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Cities in the Philippines promotes sustainable energy solutions for transportation and development projects such as construction of new housing following disasters. They are working in Tacloban to help ‘build back better, and brighter’.
Arturo told us that ‘the issue of power is a power issue’ with the real barrier to a shift to renewables being centralised grid systems.
Under the Access to Better Energy (ABE) Project with our Philippines partners, Urban Poor Associates and TAO Pilipinas, more than 50 solar scholars successfully graduated from Solar Solutions training. They are now capable of acting as community-based solar technology specialists to provide urgent support in times of disasters and emergencies in vulnerable communities.
What is needed for the Big Shift?
- Phase out fossil fuels
- Introduce renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Provide clean energy access.
What do we need to phase out fossil fuels?
- An end to all subsidies for fossil fuels immediately
- An end to public finance to fossils fuels, starting with coal, tar sands and fracking
- The World Bank Group to be transparent about their energy investments and reduce their investments’ carbon footprints.
What do we need to introduce renewable energy and energy efficiency?
- Increased investment in off-grid energy and new technologies
- New finance to support every governments’ commitments to tackle the causes and impacts of climate change.
- Increased energy efficiency in areas of transport and refrigeration.
How do we provide energy to everybody?
- Greater priority to be given to decentralised and off-grid renewable energy technologies.