Powering up

Janu Ramchandani discusses why electricity shouldn’t just be the preserve of the developed nations and how private companies are helping accelerate the transition to clean energy for many developing countries

With climate change and reducing carbon emissions high on the agenda across the globe, many countries are setting targets to eradicate fossil fuels and switch to clean energy.

Some developing nations, however, are choosing to skip straight to clean energy, and for some, are accessing electricity for the very first time. For those in hard to reach places lacking infrastructure, solar panels and micro-hydro power can be the most appropriate and effective methods of energy access in off-grid rural regions.

With many located in warmer parts of the world, with access to plenty of sunlight and some source of running water, clean energy is the perfect alternative.

Eradicating energy poverty
Having access to electricity is something most of us take for granted in the Western world, but for many off-grid communities in developing countries, energy poverty is still widespread.

Human development relies on electricity. There are still over 1.2 billion people in the world without electricity and for them the consequences can be dire and, at times, fatal. Those without it are deprived of refrigeration, modern and clean healthcare, technology and communication during times of crises.

Global schemes, such as The Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals 7 (SDG7) are aiming to change that by putting universal energy access and renewable energy on their agenda, alongside many private companies contributing with their expertise to help those in need across the world.

At Kinect, we embarked on a mission three years ago, through our Track my Electricity™ platform, to transform the lives of four schools situated between Burma and Thailand, in the region habited by the Karen people that have endured 60 years of conflict with the Burmese Military.

We teamed up with non-profit organisation Solbakken to build solar panels at the schools in an off-grid region in a hard-to-reach, mountainous and politically fragile region of Southeast Asia between Burma and Thailand. Access to electricity has transformed the way they study, keeps them safe, and provides them with a selfsustainable way of life.

Educating the next generation
Fifteen-hundred pupils at these schools have benefitted from the solar panel installation. They now get a better education with the possibility for extended study hours in the evenings. They can also study in a safer environment. Previously they relied on candles or kerosene lamps, which restricted when they could study, and were fire hazards in predominantly wooden dormitories and buildings.

At night time, there’s the risk of being bitten by a snake or scorpion that hide in the outhouses – with no light the school children can’t see where they are standing.

But it goes beyond that.
The education of current and future generations is an imperative step for communities, such as the Karen people, to understand their human rights, communicate their concerns appropriately, and establish lasting peace. It is therefore necessary that their schools have the basic needs and abilities of a modern school in order to foster an education that can lead to a positive change in the individual, community, and state.

Building brighter futures
Ultimately, electricity produced via clean methods enables communities, businesses and individuals to flourish and thrive.

It can improve economic situations and help tackle unemployment and poverty by creating a greater propensity of stable, good quality jobs. It can also increase sustainability, facilitate independence and boost productivity.

Take another Track my Electricity™ project, where we installed solar systems for Alpaca farmers at very high altitudes in Cusco, Peru. These hard-working families can now power electric machinery to spin wool into artisanal yarn themselves, harnessing the full value of the raw product rather than having to sell it to intermediaries at very low prices.

Track my Electricity™ enables our energy consumers to source renewable electricity reliably and transparently from power plants of their choice and give back to those in need. For every MWh of clean energy sourced through the site, €0,10 goes towards funding renewable energy projects. We are helping towards eliminating energy poverty and building sustainable communities.

Our solar projects can cost around €5000 to €10,000 for a four-panel solar panel installation, depending on how difficult access to the area is. Often areas are so remote, they lack suitable roads and there are abundant landmines. Just getting to the schools in Burma involved trekking across the jungle by car, motorcycle, boat and on foot, through treacherous areas, often flooded due to the monsoon season.

A key element for us is to educate locals on how renewable energy works, how to use electricity safely, and how to maintain the system once we’ve finished – which brings a sense of ownership to the solar panels and enables them to live self-sustainable lives.

Energy poverty will be around for many years to come, but with the help of global initiatives and private companies working together to eradicate it, I’d like to think that for future generations it will be a thing of the past.

Kinect Energy Group
Janu Ramchandani is Team Leader for Sustainability Services EMEA at Kinect Energy Group Norway. Kinect Energy is a global energy management company that provides targeted solutions and tailored support for organisations of every size focused on their energy goals, including price optimisation and risk management; regulatory and environmental opportunity realization and compliance; and security and continuity of supply, including physical, virtual and commercial hedging.

For further information please visit: www.kinectenergy.com