17 June 2021

Renewable energies, an accelerator to get out of poverty and fight against climate change

Many villages in remote rural areas of Africa, Latin America and South Asia are not connected to the national electricity grid and do not have the energy they need to develop their populations.

While global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by nearly 50% since 1990 and energy accounts for about 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is putting even greater pressure on the resources we depend upon and is increasing the risk of natural disasters such as drought and floods.

Why does the lack of access to electricity increase inequalities?

While electricity is an essential commodity that is taken for granted in the richest countries, it remains a privilege at world level, and constitutes a major challenge in the fight against inequalities within the poorest countries. Indeed, not having access to electricity has direct consequences on lifestyles, whether it is about benefiting from modern health care including during the night, about accessing information via a cell phone or a television, about moving safely at nightfall, about preserving food in a refrigerator, or about easily pumping water for consumption, hygiene or crops.

Even today, one in seven people in the world does not have access to electricity.

The populations that do not have access to electricity live mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. While South Asia has seen remarkable progress in access to electricity in recent years, sub-Saharan Africa remains the least electrified region in the world. In total, 60% of the world’s population not connected to a grid lives in Africa, where the lack of access to electricity is a barrier to development and locks billions of people into poverty. Forced to use harmful and polluting energy for some activities, the health of communities is undermined. For example, 750 million people cook with polluting fuels whose harmful effects kill 600,000 people every year.

To provide access to electricity within community services (health care centers, schools) and to the poorest and hardest-to-reach households, decentralized solar solutions, home solar systems and mini (micro?)-grids, are at the heart of the solutions.

Because of its cross-cutting nature, access to electricity contributes to addressing food, education, health, security, social, economic and environmental issues. These stakes are at the heart of the projects carried out by Electriciens sans frontières since 1986.

Moreover, by giving priority to the electrification of collective structures, Electriciens sans frontières meets essential needs without creating a social divide. The projects concern schools, skill training centers, health care centers, public places…

Renewable energies: the challenge of Electriciens sans frontières

Renewable energies represent an opportunity for developing countries to make a technological leap and to develop in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. The use of renewable energies minimizes the impact on the environment and health. Moreover, in many cases, it is the least expensive technical solution.

In order to respond to the problems of access to electricity in the world, we mainly use solar energy but also hydropower when the environment allows it.

The use of photovoltaic energy is consistent in the countries where we intervene with their record levels of sunshine. This is the case in many projects such as on the island of Dominica (for which we were awarded the UN Climate Action Prize at COP25 in Madrid), or in Madagascar, in Burkina Fasso, or in Laos.

The use of hydropower is rarer, but when environment is suitable, it is used. This was notably the case in the framework of a project carried out in collaboration with the city of Nantes in the Dschang district in Cameroon. The latter requested our support for the construction of a micro hydropower plant to supply electricity to the city’s new bus station. As the Lefock River is adjacent to the bus station, it was appropriate to exploit the power of this resource. Thus, by favouring renewable energies, we reduce the use of fossil fuels responsible for climate change. This is what is called the mitigation principle.

Beyond the production of electricity, we also work on its most efficient use: we favor energy efficient uses (e.g. LED lamps), prohibit as much as possible second-hand equipment (computers, medical equipment) because they consume too much energy and implement innovative solutions adapted to the emergency climate environment. This is what is called the principle of adaptation.

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