Sunday, August 28, 2011

Empowerment through Electricity

A growing partnership between the UN and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) could help in providing electricity to millions of people around the world who lack the means to access energy. Recently, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon met up with representatives of the NREL to check out sustainable energy innovations in Denver.

Some of these innovations include a solar blanket that can be laid out on the ground during the day, where sunlight can be soaked up and transferred over to batteries to be used when needed. These blankets can then be rolled up and stored at night, preventing theft. Another innovation being developed by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a solar-powered drip irrigation system that can ease the burden of small-scale farmers.

Why the focus on electricity? UN agencies believe that electricity is a perquisite for meeting basic human needs. By providing access to energy resources, people are given a sense of empowerment. Lack of energy also means a lack in food security as irrigation becomes time-consuming and unpredictable due to weather patterns. The less time that it takes getting water means more time spent on agricultural activity and a better chance of producing surpluses to sell in the market.

The end-all goal of providing electricity to energy-poor areas is to ultimately enhance self-reliance. Farmers can start to purchase solar systems through micro-loans and companies like SELF can provide the training to keep projects running in to the future. With access to energy comes new ways to purify water, store vaccines and medications, promote small-scale agriculture, and support community growth.

-Chelsey Dambro

Source: and The Christian Science Monitor