How Renewable Energy Can Help Low-Income Families
Income inequality is still an issue to resolve in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Solar could be a way to empower those in need.
Leonita Maria Nunes was unable to hide her happiness today, “Lampu ne’ebe ami simu ne’e nia naroman kapas tebes no ajuda tebes ami liliu ba hau ne’ebe servisu barak liu iha dapur hodi prepara hahan kalan no matabisu iha dader san nakukun ba hau nia familia” (The solar lamps provided to us is super bright and it has helped me a lot as a mother who used to cook in the kitchen and preparing breakfast early in the morning for my family), as other families living with areas without proper electricity, she is having a problem dealing with the house cooking in the morning or evening time.
Leonita’s family and other 362 households living in the nine selected aldeias in Ataúro, a small island located north of Dili – the capital of Timor-Leste, are recipients of high-efficient solar lamp installation support from the Accelerating Clean Energy to Reduce Inequalities (ACCESS) Project. In 2021, the project installed a solar home system for 234 households out of 362 families, benefiting over 830 men and 849 women.
The project is a managing partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of State Administration with funding from KOICA to deliver and install 4,000 high-efficient solar lamps in 25 suco in Atauro (Dili), Bobonaro, and Manatuto. Five thousand twenty-one people, including 2,497 women, will benefit from the initiative. The Project is being implemented under the South-South Triangular Cooperation between Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and the Republic of Korea.
The government has initiated energy sector reforms through the recent establishment of Electricidade de Timor-Leste as an autonomous state-owned enterprise for the electricity provision for remote and underserved areas. “The Government of Timor-Leste plans to provide solar lamps in areas difficult to be covered by regular electricity grids; hence this initiative is in line with the government policy and priority,” said Lino de Jesus Torrezão, Vice Minister of State Administration of Timor-Leste.
The Project will contribute to the achievement of the National Strategic Plan (2011-2030) of Timor-Leste, which considers renewable energy to have the potential to make a dramatic contribution to economic growth and help to reduce the poverty level in remote rural areas. The Project will also contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Worldwide, 840 million people lack access to electricity, according to the In Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report (2019), and it is projected that 650 million people, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, will still lack access to electricity in 2030. The World Bank quoted, “To connect the poorest and hardest to reach households, off-grid solutions, including solar lighting, solar home systems, and increasingly mini-grids, will be crucial [to ending poverty].”
The use of solar energy has effectively alleviated poverty in the past. In China, Nature News (2018) reported that solar energy has provided power to more than 800,000 families living in poverty. In one county, solar installations provided families an additional annual income of over USD 400. “Solar power brings money to rural areas,” entitled the news.
The benefits of renewable energy sources are firmly established at this point, and they extend far beyond the apparent environmental value that is probably taken for granted by now. For example, solar power in the Timor-Leste lead to more people having access to drinkable water, offer resilience to a deteriorating energy infrastructure; and, if done widely, they do less to disturb natural wildlife habitats than activities such as drilling for oil or fracking, which leads to larger ecosystems for plants and animals to thrive in. Solar power also gives clean air because it produces no emissions.
Lighting the Families
The UN includes access to clean and affordable energy as one of its Global Goals for Sustainable Development. For the families and communities that have benefited from the ACCESS Project and similar initiatives, the solar power they have access to will empower them economically for years to come while sparing them from burning greenhouse gases and emitting fuels that will worsen climate change. While there is still a significant amount of work to achieve clean, affordable energy for all, initiatives like ACCESS are helping to light the way to that goal.
Author: Salman Nursiwan, Monitoring and Outreach ACCESS Project