Solar energy is one of the most popular renewable energies at the moment, even though in 2015 it came up to only 0.7% of the world’s energy production. Its growth remains exponential and the price decreases dramatically (more than 80% decrease on average between 2008 and 2015 around the world). In short, this renewable energy, even if it raises many issues (storage, extraction of rare materials, recycling) is on the rise. While its environmental impact still requires cautious approach, it has an obvious social impact, with solutions that combine access to energy and empowerment of local communities. Here are six solutions that have understood that potential:
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Liter of Light is a project that gained its popularity thanks to an ingenious light production method: take a plastic bottle, bleach and a rag, and you can supply isolated families for over five years. More than 350,000 bottles in 15 countries have already been installed by the families that trained in the manufacture of lamps. Today, Liter of Light focuses on a solar kit installation activity. The specificity? The kits are made by local communities who then teach other citizens who also become self-reliant.
More than 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity in India. Oorja is a social enterprise that develops micro-grids in India, particularly in rural areas by installing photovoltaic panels in the fields to enable farmers to be self-sufficient in energy and improve their productivity. Their idea? Creating small franchises throughout the countryside by training local entrepreneurs or women communities who can in turn produce and sell the energy produced in their village.
In Africa, more than 700 million people don’t have access to electricity. The South Africa-based Rethaka Foundation provides children with binders that include photovoltaic panels that allow them to light their homework at night. More than 10,000 schoolchildren got to learn and do their math homework after dark.
Insolar is a social enterprise that promotes the democratization of access to solar energy in Brazil through the installation of solar panels amongst the most disadvantaged populations. The idea was born in 2014, and since then more than 200 panels have been installed with the help of the inhabitants of favelas, NGOs, and start-ups. Their pilot project is based in Santa Marta, a slum in Rio de Janeiro. The goal they keep in mind with an extremely low-income population: reducing the electricity bill.
Since its creation in 2011, Sociedade del Sol, a Brazilian NGO, has been leading several actions related to solar energy, including the creation of open-source tutorials for the creation of solar ovens and events to raise awareness about the energy transition.
Barefoot College is, as its name suggests, a school that places social impact at the centre of its approach. You want the proof? It meets 14 of the 18 sustainable development goals set by the United States. In India, air pollution is wreaking havoc while the drop-out of children (60%), especially women, remains high. Barefoot College, a college based approach the energy transition holistically, without separating the social issues (emancipation of women, education) and environmental (pollution, sustainable agriculture) into silos by training women to become solar engineers, the solar mamas.
This article was written for the Energies for Climate mobilisation. A program in partnership with EDF.
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