The struggle in gaining access to energy sources is a battle being fought for a long time. Many parts of Asia, for instance, still have no access to efficient energy sources and this negatively affects the locals’ productivity, education, livelihood opportunities, and other aspects of their lifestyle. Mostly, those without access to energy are rural areas. Typically, residents in rural areas use firewood and charcoal in order to generate power to fuel their day to day activities. Even such short-term solutions are potentially damaging the natural ecosystems, thus compromising the sustainability of the area and disabling the conservation of the remaining natural resources.
It is therefore good news that many communities in rural areas across Asia and the Pacific strive to offer simple but innovative and revolutionary solutions to this existing problem. In a small rural area called Tenganan in Indonesia, farmers have designed and built a generator powered by hydro-energy. This machine can provide 12 to 15 kilowatts of power. Currently, this machine is being used in fueling a small mill to process their harvested rice.
In the Philippines, a remote area called Bunog, which is 30 kilometers away from the nearest source of energy, uses solar powered batteries. Locals in Bunog charge these batteries during the day and use them during the night. They choose to use this rather than kerosene lamps, which are rather more expensive and potentially more risky.
There is also the Liter of Light, a project being implemented in the Philippines. The Liter of Light project aims to provide light to at least 1 million low-income households in rural areas in the Philippines using plastic bottles filled with water and bleach. The bottle is inserted into a hole carved on corrugated roofs of houses. After which, the bottle is glued to the roof. The bottle filled with bleach and water mixture would be able to gather and reflect light inside the home. Although this idea was originally developed in Brazil by Alfred Moser, the idea was modified to meet the needs of the locals in the Philippines, with the help of students from the MIT. The Liter of Light project was started by My Shelter Foundation, a non-government organization based in the Philippines.
In Nepal, however, 46 homes are now using power generated from two wind turbines that produce 5 kilowatts each. This amount of power also lit up their homes and facilitated their everyday activities.
These innovations have the power to create great impacts in the lives of the people, especially those families who generate only a small income to support the whole families. Children can read school books and study their lessons at night. Medical facilities can be used to guard and protect the locals’ health. Production of food is also increased because energy can be used to power up farming machines. Lighting up homes also provide more security, especially to the women in the area.
On a broader scale, however, clean modern energy sources would help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Less fossil fuels need to be burned and global warming may significantly be reduced. This contributes to global environmental sustainability.
Such innovations in the mentioned areas can ignite the idea that there are simple keys to our bigger challenges. We only need to look in the right places, maximize the use of our resources, and encourage community participation in the process of fighting our battles.
Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa is the CEO of one of the largest petroleum suppliers in the African region. He advocates sustainable energy, and frequently writes about pressing issues in the developing world.