Delivering on the promise of decentralised, community controlled renewable energy access

January 2, 2018

Action Aid, Friends of the Earth and Women's Environment and Development Organisation wrote this great article on the challenge energy poverty in remote communities. Energy poverty is where people in the community have insufficient access to energy, forcing them into manual and time consuming activities to survive.


This paper makes the case that decentralised, community controlled renewable energy access is the solution to energy poverty in the context of climate change and broader social justice. They argue that the current model of energy production, distribution, supply and consumption can be radically transformed by renewable energy.

Renewable energy can be harnessed directly by communities rather than having to be centralised. This is called democratisation of energy. In doing so, communities shift from having no options and dependency on a few powerful government and private actors, to having control over the energy assets in the community, which can often be the most valuable infrastructure within the community.


They provide examples of the impacts of energy poverty from 5 dimensions: livelihood, women's rights, agriculture, public services, and resilience.




Regarding poverty, lack of access to modern energy services (defined by the International Energy Agency as “reliable and affordable access to clean cooking facilities, a first connection to electricity, and then an increasing level of electricity consumption over time to reach the regional average”) is a major constraint on opportunities for income- generating activities. 


Women tend to be disproportionally negatively impacted by energy poverty. They tend to be the one's who gather the bio-mass for the existing energy, reducing their time to grow an income. They cook in homes using dirty fuels and is a major cause of premature deaths. 


Those most affected by energy poverty are often smallholder farmers, who stand to benefit greatly from access to energy. Reliable energy can enable access to machinery to be more productive, allow higher yielding crop choices, distribute water more efficiently, and facilitate steps further into the food production value chain such as food processing. All of these factors can lead directly to greater income and profits for farmers. As most remote communities are dependent on agriculture, the impact on the broader communities can be transformational.




For education, health and other public services, access to energy increases the likelihood that such services are available and reliable, and increases the quality of such services as well.



Access to electricity can create resilience through diversification of income and livelihood, access to reliable communications supporting disaster response. Distributed renewables can be provide significant additional resilience with access to energy even when major parts of a broader grid may not be available.















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