Energy, sustainability and poverty: How the pieces fit together

"Poor housing linked to rising asthma cases in Europe," reads a recent EURACTIV headline. Damp and moldy buildings, bad heating, poor insulation are all suspect. In fact in Bulgaria, the article suggests 46.5% of the population is unable to keep their homes adequately warm in winter. Here's another recent headline, this from the Inter Press Service: Millions of Homes in Mexico Suffer from 'Energy Poverty.' It too talks about access to energy as a key indicator of well-being. Latin America and Europe are just two examples, or course; energy poverty exists around the world -- and below we've highlighted five efforts from around the world focused on ending it. – Liz Enbysk


$1 million energy grant aims to eradicate poverty
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) is offering a $1 million grant focused on sustainable energy for eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity.

“This focus is of great relevance as it addresses critical issues that will help accelerate progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those reflecting the multiple roles that energy plays in eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply, industrialization and combating climate change, among others,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo.

Applications are open to individuals, institutions or partnerships. Applicants should be able to demonstrate leadership and innovation in sustainable energy for eradicating poverty, as well as willingness and ability to implement knowledge transfer through capacity building activities aimed at replicating and scaling up successful experiences and lessons learned.

Deadline to apply is June 15, 2017.

Solar Works DC promotes lower energy costs and job training
The District of Columbia's Department of Energy & Environment and Department of Employment Services have partnered to develop Solar Works DC, a new low-income solar installation and job training program.

To implement the first year of the program, they awarded $950,000 to GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic through a competitive grant process. With this funding, GRID will operate a year-round program to train District residents in solar installation. In addition to preparing residents to enter careers in solar and related industries, Solar Works DC will increase solar capacity in the District and reduce energy costs for qualified low-income District homeowners by installing solar systems on their homes.

Solar Works DC intends to train more than 200 District residents and install solar systems on up to 300 low-income single family homes in the District over three years. The cost savings per household is roughly $15,000, which translates to approximately $600 in savings a year.

Enel joins effort to accelerate affordable, accessible energy
Enel, one of the world’s leading global utilities, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) announced at the Vienna Energy Forum earlier this month that they will work together, in cooperation with Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), on accelerating sustainable energy, including power grid efficiency and electrification.

“We are very proud to team up with UNIDO within the framework of SEforALL’s electrification accelerator and help transform the power industry towards digitization, decentralization, electrification and an increasing contribution from renewables to achieve the objective of a more affordable and accessible energy," said Francesco Starace, Enel CEO and General Manager.

The partners intend to work in cooperation with a number of actors on developing an initiative that would help in creating local skills, deploying state-of-the-art technologies and enabling markets to improve access to energy.

“Energy is a pre-requisite for industrialization,” said LI Yong, the Director General of UNIDO. “It is an enabler that will have a real impact towards meeting SDG 9 – the goal on industry, innovation and infrastructure. It is a very prominent sector that will create jobs and enhance economic prosperity in developing countries. We are pleased to work with Enel, SEforALL and many other actors committed to accelerate the efficiency and the use of electrification.”

Solar+storage on tap for disadvantaged communities
Clean Energy Group, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization, will work with Geli, an energy storage control and monitoring software company, to help bring the benefits of solar PV with battery storage (solar+storage) technologies to more low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities.

Using Geli's new online energy storage and solar+storage design and assessment tool, ESyst, Clean Energy Group will provide free training and support to nonprofit organizations evaluating solar+storage solutions for low-income communities.

The nonprofit believes solar+storage can help strengthen disadvantaged communities through ensuring more reliable power to support critical services during extended power outages and to reduce the economic burden of rising energy costs.

"Our work with Geli will help to level the clean energy playing field in low-income communities," said Seth Mullendore, a project director with Clean Energy Group.

Scottish organizations partner to reduce fuel poverty
The idea behind the Capsule Fuel Poverty Project in Central Scotland is to deliver sustainable change by using charities to teach low-income families how to reduce their fuel bills, get the best deals from suppliers and access benefits they are entitled to. The initiative is backed by STV Children’s Appeal and the ScottishPower Energy People Trust, according to Third Force News.

The local charities will identify low-income families with health and well-being risks as a result of fuel poverty and help them better manage energy costs going forward.

Said Norman Kerr OBE, chair of the ScottishPower Energy People Trust: The Capsule Fuel Poverty Project is a fine example of the crucial role grassroots projects play in local communities and epitomizes the Trust’s commitment to supporting vulnerable people across the country.

Related articles:
Report: End energy poverty faster with policies supporting distributed renewables
Why public-private partnerships can help solve energy poverty
UK councils partner on solar-plus-storage pilot to reduce fuel poverty

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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