How Communities Living in Poverty Can Benefit From Renewable Energy

TheImpoverished communities around the globe lack access to essential amenities, including heat, electricity, and clean drinking water. Residents of rural communities are also in a similar situation. Electric companies have little incentive to add infrastructure to the electrical grid to provide these areas with electricity since it isn’t economical. Instead, residents are forced to use kerosene, diesel, candles, and other antiquated technologies to meet their needs. Fortunately, renewable energy technologies can help.

Cost Savings Over Time

Poverty and electricity are a negative cycle. Poor people are less likely to be able to afford access to electricity, and a lack of electricity is more likely to keep them from moving out of poverty. Residents in rural and impoverished communities can expect to pay up to five times the cost per kilowatt hour for electricity compared to more developed areas, and their access to electricity is spotty at best. Energy-efficient systems offer a solution to this issue.

Efficient energy systems reduce the energy needed to operate a system, which means excess energy can then be used elsewhere. A relevant measure of electricity is looking at a cost comparison. Geothermal energy, for example, costs approximately 80 percent less than traditional fossil fuel sources, while solar energy prices rival, if not fall below, fossil fuel prices.

Over time, renewables can save significant money on electricity expenses. However, the initial installation cost is beyond what most poor people can afford. Solar power, geothermal, and wind power infrastructure require users to pay upfront energy costs equivalent to ten years’ worth of power. Typically, people in poverty don’t have this extra money to invest.

Localized Energy Resources

The benefits of renewable energy like geothermal, solar, and wind power allow communities to use natural resources to produce green, clean energy on location. This bypasses the community’s need to tie into the main electric grid and gives them energy independence. In a natural disaster or significant storm, they will have access to electricity sooner as they won’t need to wait for cabling and large-scale infrastructure repairs.

Communities near geothermal features are especially well-suited to take advantage of renewable geothermal energy. Underground, the temperature remains nearly constant year-round. Geothermal heating systems have water-filled pipes that run into the ground.

The pipes naturally heat or cool to the earth’s temperature before returning to the ground surface, which in turn regulates the temperature of a home or business. Geothermal units can also direct hot water to a water heater, which virtually eliminates the costs of heating water conventionally, reducing energy costs.

Reallocating Energy Subsidies

Across the globe, countries spent a combined $7 trillion in 2022 when accounting for developing, burning, and subsidizing fossil fuels. Subsidies for fossil fuels promote the usage of dirty energy sources and benefit those with regular access to fossil fuels, such as the wealthy and those living in more developed areas.

Reallocating this funding to create renewable energy infrastructure in impoverished areas will increase access to regular electricity and improve the resident’s quality of life. Subsidies that offset the initial installation costs of renewable technologies can help economically disadvantaged communities move forward.

Improved Air Quality

Traditional energy sources in rural and poverty-stricken communities include diesel-run generators and kerosene lamps. These sources generate high volumes of pollutants, creating poor air quality in homes and neighborhoods, leading to respiratory ailments and early deaths. Renewables offer an eco-friendly alternative.

Solar, geothermal, and wind energy produce a fraction of fossil fuels and kerosene emissions. Improved air quality can reduce cancer and other diseases related to breathing harmful pollutants.

Poor communities across the globe can benefit from renewable energy through lower costs and emissions. Clean energy sources offer a more sustainable and accessible alternative to traditional fossil fuels.

Featured image credit: Black Rock Solar, courtesy of Flickr

Bobbi Peterson
Bobbi Peterson
Bobbi Peterson ia a freelance writer, green living advocate, and environmentalist.

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