The United Nations Climate Action Awards were announced on December 11 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24). One of the 15 Momentum for Change awards went to EarthSpark International for their work on energy poverty. Globally energy poverty is understood as a lack of access to modern energy services. As I discuss in my October 14 blog, over three billion people rely on wood, charcoal, or dung for cooking resulting in more than 4 million deaths per year from household air pollution. Electrification IS about health.
EarthSpark recognizes this crisis and also the disproportionate affect on women in rural areas. Women tend to be the ones that travel hours and hours per day collecting fuel. They also tend to be the ones tending and breathing these smoky fires for cooking. The EarthSpark winning project has a gender lens they refer to as “feminist electrification.” The projects range from small-scale clean energy projects such as solar lanterns and efficient cooktops to their current project creating 80 community scale microgrids in Haiti to bring electrification to these rural communities. These types of projects help address many of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
There are still 1.2 billion people without access to electricity. 1.2 billion people that can’t refrigerate food, cook on a stove, run a light to read by, or charge a phone to communicate (yes most rural communication is by cell phone). We have an opportunity to leverage today’s technology to bring smart infrastructure to these communities while we equalize gender opportunity. Let’s build it right the first time!