Tag Archives: SE4All

The Woman and Child in Bondo and Modern Thermal Energy Access

She was weak and frail, with her baby on her back and a large and unusually long log of wood on her head. You could sense that she was struggling to move under the weight of the log on her head and the baby on her back, but perhaps the promise of the large firewood and promise of less trips to gather wood egged her on. The water channel on her path was shallow but the fall was very steep, probably 40 m or more, she would have crossed the channel quite easily without the load. She jumped across, didn’t make it, slipped but fortunately held on to the brickwork and then pulled herself and her baby out and moved on. I had my heart in my mouth for a few seconds and was greatly relieved that she and her baby was safe. The women with her baby (see picture) could have easily slipped and dropped 40 m down with grave consequences.

This is a scene I witnessed two weeks ago at Bondo in Southern Malawi –one of African countries where over 90% of the population lack energy access. Several millions of women in Sub-saharan Africa and South Asia make such risky trips every day to gather firewood, twigs and shrubs for household thermal energy use, often putting themselves at physical risk. Such trips often expose these women to rough terrain, natural elements and attacks from animals and sometimes fellow humans.  Most of these women then cook food or boil water using inefficient traditional stoves or keep the fire burning through the night to keep themselves warm or wild animals away. These traditional thermal energy use results in major indoor air pollution which slowly kills them and their children through lower respiratory diseases. So women are exposed to health risks during the collection and use of traditional biomass for thermal energy.

Against this backdrop, last week, I was pleased to learn from the launch of the decade of SE4All from New York that the first two years of the decade will be dedicated to ‘Energy-Women-Children-Health’ nexus. This is a very welcome development and I applaud the SE4All leadership and partners for the attention to this space. However to be able to effectively address health related challenges of women and children in areas without energy access, electrification alone is not sufficient and providing modern and thermal energy to rural women is central to this issue. Providing modern thermal energy needs to go beyond a product delivery approach which often focuses only on efficient cook-stoves. While energy for cooking is important, hot water for sanitation and space heating are also quite important. While biomass – solid and liquid fuels, electricity and solar thermal could all play a role, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) can also play a supplementary role. The business of providing thermal energy as a service is likely to a low-return, long-term business and may need to be combined with electricity or agro businesses to increase viability. There are also important roles that public sector, private sector, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and the international community should play. Solutions will need to go beyond technology to address, financing, supply chain, institutional arrangements as well as policy and regulations. So all of us need to chip at this problem from all possible angles and the attention and support in this space in the next two years due to SE4All is very welcome.

As for the anonymous woman and her child, Peter Killick of Mulanje Energy Generation Agency, the micro-grid electricity service provider for Bondo who witnessed the scene with me, kindly offered to put a footbridge across the channel. While I am relieved that her future journeys to gather fuel will be safer, I hope to be back in Bondo in the future to see that she has access to cleaner energy technologies and fuel supply at her doorstep.

Dr. Binu Parthan, SEA

The Woman and the Child at Bondo

The Woman and Child in Bondo. Credit: Sustainable Energy Associates

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Global Tracking Framework Report

Released in May 2013 under the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, the report is the result of an analytical study conducted by a team of energy experts from fifteen (15) agencies under the leadership of the World Bank and the International Energy Agency. The report providesna comprehensive picture of more than 170 countries with respect to the three SE4ALL objectives (universal access to modern energy services, and doubling of both the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix). It also describes how to measure progress towards achieving the three objectives.

From the perspective of the Sustainable Thermal Energy Service Partnerships (STEPs) project, the report also provides a reliable source of baseline data on access to primary non-solid cooking fuels as they were at the start point of the SE4ALL initiative (2010) for each of the 170 countries under study. However, the report does not provide any data on energy for heating, as none were available. According to the report, the measurement of access to heating represents several challenges. The SE4ALL initiative envisions the development of a framework to adequately measure access to heating.

– Luc Tossou, Econoler

Follow this link for more information on the Global Tracking Framework report: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/05/17765643/global-tracking-framework-vol-3-3-main-report.

STEPs Presentation at the Bengaluru SE4All Workshop

A presentation on ‘Rethinking Finance and Business Approaches for Energy Access’ was made by me at the Third International Triennial Workshop on Sustainable Energy For All : Transforming Commitments into Action. The workshop was organised by the NAM Science & Technology Centre and Society for Energy Managers (SEEM) at the green Christ University Campus at Kengeri, Bangalore during the period 21-24 February 2014. This was the third energy-related international event organised by NAM S&T Centre and SEEM and brought together a large number of energy sector experts from about 20 countries including 15 developing countries and several of them  from Asia and Africa. The five countries participating from Sub-Saharan Africa were from Nigeria, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The workshop also adopted the Bengaluru declaration on sustainable energy for all.

An expert talk was given by me, presenting the current business and finance approaches to energy access and highlighting some of the new and emerging thinking in this space. The talk exhorted equal priority to thermal energy access alongside electricity and also encouraged the use of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Several energy service business models such as PPPs, PAYG and emerging financing concepts such as crowdfunding, cryptocurrency etc were also presented. The STEPs project and its plans were also presented alongside a number of other progressive finance/business frameworks.. The interventions from the floor showed a keen interest in the issues of finance & business.

So the participation at the third triennial workshop on SE4All provided an opportunity to highlight the challenges with business and finance models in energy access and to encourage new approaches. The workshop also provided an opportunity to introduce the STEPs project, its objectives and plans to clean energy, energy access and development practitioners in Asian and African developing countries.

SE4All BP

Dr Parthan presenting at the SE4All Workshop. Image: Sustainable Energy Associates

Rethinking Finance and Business Approaches for Energy Access – Presentation – Sustainable Energy Associates

Dr. Binu Parthan, SEA