Climate Change

Empowered By Light: Bringing Off-grid Solar To Communities At Risk

Mugurameno Basic school in Zambia. Courtesy of Brian Somers, Empowered by Light.

Across the globe, over 1.5 billion people do not have access to electricity and often their only options are expensive and dirty diesel or kerosene. Empowered by Light (EBL) aims to improve the lives of these communities, through the introduction of renewable energy technologies. In many instances, these communities live in the surrounding areas of critical habitats (known as buffer zones) that are at risk of exploitation or degradation from industry, therefore EBL hopes to also empower these individuals to protect their native lands.

In Zambia, EBL has piloted the Mugurameno project, which is a hybrid non-profit and sales revenue-collecting project aimed at developing a sustainable and scalable model for rural electrification.

Mugurameno Basic is one of the most rural schools in Zambia, serving seven villages with nearly 600 students. Until recently, the school had no running water or electricity, making education and teacher retention extremely difficult.  In early 2016, EBL’s local installers extended subterranean lines to teacher and community member homes in a pay-as-you-go metering system that will fund the maintenance and operation of the solar micro grid. 

Now, with LDF support, Mugurameno Basic will receive free power for lighting purposes and surrounding community members will be provided with the opportunity to connect their homes to the power system for affordable power services such as lighting, cellphone charging, TVs, radios, and refrigeration.

In the past year, EBL as scaled their operations and partnerships, which has resulted in the installation of several solar systems in several different countries, including Brazil, Nepal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Nepal, EBL installed two off-grid solar systems at two ranger stations located in the Chitwan National Park to power critical monitoring and communications to protect the native single-horned Asiatic rhinos and Bengal Tigers from illegal poaching activities. EBL also installed solar power at tourist towers, which will help boost revenue for the park for further protection and restoration efforts. 

EBL recently finished production of a short 20-minute film that highlights their work in Nepal. The video showcases the direct impact that solar is bringing to the entire community of the Chitwan National Park and the surrounding buffer zone. Please watch the video here: 

Projects like these are proving that developing nations can literally leapfrog decades of fossil fuel infrastructure development by powering their countries with renewable energy today. EBL’s goal is to build multiple demonstration projects around the world, improving the lives and the environment of communities surrounding those projects and further demonstrating the importance, feasibility, and sustainability of electrifying very remote and critical areas around the world with 100% clean renewable energy.

And to learn more about EBL, please visit their website here: https://www.empoweredbylight.org 

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