SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: Bringing Global Goals to the Last Mile
Chances are you flipped on your lights this morning, cooked a meal on your stove today, and are sitting in front of a charged laptop now. When was the last time you went a day without electricity? Electricity is the foundation for a productive economic and healthy life, yet 1.2 billion people around the world lack access to electricity. Many people living without access to electricity reside in remote locations, far from the energy grid and rely on harmful, nonrenewable sources of energy like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 focuses on alleviating this challenge by ensuring access to reliable, sustainable, modern, affordable clean energy for all.
Access to clean energy drives economic development by powering small-scale industries and agricultural processing, resulting in increased income. As an avid supporter of the UN SDGs, Green empowerment is helping to advance SDG 7 by working with local partners around the world to connect individuals to a variety of renewable energy sources. These include microhydro, solar power, biodigesters, and improved cookstoves. In 2019 alone, Green Empowerment helped more than 2,900 people gain access to clean energy in their homes or schools. And in 2020 with our partner in Myanmar we completed solar panel installations at health clinics serving more than 13,000 people.
Renewable Energy Projects in Myanmar: Pushing Forward Amid Political Unrest
Since 2005, Green Empowerment and Border Green Energy Team (BGET) have been working together with local health centers to bring affordable and reliable renewable energy to clinics in rural villages and refugee camps in Karen State, Myanmar.
The last several months have been particularly challenging in Myanmar. On February 1, 2021 the Burmese Military took control of the country and removed the democratically-elected government of the National League for Democracy (NLD). NLD party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and various ministers were forcibly detained and several government positions were replaced as part of the military coup.
This is a significant step back from a long-awaited democratization process for the country that began in 2011 after 49 years of military rule. This era of military oppression saw egregious human rights violations, including ongoing ethnic cleansing efforts from the Burmese Army that targeted the Karen people (as well as other ethnic minorities). The health facilities that we have worked to outfit with solar PV systems through our partnership BGET serve primarily Karen people. In March the Burmese Army began air strikes in Karen State driving thousands of people from their villages. In this context, rural health clinics in the state serve a vital role in emergency wound care as well as stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Bringing Electricity to Rural Health Clinics
In early 2020, thanks to the generous support of Good Works Institute, Green Empowerment and BGET were able to install 300W solar electricity systems at five medical clinics benefitting more than 13,800 people. To build local capacity and ensure long-term viability of the systems, 13 staff (7 men and 6 women) were trained on the operation and maintenance of the systems. We are thankful to have addressed this challenge at the beginning of 2020 as the impact of the project was amplified by the increased need for rural healthcare in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest.
Continuing to Meet Renewable Energy Needs
We stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and our work does not stop here. Green Empowerment and BGET are continuing to actively engage our on-the-ground partners to find new ways to support the health of internally-displaced Karen people. In the coming months we will be installing a 5kW solar system to sustainably electrify a newly built COVID-19 Emergency Response Center in Karen State. The Center will provide a central location for PCR-based COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution for a larger network of clinics. This 100% renewable energy system will displace diesel generators that would normally be used, improving the respiratory health of community members and patients in the surrounding area.
Clean energy is our future. Green Empowerment is proud to be an active part of the dissemination of reliable and renewable technologies in Myanmar and throughout the world. But we couldn’t do this without the help of our local partners. Stay tuned for the next section in our series which will focus on SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals!