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Switching on the light, as 1.3 billion people live without electricity
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Switching on the light, as 1.3 billion people live without electricity

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With an estimated 1.3 billion people in the world living without electricity, mainly in poor and rural communities, finding solutions for energy poverty is set to be a key focus of the conference and exhibition during the forthcoming World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi from January 15- 17.

The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook reports that, in 2011, around half of the 1.3 billion energy-poor populations live in Africa. Additionally, there are 2.7 billion people living without clean cooking facilities; more than 25% of these people reside in Africa.

Providing universal energy access has been the forefront of sustainability discussions, and in January 2012, the United Nations launched their International Year of Sustainable Energy for All program at WFES. WFES 2013 will continue to focus on global access for energy by including a program and an innovative exhibition initiatives that focus on finding solutions for universal energy access.

Technological advancements in renewable energy and the rising cost of fuel have made rural electrification projects a financially viable option, according to Ernesto Macias Galan, President of the Alliance of Rural Electrification (ARE), the only international, non- profit business association dedicated to the promotion and the development of off-grid renewable energy solutions for rural electrification in developing countries.

Mr Galan, who will be a featured speaker during the "Rural Renewable Energy " session at the International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC) hosted by WFES 2013, highlights that, with 84% of the world's energy poor residing in rural and remote areas, the need to find quick and sustainable solutions is imperative for the survival of these communities. "Off- grid renewable projects are an innovative method to tackle energy poverty that is so prevalent in remote and rural communities," continues Galan.

Galan cites the example of the Monte Trigo solar village as a successful step in overcoming the obstacles posed by energy poverty. In February 2012, the Monte Trigo solar energy plant provided 60 of the 80 households in this Cape Verdean village uninterrupted electricity supply for the very first time.

Situated on the western most tip of Africa, this village depends on fish for food and more importantly, as a source of income through trade with neighbouring island villages. "Until early this year, producing ice for storing fish was impossible, as Monte Trigo remains unconnected to any main electricity grid. Fishermen would often have to make 10 hour round trips to the nearest main island of Sao Vicente to buy ice. Their need for an energy source to sustain their village was critical," said Galan.

According to Galan, a Multiuser Solar micro-Grid (MSG) was installed in this village, which is capable of producing approximately 90 kWhr per day--enough to power 60 households.

The Monte Trigo project is one example of how solar energy can bring small but significant changes to rural communities. However, the IEA predicts that a $48 billion investment is required for electrification--49% of this investment is required for Africa, for communities like Monte Trigo.

The Project and Finance Village, first introduced to WFES in 2011, is making a significant contribution to sourcing finance for renewable energy projects such as the one in Monte Trigo. During WFES2012, up to 27 projects worth over US$5 billion were showcased to investors; however, the number of projects is set to increase significantly at WFES 2013 this January.

"The Project and Finance Village at WFES2013 is responding to the challenges of rural electrification. This year, it has expanded to include 40 projects valued at over US$ 8 billion. Considering that the investment for the Monte Trigo project was just 290,000 euros, the Project and Finance Village has the ability to make powerful strides in overcoming energy poverty, said WFES 2013 Show Director, Naji El Haddad.











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