Today, 1.2 billion people still do not have access to modern energy, while 2.5 billion rely on “traditional biomass” (ie wood or dung) and coal as their main fuel sources.
Lack of access to clean, affordable and reliable energy hinders human, social and economic development and is a major impediment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This video clip from Practical Action shows what it means in practical terms to have no electricity, and explains how the charity is working with local communities to resolve some of the issues.
How can sustainable energy help move people out of poverty?
As well as generally raising living standards, having access to reliable energy also:
- enables income generation – for example, through solar pumps for irrigation or electricity for a small business
(take a look at this solar pump being tested out at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales)
- provides power to community health clinics, and refrigerators to store medicines, as well as cell phones, which have transformed commerce
(watch this video clip showing how mobile phones have changed lives in Tanzania)
- reduces the time and drudgery of collecting fuel wood, supporting cleaner, more efficient cooking and heating options
(see how solar stoves can cut cooking smoke)
- provides lighting, so children can study after dark
(find out how creating power from burning rice husks brings light to villages in India)
- enables businesses to operate and creates new opportunities for entrepreneurs
(see how a small business in the Philippines is installing ‘solar bottle’ lights – and read the science behind them)
Why teach about sustainable energy?
Sustainable energy fits well into subjects such as Geography, Science and Design & Technology and there is already a wealth of resources to help teachers explore and teach about different energy sources and their impacts on the Global Dimension website.
It is also important to focus on the many people who don’t have easy access to energy. It is a very harsh reality that so much of the world’s population live without proper access to light for reading or heat for cooking. It is also important that the world finds energy solutions that are easy to access, don’t deplete dwindling resources and as far as possible don’t contribute to climate change.
This could be a tall order laden with doom and gloom, but as I’ve been researching this page what stands out for me are the many positive stories that are linked to sustainable energy. There are so many small scale solutions using renewable sources, many of them developed by people “on the ground” and employing the local community – it gives me hope to read about such human ingenuity.
It would be great to use these examples to inspire your students – maybe they can create their own sustainable energy solutions!
Positive stories about sustainable energy projects
William Kamkwamba from Malawi started building windmills aged 14
Teaching ideas and resources
The Ashden Awards champion sustainable energy solutions in the UK and across the world. They have activities and resources for primary schools on their website which are based around award-winning energy projects.
The Geographical Association’s online resource Young Geographers Go Green has a range of activities around sustainable energy, including Everyday Sustainability – which looks at unbalanced access to energy across the world and the kinds of fuel used in other countries.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change have developed the My 2050 Schools Toolkit which explores the challenges we face in reducing carbon emissions while maintaining reliable and secure energy supplies.
Practical Action have a wide range of resources relating to their work in developing countries involving renewable energy. These include images, posters, Moja Island activity (secondary) and a wind power challenge (ages 7-16)
The documentary photographer Peter Di Campo has been exploring the economic and social implications of energy poverty. His online photo exhibition, Life Without Lights is an excellent resource.
Photo at top of page: Energy – Sources of Power: Solar Energy – by United Nations Photo on flickr.com
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