Electric Power for World’s Poor Now Deliverable

Renewable Energy for the 2 Billion People Without Power is the Answer

Released exclusively from Washington, DC

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John Kadyszewski (pronounced: “Ca-dah-zés-kee”), director of the renewable energy team at Winrock International, will be in Washington and available for interviews on Thursday, July 9. Please call 703-820-2244 to schedule time.


Renewable electricity from the sun, wind, water, geothermal and biological crop sources can be brought to nearly half the world’s population that today lives without power for just pennies a day per person, says a new report by Winrock International, a private, nonprofit development organization.

“Centralized power grids have not reached more than two billion people in developing countries, mostly in rural areas, because grid expansion costs too much, especially for capital-poor nations,” says John Kadyszewski, an engineer and leader of Winrock International’s renewable energy team. Winrock International is a private nonprofit organization that works with people to build a better world, increasing agricultural productivity and rural employment while protecting the environment.

Electricity on Demand: Reaching Two Billion Cheaply with Renewable Energy, a report released by Winrock International, concludes:

  • Constructing giant electrical grids to bring power to rural areas costs too much and is an inefficient use of limited capital in developing countries. Governments and utilities do not have the resources they need to bring power to remote populations using such traditional methods.
  • Rural people, even those with limited means, have demonstrated they are willing to pay for electricity if it is available.
  • Renewable energy systems are easily installed and maintained, and vary in size. They can supply power for households, villages, and regions at a one-time cost as low as $50 to $100 per person.
  • Reliable power sources, combined with access to credit, hold the key to economic growth and improved quality of life in rural areas.
  • Renewable energy offers a clean alternative to polluting fossil fuels, oil and coal. Rural areas of the developing world are prime markets for renewable energy technology and services.

  • The key to success is building the capacity of local people and businesses to design systems and sell and service equipment.

“Winrock believes that thousands and thousands of mini-power stations serving units as small as a single family that draw electricity from a wide variety of renewable, non-polluting power sources can be set up around the world,” Kadyszewski adds.

For example, in India, 85,000 villages are currently without electricity. No plans even exist to connect 18,000 of those villages to a central electrical grid because they are too remote and inaccessible.

How does electricity improve rural life? In Indonesia, a typical family of onion farmers could devote 16 hours of labor per day carrying water by hand to irrigate their fields, or a total of more than 1,000 hours of irrigation labor alone to harvest a single crop. Renewably-supplied energy can reduce labor, but more importantly, it provides opportunities for increased income and economic growth that brings improvements in living standards.

Winrock assists villages in installing small wind power systems, often to operate water pumps. Families pay for the water they use, which helps to offset the cost of the wind generator and equipment. The electric pump cuts the number of hours a family dedicates to carrying water to just 100 hours per season, or one-tenth the manual labor needed previously.

“From field experience, Winrock knows rural people in developing countries want electricity and are willing to pay for it,” Kadyszewski notes. “Historically, subsidy programs have failed to deliver energy systems that work and have undermined commercial markets. Strategies for electrification succeed when local people contribute financially and determine how they want to use power. Projects are even more successful when there is access to credit for equipment. Renewable electricity can expand options for rural employment and income.”

Some of the energy sources Winrock uses in successful projects include:

Solar: Energy from the sun can be used to produce electricity through use of a semi-conductor device known as a photovoltaic (PV) panel. The household cost of a solar energy system is the most expensive of renewable technologies, costing $300 to $500 to install per family, but the ease with which these panels convert light directly into electricity is a significant benefit. Operating costs are minimal. Each household solar panel provides 30 to 50 watts of power, enough to charge automotive batteries during the day when the sun shines. The batteries can be connected to lights, fans, radios and TVs and other appliances during the evening, which allows a rural family to enjoy some benefits of electricity.

Hydro: Micro-turbines that use the water power of streams rather than rivers to turn an electric generator or other machinery are being used in Asia, Central America and other mountainous areas to generate electricity for isolated villages. For a cost of just $20,000 and within three months, community organizations working with Winrock can install and operate a micro-hydro generator to serve 50 households. This compares favorably with the massive capital investment and years of construction needed to build a traditional hydro-electric plant. While hydro power requires a significant capital investment, it gets a greater return and is the cheapest renewable energy system per kilowatt hour to operate, the report says.

Wind: Winrock is helping individuals and villages install wind energy systems that cost as little as $1,200 each, often bringing the first electric power to entire regions. These wind turbines can be assembled and begin delivering electricity in just a few weeks. Villagers decide whether they want to use the electric power to pump water for household use or irrigation, or to operate other equipment.

Geothermal: The earth’s internal energy is a powerful force for generating electricity. Hot water and steam produced inside the earth can be captured to operate a turbine, which in turn generates electricity; or used directly as a heat source. Geothermal energy already contributes sizable amounts of power to utility grids in the United States, the Philippines and Mexico. Although normally large, small modular units can generate from 300 kilowatts (kW), enough to serve 2,000 households, to 1 megawatt (MW) of power.

Biomass: Small renewable energy systems can produce electricity from biological sources — wood, animal and crop wastes — for small industries or at the village level. For years, large milling operations have burned wastes to operate boilers, and in turn, produce electric power for their own consumption. Innovations today are enabling mills to use biomass energy more efficiently, creating excess power for sale to nearby towns, villages and utility grids.

“Renewable energy is locally available and sustainable,” says Kadyszewski. “If the Winrock vision can be realized, rural people in some areas will be harvesting energy like they now harvest crops, and sending it to cities, the reverse of what is happening today.”

The report also describes how Winrock is working to integrate renewable power sources with other development programs — increasing the value of agricultural products, improving water supply, forest and park protection, human resource development, and support for rural employment and enterprise development — that will make rural regions healthy and economically productive places to live.

“One of the major reasons rural people in developing countries move to cities is to find work. Another reason is to have access to electricity and the modern conveniences and labor-saving devices it provides,” says Kadyszewski. “Instead of promoting that trend, Winrock wants to help improve life in rural areas.”

Reliable power dramatically increases income generating options for rural people. Shops can stay open longer, equipment can be operated at home during the evening, and small enterprises can extend the range of options available to rural people for earning income. Relatively small amounts of electrical power can add significant value to rural products — whether electricity runs a sewing machine or produces ice that keeps fish or vegetables fresh so they earn a higher price in the marketplace. Reliable power can change the structure of rural economies, especially when access to credit allows people to buy labor-saving or product-enhancing equipment.

Renewable Energy at Work — Real Solutions to Real Problems

Indonesia — Winrock launched the WIND (Windpower for Islands and Nongovernmental Development) project in Indonesia in 1994. The long-term goal is to use renewable wind energy to strengthen the economies of rural communities, especially on the remote eastern islands. Wind systems now operate on five islands, with 60 percent of the sites pumping water for agricultural uses, and the remainder delivering electricity to households. Villagers have been able to expand farming to produce more products for sale, develop micro-industries and significantly reduce the labor needed for daily chores.

Winrock surveys unelectrified areas to determine if adequate wind resources exist, and to assess local interest in using renewable energy. Anemometers placed in different locations measure wind speed and duration and record readings every 8 minutes. Data is collected monthly to determine if there is enough wind to produce sufficient amounts of electricity.

Once Winrock experts determine that a viable wind site exists (and is close to water sources if pumping water is the likely use), a questionnaire is sent to villagers asking if they want electricity to pump water, charge batteries, or operate equipment, and whether they would be willing to pay for it. Communities also need a local organization that can be trained to supervise installation and maintenance.

“The power is not given free to the villagers once the wind generators are set up,” says Kadyszewski. “The water is sold per cubic meter, and charges are used to pay for maintenance and spare parts. Electrical power saves labor and leads to increased income, so people are willing to pay.”

A typical wind power system — a 10-kilowatt wind generator with battery banks and inverters — costs about $30,000. It serves from 30-35 families, or about 200 people. Communities share the cost of equipment, transmission lines and use of the service.

Water systems based on wind power are more expensive because pumps, meters and pipes to carry water are more costly to purchase and install than simple electric lines. These average $20,000 for the wind generator and an additional $25,000 for the needed equipment. These systems can meet the irrigation needs of 40 families, or supply household water for 80 families.

Winrock works with local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that monitor and operate the systems, read the meters, coordinate billing and handle maintenance. The NGOs also protect the equipment.

India — India has a strong commitment to renewable energy, and the country’s need for electricity is one of the greatest. Some 100 million people live in villages that lack any access to electricity, and only about 40 percent of the 950 million Indians overall live in electrified homes. In addition, the gap between energy supply and demand, for those connected to a grid, has been widening sharply over the past few years. During peak load hours shortages average 19 to 20 percent. In simple terms, this means that only 80 percent of the homes that have electricity can have their lights on at one time, while the others are in the dark.

Photovoltaic units for lighting, water pumping, telecommunications and other uses already are widespread in India, but most systems are sold with a government subsidy. Product quality has been a problem with such systems. Winrock is working with private companies to demonstrate that high quality systems can be sold without a subsidy to rural buyers and in much larger quantities. For example, Winrock is working with an Indian company to build a network of solar centers that sell and maintain solar systems in rural areas. Financing is provided through existing banks or directly by the company. The network of solar centers is being expanded as new technicians are trained and as financing becomes available.

India already is the third largest producer of wind power after Germany and the United States, and is investing much more in wind energy than any other country. Winrock is working to improve the operating performance of large-scale wind farms, with the goal of increasing power by at least 25 percent using existing equipment. India has a wind power generating potential of 20,000 megawatts, enough to energize at least 40 million homes, yet currently produces only 900 megawatts of wind power.

Winrock also is helping improve the efficiency of cogeneration plants that produce energy from crop wastes, especially in the sugar industry. Sugar mill power plants are much bigger systems than wind turbines. They can generate up to 25 megawatts of surplus electricity, or enough power to serve 50,000 households.

Bagasse is the residue left from sugar cane stalks when they are crushed as part of the milling process. Traditionally, it has been burned inefficiently as a waste product, fueling boilers that produce enough electricity to power the sugar mill. Winrock is working with the Indian sugar industry to improve these cogeneration systems so that they are able to generate more power than needed by the mill. Excess electricity can be sold to the central power grid and surrounding communities.

To generate even more power, Winrock in 1992 began researching the use of sugar cane tops and leaves left in the field to supplement bagasse in the electricity generating process. The goal is to enable mills to produce extra energy year round. Currently, sugar mills generate power during the crushing season, which can last between 100 and 300 days, depending on local climate conditions. If these tests are successful, power from sugar mills using existing technology could produce as much as 5 percent of the total national power supply, and potentially provide an additional source of income for farmers.

Guatemala, Central America — Fundación Solar, an organization founded in Guatemala with Winrock’s assistance in 1994, is actively meeting the demand for electricity in remote areas. Once nearly 100 percent funded by Winrock, Fundación Solar has become virtually independent through successful efforts in attracting funding from other organizations and agencies. Winrock works to build the capacity of local organizations to promote renewable energy because their success ensures long-term success and development of projects that address local priorities.

Fundación Solar sends teams of energy experts to rural areas of Central America to assess renewable energy sources and to determine if residents are willing to pay for electricity. The organization works with the private sector to buy equipment, and with NGOs to operate and service the systems once a project is complete. The process in each village takes about three months from beginning to end. Fundación Solar’s goal is to have team members work their way methodically through Central America, bringing electricity access to everyone.

“The fragile environments of Central American tropical forests and watersheds will not be protected unless rural people have the opportunity to use methods of power that are income generating,” says Ivan Azurdia, director of new project development for Fundación Solar. “Renewable energy saves fuel wood, creates employment opportunities, and supplies water for irrigation and household use.”

“Once you show it works, other people will copy you,” says Kadyszewski. “We’re trying to introduce concepts and programs that will work. The more we can spread the word about the demand for renewable energy and about processes and systems that work, the better. For a variety of reasons, there have been frequent failures with renewable energy systems. We hope to change that experience.”

Winrock currently focuses its renewable energy work where the rural poor seek the economic and social benefits that electricity can bring. Six areas of work prove to have the greatest impact in bringing renewable electricity to rural populations.

  • Technical Assistance — A network of Renewable Energy Project Support Offices (REPSOs) provides assistance to small businesses, NGOs, governments and others to promote development of renewable energy programs, equipment sales, and services. REPSOs operate in Brazil, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and are being developed in China, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nepal and South Africa.
  • Financing — Because renewable energy systems normally require an initial capital investment, financing and access to credit are critical to expand use of renewable energy resources. Winrock assists private developers in preparing and structuring privately funded renewable energy projects. Winrock has helped establish several organizations that manage capital investment funds to provide limited loan and equity funds for projects. Coupled with improved access to credit for equipment, renewable electricity expands options for rural employment and income.
  • Commercialization — Identifying and creating markets where renewable energy systems can effectively compete with more traditional forms of energy is key to promoting use of these valuable energy resources. Companies with the capacity to develop and produce commercial renewable energy systems often are unaware of real markets that already exist.
  • Innovation — Winrock International’s work in promoting development and use of biomass energy systems has generated hundreds of megawatts of electricity that has brought power to millions around the world. Today, biomass is being used directly for generating electricity, as well as liquid fuel production, such as alcohol. Other new technologies hold great promise for rural areas of the world.
  • Environmental Management — The future of the planet rests on the ability of populations to manage and conserve resources. The fastest way to protect ecologically important areas is to strengthen the economic base of local populations and engage them in protection efforts. Not only do Winrock projects focus on turning crop and wood processing wastes into energy, and in so doing reducing the burden of these wastes, but Winrock actively develops programs that provide public and private leaders with better information for making decisions. For example, Winrock has developed methods and procedures for measuring carbon captured from the atmosphere by vegetation.
  • Rural Development — Renewable energy and the reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity it provides is essential for growth of small cottage industries, rural manufacturing, and businesses, all of which bring jobs and income potential to rural areas, as well as improved quality of life. Winrock works with organizations and communities to ensure renewable energy systems support local needs and can be maintained in the future.

Winrock acts as a catalyst. It assists governments, private enterprises, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and international institutions such as the World Bank in developing replicable projects that bring electricity to the rural poor. Winrock doesn’t sell technology, but rather links demand for electricity with suppliers of renewable energy systems. It focuses on developing policy, assessing renewable resources, and removing barriers that impede system development and use of these sustainable, non-polluting resources.

Winrock International works in five areas: agriculture, forestry and natural resource management, leadership and human development, renewable energy, and rural employment and enterprise development. Projects are active in 40 countries, including the United States, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union.

Programs are funded by grants, contracts and contributions from public and private sources. Winrock International is headquartered on Petit Jean Mountain, near Morrilton, Arkansas; and has an office in Arlington, Virginia. Field offices are located in Salvador, Brazil; Beijing, China; Manila, the Philippines; and New Delhi, India.

Category: Press Release