For the vast majority of Latin Americans, the simple fact of having electricity at home or in the office is expected, it is the norm. However, both regionally and globally, there are millions of people who go without this basic service.
For those who live in rural areas, far from the nearest pylon or electric cable, solar panels are increasingly being seen as a solution, offering a potentially life-changing utility.
So, here are four things that you may not have known about solar technology.
An affordable solution
Globally, there are 1.2 billion people who are “off-grid”, without any access to the electricity network, according to a new World Bank study. And without a reliable connection, they spend some US$ 27 billion every year on lighting and mobile-charging technology. Alternatives which are often inefficient or dangerous such as car-batteries, kerosene generators and candles.
It’s an enormous outlay, especially for those communities already living below the poverty line or which are financially vulnerable. As a result, solar energy has a huge potential to lessen the cost and the risk as well as helping to reduce poverty.
City vs country-side
Nearly four out of five Latin Americans live in the regions cities. With such high levels of urbanisation there is a significant gap in services between the urban and rural areas.
For example, while almost 99% of the urban population have electricity at home, one in five Latin Americans living outside of the city doesn’t have electricity access.
For them, solar panels offer an affordable and accessible electricity supply for lighting their homes, charging mobile phones, listening to the radio and even for cooking.
In Peru, over 131 000 people now have electricity via an initiative to increase rural electrification, and a further 8 000 will have access by 2017, the majority in remote, poor and vulnerable communities.
Similarly, since 1999 some 21,0000 solar systems have been installed in remote areas in Argentina, providing electricity to public buildings, health and community centres and police stations. However, some 750 000 people, the majority from indigenous communities, still don’t have an electricity connection. Here, solar panels will also illuminate their lives as well as providing hot water to homes and schools in remote regions without any electricity lines.