Problems of access to energy, with communities not being able to afford energy produced in their region and at the same time having to deal with the impact of that exploitation on their environment is a widespread problem. We have discussed this with Melania Chiponda from WoMin, South Africa, and with Andrea Torres Bobadilla from Tierra Digna, Colombia.
Melania Chiponda – bring women at the forefront of the energy transition
According to Melania Chiponda from WoMin, African Women Reunite Against Resource Extraction, women experience energy poverty in a very different way from men because of their role in the household and in the community. They are affected by the production of energy, more specifically in South Africa by the extraction and combustion of coal, with devastating impacts like land dispossession and health repercussions. Furthermore, women who live close to power plants often do not have access to electricity; it’s just too expensive for ordinary grassroots women to be able to afford it.
Through their work, WoMin focuses on these areas and create spaces for women to tell their stories and to start imagining the kind of energy system that they would like to see, looking at organising an African sisterhood movement around energy poverty. Women’s active involvement in the energy sector is massive and should also be acknowledged. They provide energy for their families and their communities, they come up with small technologies for cooking, for lighting…but that just remains invisible. For WoMin it’s essential to bring this at the forefront.
When looking at the future of energy in Africa, according to Melania the mega-renewable energy solutions have not worked. Some big solar projects for example have grabbed land from the community. Micro grids or minigrids, which the community could be able to sustain could be a solution, it’s important to ensure that people always have access.
Interview with Melania available here.
Andrea Torres Bobadilla – empower communities in a new energy model
Andrea Torres Bobadilla explained the Colombian context; the government has enforced an extractivist model that common people have not agreed to, an approach that lead to widespread socio-environmental conflicts. She asks, “how can we as a country halt the extraction of coal and make a transition towards a different model of alternative energy and ecological restauration of impacted zones and communities?”
One of the issues to overcome, according to Andrea, is that Colombia today is fueled by hydroelectricity, which is not a clean energy. Furthermore, in Colombia energy sovereignty is still elusive. More than 60% of the country does not have access to energy. In many areas, there is no electrical connection. Tierra Digna’s vision is a model of distribution and generation of alternative community energy that empowers communities and that is compatible with national geography. Energies should be accessible to everyone and managed by the communities.
In the South of Colombia there are cases of small communities that have small solar panels and have been able to supply energy for their territories. So far these have been small initiatives that they have managed independently. Andrea suggested that the solution is community alternatives where the communities take back control and manage energy and their access to energy is respected.
A video interview with Andrea Torres Bobadilla is available here.