Climate Change

22 Mar 2022

How Renewables Are Transforming Developing Nations

22 Mar 2022  by   
SolarisKit is a flat-packable, solar-powered water heater (Courtesy: SolarisKit)

Two of the most fundamental elements for sustainable development – heat and cold – are hard to come by in off-grid communities. Both are essential to sanitation and medical provision, and therefore to survival. Being able to stay clean and healthy also has enormous knock-on effects for the long-term success of populations.

If adults have better access to healthcare for instance, then that translates into children being able to focus on schooling, rather than having to work to help support a sick family. The ‘cascade effects’ of providing healthcare are numerous and beyond impactful.

Getting into hot water

Scotland-based medical engineer Dr Faisal Ghani started thinking about this back in 2019 after reading a journal paper about energy usage in Rwanda. Access to hot water is extremely limited in the equatorial country, and what is available is expensive.

Rwandans typically use gas, charcoal or diesel-fuelled generators to heat their water, all of which are costly, environmentally unfriendly and dangerous.

The lack of options leads to lower hygiene levels, creating perfect breeding grounds for many different illnesses.

Ghani developed a cost-effective solution to harness solar energy in an affordable way to heat water. His resulting design comprises a heating coil inside a prism and is engineered to be lightweight, ‘flat-packable’ and efficient.

This contraption – the SolarisKit – attracted attention from the Royal Bank of Scotland’s climate entrepreneur accelerator programme and has now completed a highly successful trial on the ground in Africa. The kit saves energy costs up to 70% and reliably heats water up to 67 degrees. This has huge implications, especially during a pandemic in which hygiene regulation is arguably more important than ever.

And on the opposite side of the fence…

In southern England, the Dulas cold chain equipment factory quietly turns out some of the most impressive solar-powered blood and vaccine refrigerators in the world.

These medical refrigerators have supported recovery through many global disasters, including the 2011 Philippines typhoon, the devastating 2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and more recently, the Covid pandemic.

The company’s life-saving off-grid medical equipment is needed now more than ever, and despite the global backdrop, Dulas’ manufacturing plant in the UK is working hard to ensure that there is no slow-down in order fulfilment.

Just this week, the company cut the ribbon on their expanded factory space. The expansion doubles the factory’s manufacturing capacity, responding to increased demand as global Covid vaccination efforts ramp up.

With increased capacity, Dulas will be able to fulfil more orders. Through programmes and partnerships with GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, and its biggest customer UNICEF, Dulas sends its refrigerators to the hardest to reach and most rural communities in the world that don’t have access to electricity.

On officially declaring the new facility open, Mike Freer MP, Minister for Exports, Department for International Trade, said: “Dulas has played an important part in the UK’s role to build global resilience against threats to human health through their invaluable work in supporting vaccine distribution to remote communities using solar-powered refrigeration. They are a prime example of a business that, thanks to DIT (Department of International Trade) support, is able to trade around the world and showcase the best of UK exporting and expertise on a truly global scale whilst helping the country, and indeed the world, build back better from the pandemic.”

Dulas cold chain equipment factory quietly turns out some of the most impressive solar-powered blood and vaccine refrigerators in the world.

Helping to support everybody towards a better standard of living

It’s obvious from these two simple examples that renewables will play an enormous role in helping developing nations realise their potential.

Engineers such as SolarisKit’s Dr Faisal Ghani will bring about radical change with their projects. These real-world solutions will not only transform lives but they’ll save them too.

The beauty of renewables is that they are eminently scaleable and the problems that they can solve are more wide-ranging than those offered by fossil fuels.

Right now, developed nations in Europe are seeing increased energy prices on the back of the Ukraine/Russian crisis and developing nations across the globe are continuing to struggle to meet their basic energy needs.

It’s clear what the solutions are to all of these issues. We already have them.


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