Solar panels on the roof of a healthcare centre in Yemen. Image: UNDP Yemen

Solar energy in rural Yemen and an ecolabel for energy out of Finland are identified as ‘good practice’ examples of sustainable energy projects.

Time is fast running down on the Sustainable Development Goals and already we are almost half way towards the 2030 target date.

With the SDG7 goal of universal access to energy unlikely to be met on current progress, nor indeed most if not all of the other goals, projects that are successful in advancing the goals are critical. Two such projects have been identified in the energy sector by the UN’s Department of Economics and Social Affairs (DESA) in a new publication.

Notably SDG7 has seen the second lowest number of good practices after SDG14 on the oceans and life below the water.

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Solar in Yemen

Yemen is one of the world’s most energy insecure and water poor countries, with most of the country lacking sustainable access to energy. The ongoing war has made the situation worse. Energy supply in Yemen for many years has been very limited due to weak generation capacity, limited access, high electricity losses from the grid and increasing demand.

The Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen project was aimed to address these challenges with a focus on support for displaced and marginalised youths and women through provision of decentralised solar energy systems to improve their access, employability skills, income stability and self-confidence.

The project reached 160 individuals – half of them women – who were previously unemployed to establish solar microbusinesses. These solar microbusinesses have recovered 50% of the seed grant in addition to earning $100/month stable income since their establishment.

The community acceptance and response to solar energy is considered the biggest enabling factor to the project. The opportunity to generate income from the proposed businesses was also the key factor to convince the beneficiaries, as it was unprecedented in Yemen.

The focus on women and youth, initially considered a risk, ultimately helped build the perception that the activities supported households and the community.

Energy ecolabel from Finland

Helsinki-headquartered EKOenergy is a worldwide, non-profit ecolabel and network of environmental NGOs. Initially launched in 2013, the organisation aims to fight climate change, protect the environment and alleviate energy poverty. The ecolabel is a tool, working within existing market mechanisms, for people to find energy produced through sustainable means and contribute to financing renewable energy projects in remote areas of developing nations.

EKOenergy has three main objectives. These are broad structural change in the economy towards a more sustainable model; communication about climate change and the adoption of renewable energy; and to channel money into renewable energy projects that alleviate poverty and inequality in developing countries.

The number of energy providers that offer EKOenergy labelled electricity started at 16, predominantly in Finland, and has now increased to 55 in countries spanning the globe.

The total Climate Fund budget has grown significantly to reach over €0.25 million in 2018 allowing funding for an increasing number of climate projects. Among these have been providing solar lanterns to communities in North Darfur, Sudan; funding the installation of solar panels on medical buildings in Guinea; the installation of a solar internet cafe in Nisur, Tajikistan; and the setup of solar powered spinning machines in Marangani, Peru.

EKOenergy attributes the growing interest in renewable energy worldwide to making its work possible. The brand is becoming more relevant as the ecolabel functions as a guide to highlight the best renewable energy choices available.

One of the most significant factors which has enabled this work is the existence of tracking systems for renewable electricity. These include the Guarantees of Origin system in Europe and IREC certificates which the organisation uses in Asia, Africa and Latin America.