Energy conservation investment in rural areas helps alleviate poverty: study

15:15, November 27, 2010      

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With energy conservation investment, developing countries can cut greenhouse gas emissions while helping the poor, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of California (UC), Berkeley reached the conclusion after analyzing an energy efficiency initiative in rural Nicaragua, which demonstrates that there are cost effective steps developing nations can take to reduce carbon emissions and at the same time help the rural poor reduce their energy expenses.

The researchers report their findings in this week's issue of the journal Science.

According to the findings, Nicaragua's Ministry of Energy & Mines and the nonprofit blueEnergy took simple steps to reduce the cost of energy while reducing carbon emissions for a community of 172 households on the country's Mosquito Coast.

The villages of Orinoco and Marshall Point are off the nation's electric grid and obtain their power from diesel generators. Until last year, however, the homes had no electricity meters, and homeowners were billed according to the appliances they owned.

This encouraged indiscriminate energy use, with lights, televisions and radios remaining on, even when not being used.

After the government installed meters, however, energy use dropped by 28 percent, and many people's electric bills also dropped.

The non-governmental organization blueEnergy, whose administrative office is in San Francisco, subsequently worked with the government to institute in Orinoco and Marshall Point a simple energy conservation campaign: Villagers were offered two efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) in exchange for two incandescent bulbs. This program reduced household energy use by an additional 17 percent, on average.

The net result was less diesel burned, even allowing for the fact that the community's reduced energy needs allowed the local energy supplier to run its generators two extra hours each day, providing longer service to customers. In the month after the conservation campaign, electricity bills dropped in 37 percent of the households in Orinoco.

In the developing world, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is often seen as being in conflict with alleviating poverty, since improving the standard of living is usually associated with increased energy use.

But the research findings proved otherwise, the researchers noted.

"What we are saying is, if you're thinking about some of the lowest hanging fruit to lower greenhouse gas emissions, rural communities should be one of the first places you look for making small but very cheap carbon reductions," said UC Berkeley graduate student Christian E. Casillas, who is an advisor to blueEnergy.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:王寒露)

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