Mery and Gamaniel live in a rural community high up in the Peruvian Andes. Although the grid has been next to their home for twenty years, they have never had electricity. When the sun was down they cooked and worked under the dim light of a candle or flashlight. To charge their phone or purchase batteries and candles, they walked fifteen minutes to the highway, waited for a bus, traveled thirty minutes to the closest town, paid the shop keeper, waited until the phone was charged, and then finally reversed the long trip home. This was a weekly routine for the couple, just to have light and access to a phone.
A few months ago, LUTW’s social enterprise team organized a meeting in the community to present the benefits of solar technology. When Mery and Gamaniel realized that they could invest the money they were spending on inefficient sources of light on a clean and reliable source of energy instead, they didn’t think twice. Suddenly, after all of those years of darkness, their life changed completely. Their future looked brighter, filled with new possibilities. In fact, just two months later the couple expressed interest in going further and purchasing an electric solar fence to support their work with their cattle, or opening a restaurant to serve the guinea pigs they raise.
LIVING OFF THE GRID IN PERU
Stories like Gamaniel and Mery’s are common in Peru. Peru has one of the lowest rates of rural electrification in Latin America. Approximately 900,000 households are still living off-grid [i]. The varied geography – from Andean mountains at more than 5,000 meters of altitude, to the immensity of the Amazon rainforest, to the dry desert coast – make the extension of the grid expensive, unreliable, and in some cases unviable. Another challenge is the operation model of the electric distribution companies. Concession areas are established in urban centers, and the companies are not obligated to attend customer if they are located more than 100 meters away from an existing network [ii].
LUTW – POWERING OPPORTUNITY
The grid hasn’t arrived to many communities in Peru, but the sun is a great resource, and LUTW is making it accessiblefor all. With offices in the field and a growing network of Agents, LUTW’s social enterprise approach promotes affordable and financed solar home systems that transform the lives of people like Gamaniel and Mery. LUTW engages a long-term vision offering lasting technology and training Agents and Technicians to provide customer service and troubleshoot families’ concerns and needs.
In 2004 LUTW began installing solar panels for community-owned buildings like schools and health centers and has promoted related education programs in Peru. Based on LUTW’s work, there were so many requests from families to power their homes and farms that LUTW decided to start a social enterprise to expand its reach.
Now, with a multi-level approach that includes philanthropic community projects and a social enterprise, LUTW is not just impacting people’s health and economic development, LUTW is also broadly tackling climate change by supporting a clean energy future for communities and families.
A CHANGING CLIMATE
Villagers in the Andes are frequently overheard discussing the swift recession of their historic glaciers, increasing mudslides in the winter from heavy rains, rising temperatures, and longer dry seasons. Because communities in the Andes are highly connected to their land, changes in the weather directly impact their lives and economic activities like farming and cattle rising. Even though these communities don’t share a large responsibility for the climate change crisis – off grid areas have very low rates of energy demand – these communities recognize the immediate need to take action for our planet. The communities and families that LUTW has met and supported in the Peruvian Andes all want to be part of the solution to create a cleaner, safer, and healthier future.
For Mery and Gamaniel and many more people in the Andes, solar powered technology means access to electricity, health benefits, communications, economic development and environmental protection.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU?
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LUTW’S Social Enterprise Development Officer 2018
[i] Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM), Plan Nacional de Electrificaction Rural. Periodo 2016-2015; December 2015; Dirección general de Electrificación Rural: Lima, Peru, 2015. (Spanish).
[ii] Berkeley Rural Energy Group, Alliance for Rural Electrification. The Peru Off Grid Markets in 12 pages. Players and Business Opportunities, 2014.https://www.ruralelec.org/sites/default/files/peru_off-grid_market_12_pages.pdf