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Humanitarian Blockchain Series #6: Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies and Solar Energy

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Humanitarian Blockchain Series #6: Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies and Solar Energy

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Humanitarian Blockchain

a series

   Part 6: Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies and Solar Energy

Rural Africa has sun in abundance, but many across the continent are without electricity, impacting on their access to basic human rights such as health, education, and security. Economic development is strangled and breaking out of poverty is all but impossible without it. More than 1 billion people on the planet suffer from this dilemma. Bitcoin News examines how cryptocurrency together with blockchain is being utilized across the globe by a handful of companies in an attempt to deal with this problem.

Earlier this year, Sun Exchange, a solar micro-leasing marketplace, linked with rural mini-grid solutions provider AfricaPowerhive to create a solution which would harness the crypto-economy in the quest for universal energy access for all.

Sun Exchange SUNEX digital rewards tokens create the funds for building solar-powered rural electrification mini-grid projects for the sub-Saharan African region. Powerhive benefits from funds generated from the sale of Sun Exchange’s SUNEX rewards tokens by public sale. The project also allows for the solar panels used to be sold off later to Sun Exchange members who will, in turn, own the cells used in the projects and subsequently profit from a sustained period of “solar-powered money”. Sun Exchange founder and CEO Abraham Cambridge explains why:

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty.”

The project will raise in the region of USD 23 million as capital and finance 150 new projects offering 175,000 people electricity. Powerhive has other projects underway in Africa, such as its Kuku Poa initiative which uses solar power for chicken incubation. Powerhive founder and CEO Christopher Hornor explained that the crypto-community is not simply in it for financial gain and is made up of “inspired individuals” who support crypto projects such as this that clearly work towards reducing global inequality and making a significant climatic impact.

Cryptocurrency and solar energy can be a perfect match; complimentary in the sense that they both represent their own interpretations of decentralization; one in the form of money, and the other in the form of energy. SolarCoin is an example of this match with its 97.5 billion non-circulation SolarCoins created to be granted to energy producers up until the year 2054.

As SolarCoin explains, “in the Middle East today it is two times cheaper to produce a unit of power with solar energy than with fossil fuel sources”. The company’s goal is to create more solar electricity by rewarding those who generate it, reducing both the cost and payback time of solar installation.

The SolarCoin Foundation issues SolarCoins directly into claimant’s wallets at a rate of 1 SolarCoin per 1 MWh of electricity produced. Claimants can then save, exchange, or spend their SolarCoins as they wish, and may receive ongoing grants. This year, Sun Exchange in South Africa, Solar View in Brazil, and Solar Gain in Chile have all joined the SolarCoin Affiliate programme, and the foundation itself is now a member of the Climate Chain Coalition for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also just recently MySolarPay has joined the SolarCoin Affiliate Network to help increase Solar adoption in Australia. The current circulating supply of SolarCoin stands at 47,757,794 SLR.

Bitlumens based in Zug, Switzerland, is another company making a difference on the solar energy stage. It states that it can… “offer a peer to peer platform where users adopt off-grid Solar systems to reduce carbon emissions and get access to lighting and water in places where there is no power grid.”

Bitlumens has a unique approach and is there in the field transforming lives and creating confidence amongst those in local communities to strive for a better quality of life. Working in rural Latin America it is attempting to remove the dependence on kerosene and wood, and replacing these with affordable clean energy options. The company website describes some of the problems the company is addressing:

“A single kerosene lamp emits over 100 kg of CO2 per year when used four hours a day. Globally, burning kerosene for lighting generated 240 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year, around 0.5% of global emissions. In fact, just kerosene lamps replaced in Africa and Asia with solar panels saved 1.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 2014 alone.  Moreover, on a general basis, burning 20 kg wood during one day emits about 200 grams of PM2.5, this equals smoking 10,000 cigarettes”

Women in the programme lease Bitlumens hardware and pay in installments using BLS tokens, allowing them to build a credit score. Family members are also able to buy tokens which they can then send to family to cover the costs to run equipment, covering associated water and electricity bills. Bitlumens points out that “We also quantify carbon mitigation and particulate matter reduction in each household to allow women to become carbon credit issuers at a later stage.”

The company also provides solar energy to remote villages replacing traditionally used fuels such as biomass, thus reducing farmers costs, in some cases enabling them to recruit labor as a result of the savings made on replacing unsustainable and often harmful fuel with Bitlumens supplied solar energy.

Kevin Treco, an associate director at the Carbon Trust, an environmental consultancy, sees blockchain-based technologies significantly changing the energy use in countries striving to decentralize power and boost renewable sources. “They have faster-growing energy needs… and a more accommodating legal and regulatory environment towards such innovations,” he said.

The United Nations Development Programme has suggested that if such crypto-funded schemes were successful, they could revolutionize renewable energy markets in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Technology supplying cheaper and more sustainable energy options to those in need using blockchain and cryptocurrency may be in its infancy, but it is clearly beginning to get support to where it is most needed, as companies begin to see both its humanitarian and ecological value.

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