Arriving in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, you’re likely first to notice its shaded, cobblestone streets lined with bookstores, cafes and even speakeasies. Explore a bit to experience bustling Microcentro, the financial centre of the city, and you’ll realize why Argentina is considered at the forefront of South America in terms of economic development.
Just a short flight or overnight bus from Buenos Aires are top-notch wineries in Mendoza, ski chalets in Patagonia, and a host of cities, like Rosario and Mar de Plata, just as beautiful and culturally rich as the capital city itself. Like many countries in the world, rural development has not kept pace with urban progress.
A portion of the population still lives in darkness once the sun sets, as they lack access to electricity. Children cannot do their homework after dark, all economic activities stop once the sun sets, and people remain uninformed about the outside world without televisions, radios, or the internet.
Remote communities remain unelectrified due to untraversable terrain
However, unlike many other countries, Argentina has pledged to bridge this energy divide, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To meet SDG 7, Argentina aims to ensure 100% of its population has access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity. The route Argentina has taken to achieve this is unique. In partnership with the World Bank, d.light and a host of local enterprises, Argentina is equipping its last remaining off-grid households with solar home systems and mobile-charging solar lanterns to provide clean, reliable electricity at a fraction of the cost of grid extension.
- An ambitious solar powered dream
The value of solar home systems, micro-grids and mini grids to reduce the cost of achieving 100% electrification is well documented, not to mention intuitive. Homes that are further away cost more to connect, more energy is lost in transmission, and they tend to use less energy, meaning utilities rarely recoup the costs of connecting these houses. This problem is even more pronounced in countries like Argentina, where the remaining population without energy access is widely dispersed and vast distances through challenging terrain make grid connection almost impossible.
Solar home systems, like those d.light provides, offer a cheaper, plug-and-play solution, where power can be generated where it is consumed, in amounts tightly aligned with power usage. Accordingly, when Argentina’s PERMER (El Proyecto de Energías Renovables en Mercados Rurales) embarked on an aspirational journey to bridge the urban-rural energy divide by providing universal electrification for all Argentinian citizens by 2020, solar home systems formed a critical piece in the puzzle.
- d.light – transforming lives with green energy
d.light X732 home system with S502 solar lanterns
Through a carefully designed, World Bank-supported public tender, d.light was selected to provide solar home kits to 120,000 households across 13 provinces in rural Argentina, in partnership with PERMER and Solartec, S.A., d.light’s local implementation partner. d.light has since leveraged its decade-long experience of providing off-grid solar solutions across 70 countries to create a new solar home system for PERMER, the X732, which packs a high-efficiency 25W solar panel and a central power unit housing a Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LiFePo4) to provide families with sufficient power to light their homes and charge multiple mobile devices.
d.light tube light provides grid-light bright lighting
Also included are two mobile-charging solar lanterns and a rechargeable radio, which early users report as being critical to helping them with their fieldwork. Beneficiaries of the project can now choose when to start and end their days. Rather than having their lives dictated by the sun, these communities harness it.
Solar energy effectively provides families with a five-hour extension on their day — extra time to socialize, work, or study inside a brightly illuminated home — at no financial cost. Radios and mobile phones, which have become a prerequisite for modern life in recent years, open the doors to better financial management, education and employment opportunities.
Solar lighting helps kids study better
- A brighter future for Argentina
With the help of d.light’s solar products, Argentina is steadily closing in on its dream of 100% electrification by 2020. Not only are PERMER beneficiaries enjoying light in their households for the first time, but they are also leapfrogging the conventional grid entirely and setting an example for other countries to save costs and the environment at the same time, using the power of the sun to achieve universal, affordable energy access.