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Blog Post 25 February 2021

How innovative technologies can help people withstand Covid-19 and build climate resilience

Globally, billions of people have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Working from home is the new normal and many daily activities are increasingly taking place online. However, across many areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, many people lack access to electricity and basic appliances. According to Efficiency for Access’ 2021 Appliance Data Trends report, it is estimated that 770 million people do not have access to electricity. Can you imagine facing this pandemic without reliable energy access?

Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) aims to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Energy Saving Trust is committed to achieving this goal through our work on the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme. As part of this work, we manage the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund, which aims to accelerate the affordability and efficiency of appliances suited to areas without access to the national energy grid – or those areas off-grid.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, it has become increasingly clear that affordable, energy efficient appliances can help people in the world’s poorest countries build resilience. Televisions provide information, fridges preserve food, and lighting enables children to study past sunset. To raise awareness, we have chosen two of our favourite innovative technologies that are being developed by Efficiency for Access Research and Development awardees.

A sustainable and resilient milk supply chain

Promethean Power in India is developing an innovative rapid milk chiller, which aims to build a more sustainable and resilient supply chain. The dairy supply chain in India relies heavily on diesel-fuelled generators to keep milk cool, but these are expensive, inefficient, unreliable and polluting. Farmers in rural areas struggle to keep their milk cold enough for selling and drinking, resulting in spoilt milk and loss of income.

Image credit: Ashden

How does it work?

This new technology uses an innovative battery that stores thermal energy, keeping milk cool and eliminating the need for diesel generators. Additionally, it can be monitored remotely to keep track of temperatures. This innovation could lead to a new business model for dairy farmers in India, bringing reliable and sustainable refrigeration to rural villages.

How does it help with Covid-19 recovery and resilience?

During the pandemic, these milk chillers have provided farmers with a reliable source of income, despite supply chain disruption from Covid-19. The battery saves farmers money by removing the cost of diesel generators and avoiding product losses. On top of this, it can also connect small scale, rural farmers with larger milk cooperatives, further improving overall profits.

Jiten Ghelani, CEO of Promethean Power, said: “By enabling access to village level refrigeration for small scale dairy farmers in remote parts of India, we can improve livelihoods and resilience for millions of marginalised dairy farmers.”

Aside from this sustainable and resilient supply chain, the project has uncovered the potential for localised solutions. When Covid-19 hit, farmers began selling more milk locally, which built stronger local supply chains. Farmers who may have been previously out of work now have a reliable income source, despite the global pandemic.

Keeping Pakistan cool

Most households in Pakistan live in scorching heat for eight months of the year, and temperatures here are expected to rise faster than the global average from climate change. Over 25% of people in Pakistan live off-grid and the energy grid is notoriously unreliable. As such, fans must run for 18-20 hours a day to avoid dehydration and help children sleep. Many existing fans are inefficient and expensive to run. Harness Energy, which is based in Lahore, aims to provide reliable and sustainable cooling in rural Pakistan. To achieve this, the company is developing an innovative solar-powered fan, which can be purchased in instalments.

What is unique about the fan?

This fan can be powered by a 12V solar system, any battery or an AC/DC adapter, and is also more energy efficient than other fans on the market. It uses a highly efficient motor (brushless DC) that conserves energy and increases the lifespan and reliability of the product.

How are they helping with Covid-19 recovery and resilience?

Pakistan has had relatively deaths per capita from Covid-19, however many people have lost jobs and businesses have experienced slowing sales. Harness Energy’s solar home systems and fans are available to purchase in instalments, so they are more affordable for households on lower incomes.

One customer, Nukhti, described how using the solar-powered fan meant there was no need to worry when there were power outages, as she could still bake bread and her children could play in the evenings. Ultimately, for many people like Nukhti, solar-energy powered fans help keep them cool, ensuring they are more resilient in the face of unexpected challenges.

This video shows how Harness Energy’s fans are helping people in Pakistan cope with Covid-19.

Find out more about the Efficiency for Access Research and Development fund here.

Hero image credit: Ashden