acciona.org — formerly known as ACCIONA Microenergía — has carried out its first project in Panama, using photovoltaic solar panels to bring electricity to 400 families in seven isolated rural communities located in western Panama, specifically in the Ngäbe Buglé indigenous region.
To this end, third-generation home photovoltaic solar systems have been installed, providing a basic electricity service in exchange for a monthly fee that is lower than the cost to users of alternative lighting systems (candles, flashlights, oil lamps, ... ).
This approach, which has already been implemented by acciona.org in about 12,000 homes in rural communities in Mexico and Peru with no prospect of being connected to the conventional electricity grid, ensures the project's long-term sustainability and scalability.
Under this pilot project, 2,250 Panamanians (more than half of them children) in the Ngäbe-Buglé region will have electricity for six hours a day and the possibility of accessing telecommunications systems and using small appliances (e.g. charge a mobile phone or run low-energy appliances such as a radio or TV).
acciona.org also set up a local 'Luz en Casa' Centre, run by a local entrepreneur who has been trained specifically to sell the electricity service, provide advice, repair the equipment and sell compatible appliances; this contributes to the revitalisation of the local economy and helps make the best possible use of the electricity.
According to data from Inter-American Development Bank, there are 90.000 families in the country without access to electricity, which affects not only their living standards but also their health conditions, access to education and the socioeconomic development of these regions.
The Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous region has one of the lowest Human Development Index scores, below 0.5, which makes it the most impoverished area in the country.
The acciona.org foundation has developed an approach to electrification of isolated communities based on solar photovoltaic systems that, due to their ease of installation and maintenance, are very suited to this type of isolated populations, which are not expected to be connected to the conventional electricity grid.
The third-generation photovoltaic systems that acciona.org supplies consist of a 50W solar panel, a lithium battery, a charge controller, and three LED lamps. The equipment is designed to be plug & play, meaning it is very easy to transport and install, and it has an estimated useful life of over 20 years.
User pay a monthly fee that is 33% lower than what they are currently spending on alternative lighting methods (candles, flashlights, etc.). That is, the system costs 5 balboas per household per month, compared with previous expenditure of 7.5. This ensures the system's long-term economic sustainability.
acciona.org implemented this project with the consent of the local authorities, including the Ngäbe-Buglé Tribal Council; this approach guarantees implication on the part of users. The beneficiaries received training in system installation and maintenance, and a first 'Luz en Casa' Centre has been created where local entrepreneurs can carry out repairs and supply compatible equipment, under the supervision of acciona.org.
Since 2008, acciona.org — previously the ACCIONA Microenergy Foundation — has brought electricity to over 50,000 people in isolated rural areas of Mexico and Peru.
In the Cajamarca region of Peru, the foundation provides electricity to almost 4,000 households, as well as to community centres (schools, churches, health centres and other venues for community services). Also in Peru, the foundation is implementing the Luz en Casa Amazonia programme, providing electricity for the first time to over 400 households in the Peruvian basin of the Napo river, a tributary of the Amazon; the model will subsequently be replicated in other river basins in the region. In Mexico it has implemented the Luz en Casa Oaxaca home electricity project, bringing electricity to more than 7,500 families.
acciona.org is also involved in other initiatives, such as the Shire Alliance to provide electricity to refugee camps in Ethiopia.
The Foundation is also carrying out projects to provide isolated communities, such as in the Mexican region of Oaxaca, with other basic services, including water, sanitation and safe cooking. In this way, the ACCIONA group's corporate foundation replicates the company's business by leveraging its know-how to universalise access to basic services for people at the base of the pyramid, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).