Agroecology Development | Marketing officer
The World Day of Social Justice, marked annually on February 20th, pledges to promote a balanced distribution of income and resources through equality and equity for all. With this topic in mind, I asked myself, how does clean energy affect social justice through formal employment, the 2022 theme? The answer is, through decentralized mini off-grid clean energy innovations backed by people-centric business models. An example of this is the Sistema.bio modular biodigester, which is used as a tool for creating value from animal waste. The value created is clean energy for cooking and powering farm equipment. Moreover, the direct jobs created through Sistema.bio’s model are increasing by the day across the globe, and the impact felt by thousands of farmers annually. Imagine having a mini energy plant in your backyard!
Social justice can be guaranteed through a focus on social schemes, sincere partnerships, and community-based approaches that address clean energy as a tool. In fact, Daniel Kammen, a Nobel prize laureate, mentions the interconnectedness of fostering clean energy as a tool for social justice. In India, for example, there are women-led social schemes that emphasize the importance of addressing clean cooking challenges through local resources and community-led ideas, schemes that have resulted in more families transitioning to reliable and sustainable home-grown solutions. The biodigester technology fits squarely into such progressive talks.
The current conventional top-down energy methodology is not only ineffective but also slows down the race towards net-zero emissions. Connecting big picture issues from a people-centric clean energy standpoint will help countries leapfrog to achieving the social justice agenda.
Investing in decentralized innovative off-grid clean energy tools with low cost and high-value impact has a profitable ROI and formalizes employment opportunities in the sector. The current large-scale investments on main grid nuclear and coal energy production systems have an ironic reverse effect on creating energy in that they operate through long bureaucratic processes and high investments that do not produce energy sustainably enough for all. A biodigester is an example of a decentralized off-grid tool that guarantees social justice and inclusion because the farmer, who is a key beneficiary/investor, manages animal waste and produces clean cooking energy reliably, and is rarely affected by unforeseen factors such as the economic decline caused by the pandemic. Of the two, sustainable financing models should tip towards the people-centric model. This will, in turn, formalize the players in the industry and allow for a lower risk of failure in clean energy entrepreneurship. Additionally, small-scale farm modalities in such systems through interest-free loans greatly empower those who feed the world.
Gender and resource equity is a term I use when discussing social justice within the clean energy industry. From all parts of the world, gender and resource equity have a role in developing and formalizing activities played by various demographics to mitigate climate change. In Kenya, for example, women are shifting from toxic solid-based fuels to clean energy production tools such as biodigesters in their homes. This approach, which is a holistic solution to their needs, has a profound impact as an energy source and addresses the energy tool as a reliable, sustainable, low maintenance, and pro-health solution amongst members of the household. Furthermore, such an energy source installed at local milk pasteurizing businesses run by young farmers in Kenya increases profit margins because the model is cyclic-economic.
According to the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 7 in particular, the way in which the affordable and clean energy agenda interconnects with social justice is that people-centered discussions and tools such as biodigesters foster individual and collective inclusion. The farmers produce clean cooking energy and get free biofertilizer that allows them to farm organically. In accordance with the theme, organizations that develop these tools formalize employment in the industry and give security to hundreds of jobs, while indirectly supporting thousands of families across the world.