Neighbors in one of Rio de Janeiro’s slums are fighting back against soaring electricity prices with a solar energy project. It was developed by a nonprofit organization with ambitious dreams of providing cheap energy to Rio’s poor communities.
Lucrecia Franco reports.
Solar panels were installed just two months ago on the roof of a lodge in the Babilonia favela-a hillside slum that overlooks Rio’s famous Copacabana beach.
Pol Dhuyvetter, a Belgian who moved to Brazil seven years ago, is the owner of the lodge and the founder of a nonprofit organization aimed to promote the use of solar electricity.
“What we needed to do first is to show it. I mean, it’s very clear in favelas with lower education levels that people need to see to believe it,” Dhuyvetter said.
With only six panels he cut his electricity bill in half. Through a micro-credit program for favela residents, he estimates the investment can be paid in six years. After that the solar power will be free.
It’s a cost-effective solution for people who’ve seen the cost of electricity double in the past two years. It could also help avoid illegal and dangerous connections, that are common in most of Rio’s favelas.
This project is not only about cutting electricity costs in a poor communities, but also to educate people about the long-term benefits of solar energy.
“What we are doing now is bringing this technology closer to the people in the favela so that they realize it is accessible to them.” Dhuyvetter said.
Another hostel in the favela is also going solar. Rio has roughly a thousand of these desperately poor neighborhoods. The goal is to convert all of them to renewable energy.