Let there be light: Rural communities in Mexico are favored with solar energy

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Cleiver Paul Dávalos Pérez is a fisherman in the so-called Mar Muerto (Dead Sea), a brackish lagoon between the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. His work must be done at night to deliver fresh produce to the markets. He is accustomed to darkness because, until approximately a year ago, there was no electricity in his village, Cachimbo, in Oaxaca.

“The light has been good for us. We use it to watch TV, charge the light bulbs. At night, when we come with our shrimp catch, it also helps us see our product,” he says from his home—a rural dwelling with an electrical installation of green tubes connected to a power source fueled by solar energy. In addition to having a television for entertainment, he can recharge the batteries of his flashlights for fishing and cooking without having to collect firewood. “The electric stove helps us avoid making fires with wood, so there’s no smoke. Our house no longer gets smoky, and this helps us a lot.”

Cleiver’s home was one of the first to benefit from the Iberdrola México program called “Luces de Esperanza” (Lights of Hope). This project aims to electrify rural communities that lack access to the grid in regions where the energy company operates.

It’s hard to imagine living without electricity. According to data from the 2020 Census by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), 1% of Mexico’s population lacks electricity service in their homes. This percentage represents more than 1.2 million people who manage in a world full of connectivity and speed.

Iberdrola México’s project seeks to bring these communities closer to health, education, and security services through sustainable energy. To carry out the project, which has Iluméxico as a technical partner, they handle the installation of solar systems and their maintenance.

In these communities, autonomous solar systems of varying capacity are installed based on the specific needs of each location. Since 2019, the Luces de Esperanza program has electrified a total of 639 homes, 19 schools, and three health centers, benefiting 7,311 people in the states of Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, and Puebla.

Through this effort, the company is contributing to at least five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): ending poverty, affordable and clean energy, reducing inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, and partnerships to achieve these goals.

In communities like Cachimbo, accessible only by boat, life is beginning to change. “Before, we used to spend almost 100 pesos daily on buying kerosene,” says Cleiver, referring to the fuel used for lamps. “Now, we only pay 50 pesos per month.” This represents a nearly 98% reduction in monthly expenses for this family of five.

Iberdrola México’s mission is to continue connecting rural communities without electricity. For the company, maintaining close relationships with these populations is essential, and collaboration with local authorities is key. Miriam Peralta Morales, a member of the Renewables Asset Management team at Iberdrola, explains, “We form alliances with state governments and municipalities near the projects. Without their support, this project would not have been possible because they also help us identify the communities’ needs.”

On May 16, World Light Day was commemorated to celebrate the fundamental role electricity plays in education, culture, science, and technology. However, there is still much work to be done. According to the World Bank, an estimated 675 million people still live without electricity worldwide.

“Social projects like Luces de Esperanza have a positive impact on communities, offering competitive, efficient, and environmentally friendly energy, resulting in sustainable development for these populations,” concludes Peralta.

Source: El Pais