UNDP Yemen Solar Project Cuts Cost of Energy by 65 Per Cent, Earns Prestigious Award

Posted July 2, 2020

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Yemen project that works to help resolve these issues has been awarded the prestigious Ashden Award for Humanitarian Energy. The UNDP-managed joint project, the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY), has been recognized as one of the world’s most practical and scalable low carbon innovators and was among 11 winners selected from over 200 global applications in the areas of creating resilience, green growth, and fairer societies.

The UNDP-ERRY project has intervened in three frontline communities of the conflict in Hajjah and Lahj to address access to affordable energy for Yemen's most vulnerable population while also economically empowering women and youth to help support their families. The project designed and developed a unique, low-cost solar microgrid solution that uses our 3x6 approach for longer term sustainability.1

The solar microgrids offer an alternative, clean and renewable energy source that allows rural homes the ability to afford undisrupted electricity for hours. They also provide a solution and hope for communities that may have little else.

Even before the crisis in 2015, only 23 per cent of Yemenis had access to energy; the crisis has led to a deeper energy-related problem as fossil fuels continue to surge and embargos make it more difficult to obtain. And the cost of 20 litres of diesel was USD 7. Now, due to an extreme fuel crisis in the country, it can cost upwards of USD 40 for the same amount – making it unaffordable and inaccessible to most Yemenis. The energy shortage also affects businesses including micro, small and medium enterprises and the private sector – all of which have severely suffered due to the lack of alternative energy access.

The tremendous increase in fuel prices and Yemen’s frequently failed public electricity grid have left citizens with few options: they can install individual solar systems in their homes or subscribe to a private diesel-powered energy grid. Both options are expensive and renewable energy is too costly for many Yemenis. No matter the option, the cost adds significant financial burdens to already financially stressed homes.

The solar microgrids create alternative energy options that can be a better source than diesel because it is clean energy with a low cost and is easily replicated in rural areas, impacting large numbers of Yemenis. The UNDP project has been successful at cutting the cost of energy by 65 per cent. Instead of diesel costing 42 cents an hour, solar energy costs only 2 cents, making it more affordable to the average Yemeni.

For the first time in their communities, the women and youth were trained as solar technicians which changed the community's perception of their roles in society. They have also learned how to establish, manage, maintain, and promote their solar micro-grid businesses. The businesses help them move from reliance upon humanitarian assistance to sustaining themselves and helping their communities with their businesses.

The solar microgrid and individual businesses have provided women and youth with a returned sense of dignity as the income allows them to feed, clothe and shelter their families during such a dire time. They have become solar energy activists who serve their community and are looked upon as role models.

This is particularly the case during COVID-19. Despite the significant impact of COVID-19 in Yemen, the microgrid stations continue to function at fully capacity, proving that the business is adaptable. The women plan to offer a COVID-19 subsidy to their customers; vulnerable households who are burdened with loss of jobs and who are unable to pay. The women are taking the opportunity to “pay it forward” by supporting their community during its time of need and brining hope back one client at a time.

The project has been made possible through a significant partnership with the European Union and partners on the ground