Over my 15+ years working in this field, one of my favorite things has been covering the Zayed Sustainability Prize. Going through thousands of applications each year, it narrows down the top companies and organizations in several rounds of evaluation and comparison until it comes up with finalists for each category. All of the finalists are so good and helpful that they are deserved winners. I’ve written about dozens of them over the years and I’m routinely impressed with the impact they have on the world. In this case, I’ve interviewed Tania Chauvin, Senior Project Manager at Electricians Without Borders (Electriciens Sans Frontières). Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast network, or jump down below the Spotify embed in order to read a few of the highlights.
Tania notes that the organization is implementing approximately 100 projects a year across approximately 40 countries at the moment. They try to use clean energy as much as possible, mostly solar energy. Key areas of focus right now are Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Central Africa, excellent places for solar power.
Originally, Electricians Without Borders was focused on helping regions of Asia and South America, but as those places got much more access to electricity, the organization shifted to areas of higher need, which is now largely portions of Africa. However, it also jumps in and helps in areas of crisis. “Recently, we have seen a number of cases that kind of highlight even in countries that had access to electricity since a long time that underwent crisis,” that they need help, Tania highlights, “and so we also intervene after emergencies. We have a partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — French Ministry of Foreign Affairs — so that we can assist their operations post-emergencies.” That’s an impressive partnership and endorsement, highlighting the quality of the organization’s work and the needs it is serving.
“And so, recently, we’ve been very involved in the response in the Ukraine, to cover the energy needs during the winter especially, and the hospital electrical capacity,” she adds. That’s a noble and clearly challenging effort! Another example she provided is Lebanon, “which is not undergoing a war currently — thank God — but still had suffered from a blast in the harbor in August of 2020, and since then has suffered a great governance and financial crisis.” Providing electricity in such tricky and challenging scenarios must take a great team of dedicated experts. “In Lebanon, for example, the national company provides two hours of electricity per day currently. So, a lot of people there are growing increasingly interested in decentralized, solar, autonomous solutions — batteries, etc. — to get access and not rely on polluting generators, which is the alternative.”
We also discuss the fact that solar panel and battery prices have come down so much in the past several years that the work Electricians Without Borders does has become better, more effective, and easier to implement.
I asked how winning the Zayed Sustainability Prize in the Energy category had helped the organization with its work. Tania responded, “You know, we’re a French NGO, so we’re kind of known in France, but internationally the level of visibility, of recognition, that we achieved with the recognition awarded by the prize is immense — I mean, there’s no way to compare it to our little francophone French level beforehand.”
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