The first step of the Innovation Lap in Nepal is underway. A thorough consultation of local communities and representatives has now started!
How can open source design contribute to achieving SDG 7?
What is the first thing that springs to mind when the words “open source” are mentioned? Wikipedia? Firefox, or any other freely accessible software? These are all good examples of open source technology, but did you know that open source also plays an important role in energy access and is key to achieving SDG7 in the Global South?
The basic idea of open source is that source codes, blueprints, data or documents are freely available to anyone. In terms of energy solutions for the Global South, the same concept applies. An open source approach can help overcome a key barrier in decentralized renewables in local communities: dependence on external technicians and materials, costly and inflexible systems.
We know that sustainable energy systems can be implemented more efficiently, affordably and reliably by local organizations. Local knowledge of the community’s context and specific needs, combined with open and accessible information, lead to improved capacities and the more effective use of local resources.
Many initiatives and organizations are dedicating themselves to the development of open source designs to help scale up sustainable energy infrastructure: good examples include Green Empowerment and the Hydro Empowerment Network (HPNET), with their work around load management in micro-hydro systems. Electronic load controllers (ELCs) are critical components for micro-hydro power systems, but imported ELCs are expensive and, when problems arise, local technicians are not able to repair them. Article no. 3 in this newsletter gives details about the ELC open source project conducted by Green Empowerment and HPNET. LibreSolar take the same approach for solar charge controllers and battery management, while Connected Energy develop products for the solar PV and biogas markets. A further example is RedBioLAC’s knowledge dissemination on biodigester technology: a collection of all the relevant open source publications can be found on their website.
Open source equals technology and tools that everyone can own and share. An open source approach allows communities to take matters into their own hands and is an important step towards achieving SDG7 and providing affordable, reliable and sustainable energy access to all. As previously mentioned, a number of WISIONS partners and projects have focused on this topic and one project in particular focuses on rural communities in the Global South. In cooperation with the Hydro Empowerment Network (HPNET), open source education material for sustainable energy sources was provided by CREATE Borneo. This project put the WISIONS mission into practice by asking how open source has changed the availability of energy infrastructure in rural communities and improved their livelihoods. If you are interested in the open source material for this, CREATE Borneo provides a very interesting toolkit for energy practitioners.
WISIONS facilitated in forms of webinar in February 2019 a discussion on the potential of open source and the obstacles to the approach, where LibreSolar and Connected Energy could present themselves and their work. For more information on WISIONS open source projects and those of our project partners, click on the following links:
- Wiki on open-source technology for use in micro-hydro systems www.elcwiki.info/
- Open source initiative by Green Empowerment (more on this in article no.3 in this newsletter): greenempowerment.org/open-source-initiative/