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  • Rio favela inhabitants install solar panels in response to soaring electricity prices in Olympic city


    On Saturday January 30th 2016 at 6 PM the inhabitants of the favela of Babilonia (Leme) are inaugurating the first two photovoltaic solar installations at the Mirante of Babilonia, in Leme.

    According to a group of inhabitants united in RevoluSolar, a new not-for-profit association, the inauguration on Saturday marks the start of energy independence and a democratic renewable energy transition for the favela of Babilonia.

    Through collective voluntary work involving local electricians of the favela and the Association of Inhabitants of Babilonia, a group of inhabitants created RevoluSolar, a non-profit association aimed to inform and educate the local population about the social, economic and environmental benefits of solar energy. Initial calculations by RevoluSolar estimate that pay-back on investment will be reached within 6 years, after which the electricity generated by the solar panels will be for free.

    Pol Dhuyvetter (53), President of RevoluSolar, declared: ¨Solar energy resolve the problem of sky-high electricity bills for low-income families. Our project is an example of sustainable development as it will have social, economic and environmental benefits for the community and beyond. It will also empower people who have experienced social exclusion for generations and give them pride to become energy producers¨. Pol Dhuyvetter lives in Brazil since 2009 and is a long-time member of the Belgian renewable energy cooperative Ecopower which counts over 50,000 affiliated families.

    The first two solar installations on the roofs of the bar, restaurant and guesthouse Estrelas da Babilonia and the Babilonia Rio Hostel, two local businesses, were made possible thanks to a micro-credit program towards inhabitants of favelas by the state agency AG RIO. Both owners calculated a very significant return on investment.

    Confronted with soaring electricity prices of the electricity company LIGHT, Andre Luiz Abreu de Souza, the President of the Association of Inhabitants of Babilonia wants to turn the attention of the inhabitants to the enormous potential to install solar energy on their roofs. The electricity prices in Rio have almost doubled the past two years (from R$ 0,48kWh in 01/2014 to R$ 0,90 kWh in 01/2016).

    With an increasing number of families of the favela interested to become energy producers, the aim is to set up the first renewable energy cooperative in Brazil. RevoluSolar already receives the interest and support of the Organization of Cooperatives in Brazil (OCB). It also receives support of Viva Rio, the Brazilian Front for New Energy Policies and the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

    Brazil does not yet make use of decentralized renewable energy. Last November ANEEL, , the regulating agency for electricity in Brazil, counted only 1,285 small electricity generating units, of which 1,233 (96%) solar. ANEEL predicts that there will be 1,2 million micro-electricity generating units in 2024 which will revolutionize the market. RevoluSolar says it is ready to be part of it through a cooperative social model.

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