NRECA International

Nuestra Luz: Electric Cooperatives Power Communities

Renewable energy

The project will reduce rural exodus and increase cohesiveness among marginalized Guatemalan communities through member-owned electric cooperatives, clean energy complete electrification, and productive uses opportunities.

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Lead Organization

NRECA International

Arlington, D.C., United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Marginalization of rural Guatemalan communities has led to increasing desperation among the rural poor and a sharp increase in migration, driven by the hope of escape from poverty and the possibility of a life elsewhere with opportunity that is not seen as possible in rural Guatemala. The NRECA International solution will address exodus from marginalized, rural Guatemalan communities by increasing cohesiveness through formation of member-owned electric cooperatives for last-mile electrification. It will offer a combination of clean energy electric service and solar home systems, and facilitation for rural businesses to access efficient electricity-driven productive machinery, resulting in direct, visible changes in economic prospects in these remote communities.The cooperatives will serve 76,000 member households & businesses (approximately 380,000 people) by 2032, their tenth year of operations. The 100andChange grant will thereby demonstrate that achieving full last-mile electrification through clean energy investment can cause substantial improvements in multiple development outcomes.

Problem Statement

Marginalization of rural Guatemalan communities has led to increasing desperation among the rural poor and a sharp increase in migration. While the headlines in the United States have characterized the surge in migration as a response to increasing crime and corruption, and public debates have focused on U.S. policies at the border, much analysis argues instead that lack of opportunity in rural communities is the motor for migration. Despite the current differences in income level and quality of life compared to rural Guatemala, rural American communities also experienced rural exodus due to lack of economic opportunity, and continue to face the impacts of out-migration to this day. American rural electric cooperatives have recognized that they can play a role in stemming the tide of rural exodus, particularly among youth and skilled workers, by investing in their members’ communities and engaging in an array of community development commitments. Expansion of access to electricity supports economic growth especially when newly electrified areas are concurrently supported by productive use programs. Electrification has reached 90% of Guatemala but has largely been a benefit to cities and large towns, with remote rural areas left behind due to the comparatively high cost of traditional grid expansion in difficult terrain. Connected communities suffer poor service from private utilities and municipal corporations licensed to serve rural areas. That barrier to opportunity is magnified by the lack of access to efficient electric-powered machinery that can lead to growth for rural businesses, particularly those engaged in agricultural processing and marketing.

Solution Overview

The NRECA International solution will address exodus from marginalized, rural Guatemalan communities by supporting community cohesiveness and achieving last-mile renewable energy electrification that will be owned and operated by member-owned community based electric cooperatives. The project will offer a combination of electric service and the matchmaking to connect rural businesses to financing for electricity-driven machinery, resulting in opportunity to increase income and quality of life.The project will support communities in Huehuetenango and San Marcos Departments to form electric cooperatives to operate renewable energy mini-grids that will provide electric service in remote rural areas and support access to solar home systems for members too remote for mini-grid service. Concurrently with provision of cooperative services to community members, the NRECA International solution will extend opportunities for rural businesses in the cooperatives’ communities by matching businesses along selected agricultural value chains to financing agencies for equipment and machinery that uses electric power productively, thereby promoting economic growth and rural development.As the cooperatives expand services to members in their communities, they will reach 76,000 households or approximately 380,000 people by 2032, their tenth year of operations. The project will thus achieve full last-mile electrification of a 3700 square mile rural area in a critical zone of Central America, providing an immediate improvement in quality of life and economic opportunities. The 100andChange Challenge will thereby demonstrate a viable means of achieving full last-mile electrification through investment in clean energy mini-grids and that can cause substantial improvements in development outcomes across the board.

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