Hydro EMPowerment Network
Knowledge Exchange for Community Micro Hydro in South and Southeast Asia
The Hydro Empowerment Network aims to advance sustainable small-scale hydropower for community empowerment in the global South. Its goals are to provide an effective south-south knowledge exchange platform and to transform knowledge exchange into action, by building the capacity of local change agents.
How can open source design contribute to achieving SDG 7?
News from WISIONS posted on September 23rd, 2020
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/
Pico and microhydro power (P/MHP) systems (defined as systems with a capacity smaller than 100 kW) have a huge potential in many remote areas around the world and especially in the humid and hilly regions of South and Southeast Asia. Although micro hydro is well established in several countries in the region, it has yet to reach its full potential.
The needs that are primarily addressed for off-grid communities are electrical services, such as for lighting and communications, as well as productive and agricultural uses such as milling or irrigation. In the current context of high fuel and electricity prices this technology can also play an important role in generating clean electricity in areas that are connected to the national grid, but which suffer from an unreliable electricity supply.
The need to develop a network was highlighted by several organisations working with WISIONS. As a first step a workshop was held in February 2012 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was attended by 10 organisations from the Philippines, Thailand, Lao PDR, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal, together with members of the WISIONS team. As a result of the ideas generated during this workshop the Hydro Empowerment Network was formed. For a list of all members, please visit this link. For details on becoming an HPNET member, please follow this link.
- Technology development and innovation for robust implementation
- Policy for sustainable impact and scalability
- Cultivation of local experts, productive uses, and vibrant watersheds
- Technology design and dissemination
- Ground-truthing policy ideas and outputs
- Bottom-up project sustainability mechanisms
Network GatheringsThe meetings provide the opportunity for members to exchange knowledge and ideas in a face-to-face setting; to share experiences, gain new insights and build new partnerships, as well as to further develop and strengthen existing ones.
Practice-to-Policy WorkshopsHPNET’s practice-to-policy exchanges facilitate practitioners and other MHP multi-actors to understand common goals in order to advance the sector.
Technical Training SessionsHPNET members organise different forms of capacity-building sessions to strengthen the skills of local technicians and community organisers, who are often the first point of contact in local communities, e.g. training courses to build local capacity on concrete pico-hydro turbines, electronic load controllers (ELC) and advocacy through the development of multi-media skills (see details of linked SEPS exchanges in the right column).
Online Exchange and Web-Based Knowledge PortalThe different levels of face-to-face exchange are complemented by a network website presenting profiles of the members, members’ online forums and an online library of catalogued micro-hydro documents, multi-media products and a contacts database.
Recent EventsThe Hydro Empowerment Network hosted a Deep Dive Workshop on 17 June 2019 at the Asia Clean Energy Forum in Manila in collaboration with WISIONS. The topic was "Hydro Mini-Grids in the Asia-Pacific: Scaling Inclusive Enterprise-Based Approaches". You can see the highlights here:
Since 2015, MHP expert Dipti Vaghela (left) has taken over the coordinating role.