RedBioLAC

Network of Biodigesters for Latin America and the Caribbean (RedBioLAC)

RedBioLAC is a consolidated and very active network of individuals and organisations involved in applied research, implementation and advocacy on biodigesters. Their aim is to contribute to the proper management of natural resources while promoting socio-economic wellbeing in Latin American and Caribbean.

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How can open source design contribute to achieving SDG 7?

News from WISIONS posted on September 23rd, 2020

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? Read moreMinimize

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:


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Upcoming events

The 11th Annual Conference of RedBioLAC ("Encuentro RedBioLAC") will take place from 14 – 18 October 2019 in Varadero, Cuba. More information available here.

You can find information on upcoming RedBioLAC webinars here: RedBioLAC webinar series




Introduction

Biodigesters can help to improve the livelihoods of rural households in the Global South in different ways. They allow treating flows of organic waste, thereby improving the in-farm management of soil. The by-product of the treatment is biogas, a combustible gas which can replace other unsustainable fuels. Additionally the effluent and sludge produced by the process are of great value as organic fertilizer. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there is a long history of initiatives which have adapted, tested and further developed small and medium-sized biogas technologies. However, back in 2009, avenues for exchanging experiences were almost non-existent, especially for practitioners active in the field.

RedBioLAC came into existence in 2009, following a WISIONS SEPS project (Biogas Digester Innovations In Latin America), which focused on sharing experiences on the use of biodigesters in Latin America. This first exchange gave impetus to the idea of establishing a network to promote knowledge sharing between research, development and advocacy groups involved with biogas technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The network was formalised at a meeting in 2010 in Costa Rica.

Vision & Goals

RedBioLAC’s vision is to become the leading organisation providing research, development, implementation and advocacy in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) for the use of biodigesters to stimulate the sustainable management of natural resources and promote people’s socioeconomic wellbeing in LAC.
RedBioLAC’s brings together institutions related to applied research and the dissemination of anaerobic biodigestion to achieve the following objectives:


  • Exchange information, knowledge and experiences among participating institutions
  • Identify and overcome technical, environmental, social and economic barriers in the field of biogas
  • Propose projects, mechanisms and ideas to disseminate biodigester technology within LAC
  • Generate alliances that facilitate the adoption of biodigester technology
  • Systematise research and disseminate findings among partners, and share insights with related fields including health, financing, policy, education, industry and marketing
  • Promote the inclusion of other organisations, institutions and researchers in the field of biodigesters
  • Promote actions to advocate and influence policies related to biodigesters

Activities

RedBioLAC is a very active platform for knowledge exchange, development and dissemination. This is achieved via diverse methods and activities, specifically through the annual conference, annual magazine, e-learning, online library and forum. Additionally, two areas of activity fostering knowledge creation and dissemination have emerged recently: working groups and a student internship programme. Find more about these activities below.

Annual Event and magazine

The annual conference provides a dynamic opportunity for interaction between experts, relevant stakeholders and interested audiences in general. The conference format entails not only presentations and discussions about the latest developments, but also training courses on basic biogas technologies and field visits.

2018 marked the 10th Annual RedBioLAC Conference, which took place from 17 – 21 September 2018 in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. A video summarising the conference is available on Facebook, along with photos of the event.

Since 2017 the network has published an annual magazine to showcase academic research, case studies, scientific groups, technical factsheets and advertise projects, programmes, companies, and services on biogas.
You can download RedBioLAC’s magazines here.

Online Platform and Library

Of the network's online tools, the discussion forum is the liveliest area for interaction, with more than 900 participating subscribers. Almost 500 topics are available on the forum, providing a rich source of knowledge on anaerobic digestion as applied in the region

A broad variety of publications on a number of topics can be found in the online library.

Knowledge exchange

Topic-specific working groups aim to involve network members in the development of collaborative projects in order to address specific knowledge gaps (e.g. technical issues, management monitoring and impact assessment) or to strengthen collaboration at sub-regional levels (e.g. the ‘southern cone’, the ‘Andean countries’, the Caribbean states and Central America).

The student internship programme aims to facilitate and support applied research on topics relevant to network members by involving students at the advanced stage of their studies. This serves to address knowledge gaps, while simultaneously contributing to international knowledge-sharing and capacity-building of the next generation of experts and decision-makers.


Coordination & Support

The network is supported by several organisations, one of which is the WISIONS initiative. The coordination of the RedBioLAC is led by Mariela Pino (left). 

The network's secretariat is run by the organisation GreenEmpowerment.