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Breaking the poverty cycle through solar energy

People in poverty often spend a greater part of their family income on energy services than wealthy households. In Armenia, rural communities in remote areas are particularly vulnerable due to the exorbitant costs associated with connecting to an energy grid.

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Families often use makeshift ovens and unsafe electrical boilers for heating and cooking.

 

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Blueprint of a home with a solar panel installed.

 

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By using solar energy a family will save US$252per year, equalling 740 loaves of bread—enough to feed a household for a year.

An average 20% of household energy use is for heating water. Families in need often barely produce enough hot water for their basic needs.

Water is heated with homemade immersion electrical boilers and by burning wood in makeshift ovens. Immersion electrical boilers are extremely dangerous, especially for children: there is a constant threat of electric shock or explosion.

In addition to these safety concerns, the boilers consume astronomical levels of electrical energy and are scarcely affordable for an average Armenian family, with a monthly household income of US$150-180. Wood-burning, kerosene and diesel oil heaters lead to health problems as well as degraded local forests.

How Habitat is helping
According to the national gas supplier ArmRusGasArd, about 70% of the Armenian population has access to a natural gas supply; of Habitat’s partner families, only 5% have access.

Expanding on its work to eliminate poverty housing, Habitat Armenia is introducing a traditionally expensive technology to vulnerable households: solar panels. Armenia has on average 300 sunny days per year, so using solar energy makes for a logical—and environmentally sound—alternative to other forms of energy. Quick and easy to install and maintain the unique solar-powered systems will give affordable hot water access to 127 vulnerable households.

Families will repay the cost of the system in less than 8 years; once installed, families have no further recurring costs for heating water. 12 communities will be educated in clean energy sources, raising awareness of the positive effectives on income, health, education and the environment.

There is potential to scale this project up to reach more than 10,000 households throughout Armenia as well as easily replicate across the region and establish solar heating systems to the wider Armenian market. This project is an innovative commercial-non-profit partnership: a pioneer in social business.

Project Highlights

• Sustainable solar water heater systems will be installed into 127 safe, decent, affordable homes

• Families will save 20% of monthly household income in electricity costs

• Health complaints will be reduced

• Families will use 1.5 cubic meters less wood per year

• Sale of renewable energy systems will increase by 5%

• Clean energy awareness in our communities will increase

• By using the sun to heat water, a family will save an average of US$252 per year; that is equal to 740 loaves of bread, 222 kilos of tomatoes, or 55.5 kilos of meat

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Armenia.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in this country.

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