How can we develop a low-tech solution to improve rates of global energy access?
Globally, some 759 million people still lack basic access to electricity, which can impact their ability to safely heat, light, and cook in their homes.
The challenges of constructing stable electric grids in rural regions are multifaceted, and include:
Limited capacity for affordable and reliable transportation, which can impact how construction materials are delivered and how specialists, such as engineers, are able to spend time in rural villages to oversee project development
Limited to no integrated electric grid systems, which can improve resiliency to natural disaster or other forms of collapse
Few established protocols for stakeholder integration in the energy planning process, which can limit human capacity for locally-managed operations after project specialists leave the site
These challenges remain largely unresolved, with no straightforward technological, economic, or political “quick fixes” available to improve how humans access electricity through community-based infrastructure.
THE DESIGN CONTEXT
The barriers inherent to these core challenges call for more decentralized and micro-scale solutions that are easier to transport, implement, and maintain, particularly for households.
In accounting for the energy needs of an average village household combined with residents’ capacity to maintain technology, we aim to design a series of micro-energy technologies that can be deployed across different regions to enable safe heating, lighting, and cooking in communities where energy infrastructure will likely be unavailable for years or decades to come.
In an emerging project taking place from 2023 – 2028, LÆRO will design a series of micro-scale energy technologies that can be utilized by individuals or households across the five core climates found on Earth:
These technologies will be squarely oriented towards providing heat or lighting for the user by leveraging the renewable energy resources available in each region. Of the wide range of resources that could be used in each region, we have selected the following for the scoping process, as they are each scalable in their processing capacities to meet the needs and constraints of a typical household:
Through our process, we’ll conduct a series of feasibility analyses to determine what our core constraints will be as we developing products capable of relaying natural resources into compact sources of energy. The final products will each range from handheld to full-body mobile in size, which means that even the largest products can still be picked up and moved by an able adult without strain.
This product series will also be co-designed with the input of stakeholders located across all five regions by developing partnerships with community-based NGOs. Doing so will ensure that our products are being accurately created with the users’ needs at the forefront of the design process.