The Smart Villages Initiative organised a workshop on access to, and use of, renewable energy sources for rural communities in Bolivia on April 28, 2016, in La Paz, Bolivia to facilitate analysis and exchange of experiences of electrification of off-grid rural communities in Bolivia. The workshop brought together representatives of the public sector, international, and regional organisations, NGOs, academia and the private sector institutions.
As a result of an active government-led rural electrification programme, 82% of Bolivia’s households (in both urban and rural areas) had access to electricity in 2012. However, 2.5 million people still live without a clean and sustainable energy source and rely on diesel, kerosene, and candles for lighting. The lowest levels of rural electrification in the country are found in the Departments of Beni and Pando, which are isolated and sparsely populated, and where access to rural communities is particularly challenging and expensive. Rural households in the whole country depend largely on biomass as a source of energy and traditional wood burning stoves for cooking, which has important environmental and public health consequences, in particular for women and children.
The Political Constitution of Bolivia establishes that access to electricity is a citizen’s right, and the country aims therefore to achieve 87% electricity coverage in rural areas by 2020 and to be fully electrified by 2025, objectives set out in the National Development Plan. Key challenges to achieve universal access include reaching “last mile” communities where remoteness and isolation make rural electrification technically challenging and expensive; ensuring the sustainability of energy access initiatives; and promoting productive uses of energy to foster rural development.