The future impacts of climate change in Georgia in relation to sustainable development – especially poverty and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), biodiversity, energy production, and food security is evident. Rural areas of Georgia account for 59% of the total poor and 62% of the extreme poor, according to the World Bank estimate of 2008. In rural communities their livelihoods depend mostly on agriculture. Especially women suffer from poverty and high unemployment rates. They need to care for feeding the family, keeping hygiene and provide for fuel. They often have no access to financial resources to sustain their livelihoods in dignity. Two major factors of this are land degradation, energy poverty, and unsafe sanitation and lack of access to information about alternatives solutions for sustaining livelihoods. Deforestation, uncontrolled use of wood resources, decreased soil quality and crop production all have negative effects on environment and climate leading to increased risks of natural disasters such as erosion, landslides, mudflows and avalanches.
Almost half the population in Georgia (2,1million) lives in rural areas, which face specific problems such as lower incomes, outward migration to the cities and abroad (18.3 percent of rural dwellers left the countryside in 2009) lack of access to resources and services, and low economic development. Based on the 2009 Human Development Report of the United Nations, 53 percent of rural population are living under the national poverty line.
Due to low incomes households in rural communities are particularly vulnerable to energy poverty. Factors in this are variable weather conditions, poorly maintained infrastructure and increasing unpredictability of the climate. The lack of fuel has caused localised environmental problems such as deforestation for fuel, cutting of windbreaks, burning dung instead of using it for fertiliser, resulting in soil degradation.
For purposes of generating warmth, including warm water, cooking, and heating houses, village population mostly use fossil fuels or biomass (dried dung, shrubs, firewood, but also all kinds of waste such as plastic). Approximately 70-80% supply of energy needs depend on usage of wood and conventional energy sources. Absolute majority of dwellings in rural areas are poorly insulated leading to an overuse of available fuel, high energy bills and despite this, uncomfortable temperature and indoor pollution. In average, households in the communities burn up 10 m3 of fire-wood per year. This has a severe impact on the environment, and causes big emissions of CO2 (1.5 tons of emissions per 1 ton biomass), contributing considerably to deforestation and thus to land degradation, which in turn has adverse effects on quality of life and food security of the village population. Air pollution created by plastic and other types of inappropriate fuel leads to respiratory illnesses. Insufficient availability of warm water for hygienic purposes likewise adversely affects human health. In addition the energy spending (electricity, gas, and fire-wood) per household comprises 35-40% of their incomes. Deforestation, uncontrolled use of wood resources, decreased soil quality and crop production all have negative impacts on environment and climate leading to increased risks of natural disasters such as landslides, mudflows and avalanches. At the end, the issues listed above account for serious problems to local households to sustain livelihoods, aggravate water supply, health, and agricultural production and therefore food and energy security.
There is no infrastructure or service for accessing affordable, alternative energy technologies and know how. The communities lack the capacity to address these challenges, there is a lack of public participation and involvement in developing locally affordable and sustainable solutions and infrastructure. Local authorities and communities are often not aware about the existing solutions.
Renewable energy technologies, particularly solar and biomass are environmentally benign in terms of global warming or destruction of the ozone layer. Simple solar devices have long life spans since they have no moveable parts that can wear out. They are economically viable and competitive, largely due to their low life-cycle costs and high reliability. Maintenance costs are low since no fuel is consumed, and energy is provided for free. Properly installed, simple solar technologies are safe, and risks related to other rural appliances are minimal. Solar energy techniques are capable of significantly enhancing the quality of life of the end users.
Regardless of the large potential for renewable energy in rural areas of Georgia, this potential has not been realized due to the many barriers it has to face. An important task is to identify the means to remove the economic, regulatory, and institutional barriers that make renewable energy less competitive than other conventional sources.
Finding alternative sources of energy that are both economically and environmentally friendly is crucial for increasing local productivity and improving the quality of life in rural communities. Affordable access to renewable energy sources and technologies is needed to address cooking, heating, and food processing needs, and to reduce reliance on fuel wood and other traditional uses of biomass materials as well as dependency on fossil fuels. Sources of energy obtained directly from sunlight, solar energy, constitute, by far, the cheapest way to generate energy in rural and remote areas. Use of especially thermal solar energy systems could significantly improve health care, education, supplies of consumable water, and food preparation and preservation.
There is often a wide gap between the people who design and produce technologies and those who actually use them. Current RE systems available on market are mostly imported, have an un favourable cost/performance ratio and unaffordable for low income rural households. There is very few data available on rural energy use, energy needs and related problems. Local people are not aware about their energy consumption patterns and ways to improve these.
Development of locally available alternative energy technologies (solar warm-water collectors of different modification, solar fruit/vegetable dryers, solar greenhouses made with straw-bale and natural materials, bio-gas digesters and Solar House Heating Systems) can be the solution for rural population to reduce consumption of wood and dependence on conventional energy sources, to improve their living conditions and to contribute to mitigation of global climate change and in general to reduce poverty. Access to reliable and clean energy is a priority for many people in the target regions.
Support of poor communities in Chokhotauri and Khobi districts in sustainable development through building their skills and capacities in environmental protection, and utilization of renewable energy resources
Introduction and use of new energy efficient technology through a model of Hybrid Solar Driers for fruits, vegetables, herbs and NTFPs (non-timber forest products) by joint efforts and knowledge exchange of Czech and Georgian Experts