A Lakota woman stands with her new solar air furnace.

The need for better energy solutions is real.

Desperately poor families struggle to fulfill even their most basic requirements for adequate electricity and heat.


Energy Poverty is defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for the basic needs of cooking, warmth, and lighting. This need for energy creates an array of economic, environmental, human health, and human rights issues.

Over three billion people worldwide do not have access to appropriate technology to meet their basic needs for simple activities such as cooking meals, lighting homes, or purifying water. As a result, billions of people suffer from energy poverty, preventable illnesses, and deplorable living conditions.

Around the world, 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity. Of these people, 85% live in rural areas, what is often referred to as "the last mile." In addition, a staggering 2.9 billion people around the world use biomass, such as wood or dung, as their primary source of cooking and heating fuel. Women and girls can spend up to 20 hours per week gathering fuel, often risking their safety and keeping them away from other economic pursuits.

In the United States, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, more than 90% of residences are heated with propane, electric heat, and wood stoves. Typical heating expenses consume 50 - 70% of a household's income.

In Central America, families rely on kerosene, candles, and ocote (a local pine used like a candle) for light. These energy sources are both expensive and have a negative impact on both human health and the natural environment.

Burning an octe candle for energy.

In January 2012, Trees, Water & People, launched Luciérnaga, a social enterprise working to bring clean energy to families throughout rural Central America. Luciérnaga imports solar products (like lights, phone chargers, and solar household systems) into Central America, providing local entrepreneurs access to products in bulk. Knowing their community’s needs, these solar entrepreneurs can then distribute solar lights to families at a price they can afford.

In addition, Trees, Water & People's Tribal Renewable Energy Program puts the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. Working with tribal communities, we build and install residential and facility-scale renewable energy applications. These include off-grid solar air furnaces, grid-tied photovoltaic systems, and small wind turbines.

Powering poor communities with the sun, wind, or with a nearby river gives local people the skills to participate in a 21st Century industry, and provides them a springboard toward prosperity in a world where heat and electricity are basic needs.

You can help people participate in the transition to a renewable future by supporting training in solar electricity, solar heating, and wind energy. Purchase a solar heating panel for a Native American family, purchase a solar suitcase for a tribal school, sponsor a renewable energy workshop, help us find high quality, surplus hardware such as solar panels, batteries, inverters, etc., or visit the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on one of our tours. Most importantly, help us spread the word about TWP! 


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A solar warrior student helps to complete a solar electric installation in Colorado.