Promoting voluntary actions and encouraging behaviour change can have a big impact on building energy sustainable communities. Community engagement, therefore, is fundamental in generating community support and delivering positive and effective outcomes for energy sustainability. Rural areas are at a particular disadvantage in terms of energy.

Engaging these communities on energy sustainability has many benefits. There is no single best way to do community engagement, but there are several ways to contribute to positive social outcomes.

Creating awareness on how to live in a more sustainable manner is a good way to start. In rural Kenya, the quality of air is affected by overreliance on fuel wood, burning biomass and kerosene. Exposure to smoke from such resources increases the risk of childhood acute respiratory infections.

Incorporating initiatives to promote youth involvement in decision making will help in building support on energy sustainability.

Another way to engage the community on energy sustainability is by informing them that others are doing it.

People adjust in the direction of the descriptive norm.

Renewable technologies are essential for energy access in the rural communities. Providing access to clean energy resources such as solar panels plays a significant role in engaging the communities on energy sustainability. Therefore, cooperating with rural communities to ensure social buy-in to enable projects deliver affordable and reliable power is essential.

A good example is the implementation of NAMAs, which are policies directed to reducing emissions in developing countries that have helped in supporting members to access easy financing and ensuring longevity.

One of the biggest selling points of green products is their resource efficiency and affordability.

Rural communities need to be made aware of the cost effectiveness of green energy resources. The rural population tends to depend on firewood for cooking and heating that result in higher in-home emissions than their urban counterparts.

Due to the fact that firewood is supplied from private smallholder lands and farm woodlots, it is increasingly becoming more challenging for rural communities to afford or access. One solution to this barrier is small-scale renewable energy technologies.

Partnerships between the rural communities, the government and clean energy companies can help reduce the heavy dependency on biomass use and promote cleaner energy resources.

Moreover, collaborating with communities helps to create a stronger more unified voice for clean energy in rural areas. For example, Green Energy Africa has initiated the WEREP, Women Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy Project, a project that sees Maasai women joining solar energy collectives.

These women purchase the solar panels and rechargeable batteries at a discounted rate and sell them across the villages. Furthermore, they are trained in installing the solar panels and lights. Engaging rural communities will provide balanced and objective information on clean energy.

First published in Business Daily