Brazil’s RevoluSolar project

Last updated: 3 August 2023

RevoluSolar is a Brazilian non-profit organisation, founded in 2015, that helps improve livelihoods in low-income communities by providing solar energy. The group’s work is focused on the low-income communities of Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro. People living in favelas have historically been marginalised from access to essential public services such as energy, though they represent one-quarter of Rio de Janeiro’s population. As such, the programme originated as a strategy to combine poverty eradication efforts in the favelas of the city with the promotion of solar energy as a more affordable, sustainable and community-based development solution.

Since 2012, the Brazilian government has allowed decentralised models for energy generation and since October 2015 has also started to allow the cooperative model for distributed and grid-connected energy. These have bolstered investment in small-scale solar generation in the country. The first solar cooperative of RevoluSolar was effectively created in 2021. The organisation is financed through institutional investors and rents from the solar beneficiaries.

The project supports three programmes, carried out by a team of 15 contractors and 50 volunteers. The programme refers to its working methodology as the “Solar Cycle”, which means that facilities are built, operated and maintained by professionals trained by Revolusolar. Moreover, the training is combined with children's education and promotes the involvement of local community members in all stages of a project.

The Sustainable Energy Program installs solar PV energy systems to lower energy bills, empower consumers and promote community sustainability. According to project developers, the technical power generated is sufficient to meet and exceed local energy demand. In 2020, total installed solar generation capacity was 26 kilowatt peak power (kWp) and actual generation was about 35 000 kWh/year. This was enough production to cover the needs of the 36 sponsoring families of the project. In the last quarter of 2021, RevoluSolar had four solar plants, cumulating in installed capacity of 38 kWp and production of about 23 000 kWh. The estimated annual savings for families was about BRL 8 000 (EUR 1 448).

In parallel, RevoluSolar partnered with Circo Crescer & Viver, a local circus, to launch the Solar Project, whose objective is to drive a socially fair and inclusive energy transition movement in the Rio region by 2030. The project marks RevoluSolar’s first undertaking outside its main focus areas of Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira. Not only did the initiative help lower energy bills for the circus, but it also served as an environmental education tool for children and youth as well as helped make the learning process in technical courses more tangible. 17 residents of low-income communities around the circus will be initially trained in 2022 as electricians and solar installation assistants, with the possibility of advancing in the training programme to become professional electrical installers in the future. The City Hall of Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Environment Department is a partner in the project.

RevoluSolar’s Professional Training Program provides vocational training for solar installers and electricians. Given that residents of favelas are mainly selfemployed or underemployed, the programme equips residents with skills to compete for jobs in the electricity and solar industries at a time when the sector is poised for strong growth in the country. The programme supports community participants to install and maintain systems over a period of around 25 years. A portion of the training classes are offered in the community, while another is undertaken through partner technical schools, and others are offered virtually. As of 2020, RevoluSolar had trained 31 residents as electricians and solar installers. In 2021, the project has hired 81 residents and trained 10 of them, generating local income for the year of BRL 59 000 (EUR 10 700).

Lastly, the Education and Culture Program raises environmental and ecological awareness in local children and teenagers, to prepare the next generation of community members to advance sustainable development. The programme offers continuing education classes for children and youth based on a local team of four teachers and one contracted coordinator, residents of the communities, and a team of volunteers and partnerships. It works on six themes related to sustainability: energy, agro-ecology, solid waste, water, climate change and biodiversity. The programme offers biweekly classes, and includes trips to sustainability-related sites inside and outside the operating favelas. 

For the year 2021, the workshops were attended by 400 children and teenagers. In 2022, about 200 children and adolescents from the Circus programme will also benefit from these awareness classes. Simultaneously, during 2021, RevoluSolar offered courses on the topic of systematisation of information and fieldwork metrics. This course had 60 students, attending 80 classes for a total of 160 hours. About 20% of the students dropped out, though the overall satisfaction of the graduating students was around 87%. The programme cost about BRL 461 (EUR 83) per student, thus averaging BRL 6 (EUR 1.09) per student per activity. 

Want to know more about this policy ? Learn more