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The struggle for light: tc energía changes lives in hidalgo 

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A scent of popcorn floats in the air. Smiling, attendees await the start of the projection. It could be a typical night at any cinema… except here, there are no walls or ceiling. Nor an electric grid. We are in the community of Cieneguilla, in the state of Hidalgo. Above, the stars. To the side, the Sierra Madre Oriental. This movie night is possible thanks to the magic that TC Energía performs in the communities where it is present: thanks to its donation of solar panels, light has today come to this home as part of a program organized by our Social Impact team. And with it, there’s another novelty: it's the first time that the owners of this home, Mrs. Luisa Nava and Mr. Emiliano Camero, aged 78 and 84 respectively, watch a movie in their own house.

From March 1st to 7th, in the municipalities of Cardonal and Tlahuiltepa, in Hidalgo, TC Energía practiced its policy of being a good neighbor. Thus, thanks to the company's donation, 27 photovoltaic systems were installed in communities without access to the electrical grid. Out of these, 23 autonomous photovoltaic systems were for homes; two more were for community spaces (ejidal offices in Cieneguilla and Coyocala); two, in community clinics (Cieneguilla and Coyocala). In total, 89 people benefited from this program.

Man changing lightbulb

"Among the four focus areas we have at TC Energía (education, security, environment, and resilient communities), one of the needs we identified in Mexico was access to basic services. It's not so much an issue in the United States or Canada, but it is a reality in our country. It was thus that, as an energy infrastructure company, we asked ourselves: how is it possible that, in communities where we are present, there are still houses without access to energy? Last year we did a pilot of this program in a community. This year it will be two," says Fernanda Hermosillo, Senior Advisor of the Social Impact area at TC Energía.

People under solar panels

To carry out this initiative, TC Energía partnered with Iluméxico, a company that has been working across the national territory for 13 years to install, practically without cost to the beneficiaries, solar panel systems for communities that today do not have access to energy. A team of four men and a woman make up the basic staff to provide autonomous photovoltaic systems to some of the homes in the area that meet the following requirements: that they do not have access to energy; that they lack a rural electrification plan for the next four years; that they are the main home of the beneficiaries; that they can prove they are the owners of the space; and that they are families that really require the subsidy to have access to a source of energy. This last requirement is easily met here: these are very marginalized communities. They lack basic services like water, gas, telephone lines, and electric grid. They also are located on difficult-to-access lands. One of these communities is Media Luna, a cluster of 20 houses scattered on lands as harsh as the life of its inhabitants. 

On the vicinity, lies Media Luna, another community without basic services where several families live. “Here, sometimes, one must go far to charge the cell phone: an hour and a half or two hours, walking, to Aguacatlán, Cieneguilla, or Camarones. We go with acquaintances and ask them if they can lend us their light to charge the cell phone. And we say to them, ‘How much do we owe you?’ Some are understanding and don’t charge us, but others do ask us for soda money. That is what we have struggled for with light. Here, one has to struggle,” says Francisco Nixta, a farmer.

This sentiment is shared by the residents of Media Luna we spoke with. For example, Marisela Espinoza, 18 years old, says she normally has to do her homework early, while there is light. Otherwise, she had to use a candle before. Now it's a bit better because she has a car battery. With it, she turns on a LED light which gives a modern touch to her room. It also helps her recharge her cell phone. However, car batteries are not efficient for use in a home: their direct current must be converted to alternating current to connect appliances. In addition, as it is not designed for constant use, its charge does not last long. Therefore, Marisela is happy that she will soon have solar panels installed. It will be easier for her to study and do homework. And listen to music, one of her great passions. Such are the high expectations when you have nothing.

Lights... Action!

"The materials have arrived!" says Mr. Emiliano the next day when he sees a truck with the Iluméxico logo approaching his house. Two and a half hours later, the installation team finishes their work. The lighting of a simple bulb, something we do in Mexico City without realizing its true value, is an unprecedented moment: it's the first in the home of the Camero Nava family. And, as a demonstration of how life changes, this opens the possibility of having a refrigerator, a blender, or a washing machine. None of this existed in these communities because there was no way to provide them with energy… until now.

At 6 in the evening, a group of people from nearby houses arrives. They come to watch an outdoor movie. To demonstrate everything that can be connected to the panels, and to add a more festive touch to the occasion, the TC Energía team set up a screen and connected a Blu-ray player and a projector. The place was decorated with a series of outdoor lights. Thus, electricity transformed the location into a movie theater. None of those present had seen an outdoor projection in that community before. Surely, that explains the constant smiles on their faces. 

Woman looking out of window

A Month with Light

A month later, we returned to these communities in Hidalgo to witness a workshop taught by an organization called ConcentrArte. They help Iluméxico to give deeper meaning to the experience of having electricity: through the workshop, they teach beneficiaries how to optimally use their photovoltaic system and to save energy. They also invite local painters to develop a mural in some part of the community. Thus, there will also be a reminder on the wall of the community health center in El Moxhte: a related mural painted by Diego Muciño Jasso.

In the area, we run into old acquaintances. Their smiles are still in place. Among these acquaintances is Mary Camero. She offers us nopal water prepared with her new blender. "Since my dad has diabetes, with the blender I prepare this nopal smoothie for him, which helps him a lot. We couldn't do that before. Now that we have the solar panels, we can make these smoothies.” Marisela confirms that she now listens to music all day. The expectations have been fulfilled. Thanks to TC Energía, the inhabitants of these communities in Hidalgo now have a light waiting for them at home. 

Woman holding blender