Inflammation and stories on energy consumption

Water Quality in Cabo Verde
The Republic of Cabo Verde is a country comprised of 10 islands off the coast of West Africa. In 2012, the government planned to drastically increase its desalination system in order to improve water capacity and consumption and to meet the demands of the country’s rising tourism industry. Since this plan to improve water sanitation and availability of this country’s precious resource, water quality in Cabo Verde has improved in 2017, through government cooperation and local partnership.

Though Santiago, one of Cabo Verde’s islands, already had a desalination plant implemented, the government suggested at least eight more plants be installed in order to satisfy the resident and growing tourist populations. At the time of the government’s 2012 plan to invest in major water quality improvement, reports showed that with the island’s 500,000 citizens and the high volume of tourists, sources of water were already limited. Cabo Verde is a dry country and doesn’t receive much rain, so the country’s ministry of environment made it a goal to build a desalination plant for every island, as part of the National Directive Plan for Water.

The ministry hoped that over the next five years, 400 million euros, paired with a $66.2 million grant from the U.S. foreign aid agency, plus additional funding from the EU and the U.N., would significantly contribute to the country’s goal to have 50% of its energy supplied by renewable sources by the year 2020.

In March 2017, just five years since the start of the desalination and sanitation system implementation, Cabo Verde’s driest islands are seeing major victories, and some of the country’s most vulnerable populations are seeing the biggest difference. Santa Maria, a high-traffic tourist and travel location in Sal on Cape Verde, saw the inauguration of a 2010 Wastewater Treatment Plant. With the help of new management and a working operating system that connects to local sewage networks, the plant is now fully functioning.

The new system for delivering clean, available and affordable water will make lives on Cabo Verde a little easier. Most poor families can’t afford to access water through the island’s utility networks, and some are miles apart, making clean water retrieval hard on locals. Poor women spend the most time collecting water for each household, but some more rural areas of the country have very little access — a mere 16% of the country ever sees this water.

Because of improved water quality in Cabo Verde, residents are feeling confident about running their households, thanks to government funding and water treatment plants throughout the country. Some locals say having sanitary and accessible water is most important in keeping their families healthy.

Cabo Verde’s tourism economy is also expected to improve with efforts to keep sanitized water flowing. As the industry provides jobs for more than one-third of the population, it is vital that the Cabo Verde government keep water sanitation at its highest priority, so that cleaner beaches bring tourists back again and again.

The government plans to designate a water improvement sector fund specifically for the water treatment facilities, upon its success. With further plans like this, water quality in Cabo Verde will continue to show signs of improvement.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr

This week, Saudi Arabia launched a renewable energy program that was outlined in late December. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih announced that between 30 and 50 billion dollars will be invested into the program. Renewable energy in Saudi Arabia is currently somewhat non-existent, but the focus of the program will redirect the country to focus on aspects that will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

By 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to produce 70% of its power from natural gas and 30% from renewable energy. At an energy conference in late December, al-Falih expressed the country’s hope to generate approximately 10 gigawatts from solar and wind power by 2023. By the time the initiative is implemented, if fully executed, the country hopes to harness 700 gigawatts of alternative energy. The program will fund the construction of several wind and solar energy plants throughout the country.

Saudi Arabia is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC’s) largest contributor and a top exporter of crude oil. Consequently, Saudis have struggled economically with budget deficits due to oil prices. The demand for power in the country is growing steadily, at about 8% annually. The renewable energy program can improve the economy by creating jobs and adding diversity to the country’s source of income.

Aside from economic benefits, Saudi Arabia recognizes the humanitarian benefits of investing in alternative energy sources and the environmental toll that total reliance on oil and gas can take. Renewable energy in Saudi Arabia will help the country meet worldwide sustainability goals and steer away from the exclusive use of crude oil.

Al-Falih has also spoken out about intentions to connect with energy initiatives in Yemen, Jordan and Egypt. Though he did not elaborate, a potential partnership between the countries in the region could be revolutionary for the production of renewable energy in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Earlier in February, the energy ministry in Saudi Arabia announced the creation of The Renewable Energy Project Development Office to oversee the deployment of clean energy and monitor the progress of the project. The project also aims to direct funding into nuclear energy, which could cause controversy on the international stage in regards to domestic and international security topics.

Although the investment will create jobs in new sectors, funding for the program is said to be coming partially from cuts to welfare programs. Although it is too early in the project to draw any conclusions, there are questions about how these budget cuts will affect the Saudi people.

Renewable energy in Saudi Arabia has the potential to lay groundwork for surrounding nations looking to establish alternative energy programs. This is the hope of the international community as the country commits to reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

SunSaluter: Energy, Water and Jobs Rolled Into One
There are upwards of 780 million people in the world who do not have access to clean water. On top of this, an estimated 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity — that is nearly 17 percent of the world’s population. Individuals living under such circumstances suffer chronic exposure to waterborne illnesses, and hundreds of millions more must walk hours each day to collect potable water.

SunSaluter, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving energy and water access in the developing world, aims to remedy these issues in a simple and affordable way.

The goal of SunSaluter is to make energy and water more accessible through one simple device. The SunSaluter device itself uses gravity and water, rotating a solar panel throughout the day. The device generates 30 percent more electricity, is 30 times cheaper and is far more durable than motorized solar trackers.

The SunSaluter has been deployed in 16 countries and has impacted nearly 8,000 people worldwide. By boosting solar panel efficiency by 30 percent, fewer solar panels are needed and the overall system costs are reduced by 10-20 percent. This lowering of cost alone has helped the impoverished families eliminate the use of kerosene gas.

How does it work? The SunSaluter enables solar panels to produce energy more consistently through the day, beginning earlier in the morning and lasting later at night. This is critical for rural families who often wake early in the day. It helps decrease the need for batteries to store energy that is usually produced mostly around high noon.

The SunSaluter also contains a water purifier within its system. Each day the device is capable of producing four liters of clean drinking water. By combining both energy and water collection into one simple device, the SunSaluter kills two birds with one stone. It improves consistent usage of the purifier as well, which tends to be the biggest hurdle to overcome for clean water programs.

Consequently, SunSaluter is not just working to help with the lack of energy and water in the developing world. “Our goal is to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals in underdeveloped countries,” Eden Full told Business Insider in a recent interview. “We give them guidance, mentorship, and some funding, and the idea is to spread this technology.”

Currently, the company’s core manufacturing operations are in India. It is looking to move into Malawi as well. SunSaluter and its impact on the developing world have only just begun!

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

Energy poverty
Energy poverty is a global issue. Access to energy, especially in developing areas, is severely lacking. Globally, an estimated 1.2 billion people have absolutely no access to electricity, and an additional 2.7 billion rely on the use of traditional biomass to cook.

Burning traditional biomass, which includes wood, agricultural by-products and dung, causes respiratory diseases that kill over 3.5 million annually, which is twice the amount of deaths caused by malaria every year.

Solving the problem of energy poverty is central to the goal of eliminating global poverty, but there is an extensive and politically-charged debate on the best way to approach solutions.

Tensions can run high in renewable sources such as hydro, solar and wind energy versus fossil fuels such as coal and oil. The potential role of nuclear power is also a significant consideration in the mix. Even beyond issues of energy sources, questions remain about whether energy generation should be largely centralized, or be more locally distributed?

This aspect of the question was highlighted in a recent debate held by the Brookings Institute. Ted Nordhaus is the co-founder and Research Director of the Breakthrough institute that is in favor of a more centralized model of energy development.

Nordhaus pointed out that in the past no country has had universal access to energy without the majority of the population moving out of agriculture and into cities, pointing out that growth in off-farm employment is crucial to this development.

In response, Daniel Kamme, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkley described the numerous technology innovations such as micro-grids and improved batteries that make a more distributed energy model more viable.

He emphasized that both centralized and distributed grids can coexist, and that rejection of smaller grids in favor of larger centralized ones is “to bet on the past, not bet on the future.”

A centralized model is more in line with coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel reliant methods, while a more dispersed approach has a higher reliance on renewable resources.

Proponents of fossil fuels such as Dr. Robert Bezdek, president of the consulting firm MISI, argue that the tried-and-true method of using coal is a much more reliable way to solve energy poverty, and that better scrubbing technology has improved the cleanliness of coal so that it is more sustainable.

Opponents of this viewpoint argue that this perception is an antiquated, one-size-fits-all model, and neglects to consider the level of innovation that exists now in contrast to the industrial revolution.

It is true according to World Bank data that least developed countries on average use renewable sources for 40.8 percent of their power generation, which is about twice as much as high-income countries.

Overall, the correct approach to solving energy poverty will continue to be debated until a solution is found. The answer to energy poverty must be sufficient to provide energy for both personal and commercial use in a sustainable manner.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: Pixabay

Goat Poop PovertyTransforming inexpensive fibers into fuel using the fungi found in goat poop could be a new way to tackle global poverty.

Anyone who has ever seen a goat knows that these animals are professionals at consuming and digesting almost anything they can manage to get inside their mouths, whether it be straw, corn cobs or even a shirt. The reason these animals are so successful at digesting non-food items is, in part, thanks to the fungi that live in their digestive tracts, which can attack and break down fibrous materials.

Researchers are now looking to these fungi as a way to transform certain plants into alternative energy sources.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, new research shows that the fungi found in goats’ stomachs – and eventually their excrement – are adaptable enough to stop breaking down goat food and start attacking something new. In this case, plant material for renewable biofuel.

The results are potentially beneficial for addressing global poverty in developing countries.

For a long time, coal has been a popular fuel source in “energy impoverished” nations. The low price tag on the substance makes it a popular energy source for countries like India and China, which are experiencing extreme poverty and rapidly increasing energy demands.

But while cheap, coal is also a major producer of dangerous fossil fuels. According to Rachel Kyte, climate envoy for the World Bank, coal has a powerful negative impact on global poverty, not only through health costs for the world’s poor but through long-term social disadvantages as well.

A Standard & Poor’s assessment found that the more impoverished a country is, the more negatively climate change affects its residents. Floods and agricultural shocks, which come as a result of climate change, often hit low-income people the hardest. This population has no option to migrate, insulate themselves from harm or recoup losses.

The goat poop solution might be just what developing countries need to access a low cost, low impact energy source. It is an unlikely but viable option to lower fossil fuel emissions and move toward clean energy solutions.

Jen Diamond

Sources: Forbes, The Guardian, Think Progress
Photo: Scoopnest

HomeBioGasAround three billion people in rural areas still utilize simple stoves that require burning wood, crop refuse or coal. These resources create dangerous air pollution, causing over 3.8 million premature deaths annually. The HomeBioGas startup aims to change this.

HomeBioGas, an organic renewable energy system created by an Israeli startup, aims to reduce the death toll in rural areas while at the same time helping farmers and families reduce their carbon footprint.

The machine safely converts food waste and animal manure into cooking gas and liquid fertilizer. The machine serves as a sustainable tool for urban and rural families living off the grid.

According to the company’s website, the 88-pound machine starts by adding a bacteria to a combination of waste and water, which triggers a fermentation process. The reaction then produces a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, which can be used as energy.

The system can break down up to six liters of food waste, including meat and dairy. It can also dissolve 15 liters of animal manure, yielding about three hours worth of cooking gas and about 10 liters of liquid fertilizer. Families then can use the resulting gas to cook around three meals a day.

One of the few problems with HomeBioGas, however, is its dependency on warm temperatures. Under 64°F (17°C), the system will decrease its productivity, and it will cease to function at 32°F (0°C).

After a year, though, users eliminate one ton of organic waste, as well as decreasing toxic emissions going into the atmosphere.

Oshik Efrati, CEO of HomeBioGas, told Reuters that the system “will be available to everyone [who] needs it in the developing world.”

The company has already dispensed systems to underserved locations in order to cut back reliance on other types of fuel.

In the summer of 2014, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection bought and installed multiple units at Umm Batin, a Bedouin village without access to clean energy and garbage removal.

The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Energy and Mining, aiming to reduce the impoverished population’s overdependence on wood, recently signed a contract with HomeBioGas to purchase 50 biodigesters.

The pilot program’s prior success in the two countries, led their governments have decided to purchase even more biodigesters to combat poverty in these locations.

John Gilmore

Sources: Huffington Post, Israel 21c, IndieGoGo
Photo: EcoWatch

Minister Piyush Goyal meets with MIT Energy Initiative Expertise to seek energy solutions for India.

India has recently set some of the most aggressive near-term energy goals of any nation in the world. Minister Goyal met with MIT Energy Initiative and Tata Center for Technology and Design to discuss and look for solutions that will help India meet its goals.

Goyal serves as minister for coal, power and renewable energy said, “India is embarking on most of its new development initiatives on the back of technology and that engagement with the United States has been very deep.”

One goal of India is to ensure that every part of the country gets electricity in the next 1,000 days.

There are currently 220 million people in India with no access to electricity at all, which is an estimated 50 million households. Those that do get electricity only have access for a few hours a day.

In major cities blackouts and power cuts are a common occurrence at peak usage times. Goyal is determined to make reliable 24 hours seven days a week electricity a reality in India.

“Affordability is a very integral part of our plans,” said Goyal.

India relies heavily on coal to power to power the country. Ahmed Ghoniem, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, agreed that fossil fuels are an important part of the equation for developing countries that require energy solutions immediately.

“We cannot ignore the fact that there are billions of people who need power. Their lives are in danger unless we help to get the right technology for them. And it needs to happen right now, not fifty years from now,” said Ghoniem.

One solution to the electricity problem is the potential for solar-powered micro-grid solutions that could reach remote areas. The government would need to properly incentivize companies to invest in these projects.

Goyal and MIT have decided to collaborate in order to create new technologies and policies to meet India’s electrification goals.

Goyal says, “We will make it happen.”

This is not the first time India has looked to MIT for solutions. In September, India’s business, nonprofit and government sectors attended The Tata Center for Technology and Design Annual Symposium at MIT’s Media Lab. India continues to work with MIT researchers to overcome challenges and meet opportunities in the developing world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: MIT News, Tata Center Technology and Design
Photo: Google Images

lighting_global_initiativeThe fourth International Off-Grid Lighting Conference and Exhibition was held this past week at the Dubai World Trade Center, UAE, to examine methods of bringing quality, affordable clean lighting for impoverished people.

The conference was hosted by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), a non-profit formed by the World Bank that works in the private sector to encourage investments in developing countries.

Anita Marangoly George, World Bank Group senior director, stated: “Lack of energy limits job creation and access to health and education. Supporting universal access to reliable modern energy is a priority. Ending poverty will not be possible without adequate energy.”

In partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank and GOGLA have launched the Lighting Global initiative which aims to expand the international off-grid lighting market to reach people not connected by grid electricity.

The Lighting Global initiative has three regional programs – Lighting Africa, Lighting Asia and Lighting Pacific.

In Kenya, the off-grid lighting market has undergone dramatic changes; there has been a shift in lighting technologies and power sources between 2009 and 2014. Incandescent lighting, dry-cell batteries and cheap plastic torches have been replaced by LED lighting, solar power and quality-verified lighting systems with warranties.

In India, the consumer awareness campaign has reached over 250 villages and almost 15,000 people in rural Rajasthan. In partnership with local solar product distributor Frontier Markets, IFC educates rural households on the benefits of clean lighting and on marketing and sales.

Frontier Markets also recruits rural women, “Solar Sahelis,” who aid in educating households on clean energy and marketing. This opportunity for employment has reached 250 women thus far and there are plans to grow the network to 20,000 in the next 4 years.

Anjali Garg, the program manager of the Lighting Asia/India program, said: “We are working on a series of interventions with manufacturers and distributors of solar lighting products to widen access to quality solar lights for rural consumers.”

In 2009, Lighting Global began providing small solar lanterns and solar lighting systems. To date, over 12 million quality verified products have been made available to over 25 million people. The program is advancing into larger home system kits that will support items like fans, radios and TVs.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: The National, Lighting Global, Lighting Asia
Photo: Flickr

Micro hydropower
Energy is essential to life. The less time spent generating energy the more time available to spend on other life-improving tasks: learning, working, cooking or playing. Those of us living in developed nations undeniably take for granted the electricity coursing through our laptop chargers and lighting our nightstands.

Providing individuals with energy sources can allow them to leave poverty in the dark and walk into a life lit by increased education and economic opportunities as well as improved health. Here are three clean, renewable energy sources that can provide rural, undeveloped communities with the power they need to fuel their lives.


Micro hydropower schemes can harness the power of nearby water sources such as rivers to generate clean, renewable energy to those living without power. Not only do the neighboring villages or towns benefit from the new source of electricity and the lifestyle improvements that come along with that, but the turbines are also manufactured locally and the community takes reasonability of maintaining and running the machinery.


Small, low-cost wind energy systems can be installed and connected to individual buildings to generate power. While this does not power a whole village, it is a start and can allow locals to re-charge LED lamps or mobile phones that can then be used off location, filtering the power throughout more than just the generated building.


Cow manure can be mixed with water and fermented to create biogas, which is a renewable natural gas that can be used to generate power. The gas can be collected and stored until it is needed in the house and residue of the manure mixture can be used for fertilizing.

Micro hydropower is ideal for rural agriculturally based villages where manure is easily available and the fertilizer is in demand.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Practical Action, Alternative Fuels Data Center
Photo: Wikipedia

bio lite
In the developed world of today, it is difficult to imagine cooking food over a hazy smoke of open fire for everyday consumption. Unfortunately, this is the reality of life for an estimated 3 billion people worldwide.

In addition to the hassle of such a method of energy consumption as open fires, there is an added danger of hazardous, toxic byproducts from the smoke accumulating in the houses where it is used. Over four million people die annually from indoor air pollution. Burning of wood or oil creates hazardous gases, including carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not only a notorious greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and climate change, but is also exceedingly dangerous if it accumulates. As the carbon dioxide builds up in houses in absence of proper ventilation, the gas can turn into lethal carbon monoxide.

The usage of wood, oil and kerosene is expensive as well. These fuel resources are also not sustainable, environmentally or financially. As these resources become scarcer, the prices for these commodities also rise, which makes the usage of these fuels for cooking unfeasible.

BioLite, a company that makes energy-efficient stoves and lights, has a solution to these problems: biomass-fueled home stoves. The company initially manufactured camp stoves that utilized easily available biomass such as wood, dried leaves and the like, turning the biomass into heat for cooking as well as other purposes, such as charging a phone or an LED flashlight. The company has extended the same principle to the manufacture of BioLite HomeStoves. Their cookstoves have been distributed in many developing countries, including India and Uganda.

The stove uses the same energy sources as used in open fires, including wood. The difference lies in the efficiency of energy consumption. The device harvests and recycles much of the energy produced, therefore ensuring less smoke and harmful byproducts, and more value for the money spent. The heat not used for cooking is converted into electricity by the use of a thermoelectric generator: the electrical energy produced can be used to charge a cell phone. The rest of the energy powers a fan which ensures a continuous supply of oxygen to the fuel being burnt. This is an essential component of the stove, as it increases the combustion of the fuel, which improves fuel efficiency, and reduces the production of toxic byproducts.

The device dramatically reduces the amount of smoke – and consequently toxic gases – produced as a result of open fires. The manufacturer estimates a 91 percent reduction of carbon monoxide produced as a result of using BioLite HomeStove and 94 percent smoke reduction. The usage of this stove over traditional methods also saves poor families $200 annually, on average, by using almost half as much fuel per year. The two watts of energy produced can be used to charge a multitude of portable devices.

With all the advantages that the BioLite HomeStove has to offer, it still has a pricing issue. The stoves cost about $100, and although the device gives a return of almost twice its value within a year, the price might make it inaccessible for many people. Despite these initial problems, the success of the device is likely to spur further innovation that can overcome these difficulties as well.

Atifah Safi

Sources: BioLite Stove, Acumen
Photo: fm.cnbc