Inflammation and stories on energy consumption


Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID,) the United States government has joined the self-declared Somaliland Administration in presenting a wind energy facility project to power the Hargeisa Egal International Airport.

Officiated by Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo, a ceremony was held on June 2 at the Hargeisa Egal International Airport. Other attendees included USAID’s Acting Somalia Office Director Hodan Hassan, various representatives from the private sector and civil society and the Ministers of Civil Aviation, Environment, Information, Interior, Planning and Water.

The Somaliland Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has been charged with the responsibility of controlling and overseeing the new wind energy facility project, which will also be managed by the government via a public-private partnership.

The facility is set up to serve as an alternative to expensive diesel fuel by powering some of the surrounding communities as well as the airport. Golis Energy, a local engineering company supported by USAID, has been credited for constructing the major wind farm.

At over $1.25 per kilowatt, the cost of electricity in Somaliland is one of the highest rates in the world. The high energy rates in Somaliland are a result of a disorganized network of independent providers that use different grids and unreliable equipment.

The state loses nearly 40 percent of its electricity due to various technical problems that arise from the dilapidated equipment. Minister of Energy Hussein Abdi Dualeh has stated that theft and illegal connections further cause power providers to barely break even. “We need a legal framework to govern the sector — we need an electricity law.”

Dualeh believes that renewable energy needed to be considered because Somaliland has more than 340 days of sun and “some of the fastest wind in the world.” Since 2011, USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth program has been working with officials and the private sector in Somaliland to bring renewable energy to the area.

Additionally, Somaliland officials and USAID have ensured a competitive market for the new energy services and drafted a series of necessary laws and regulations to “regulate and standardize the sector.”

Since 2010, USAID has invested almost $50 million in Somaliland for a number of sectors, including community stabilization, governance, education, health and economic growth. An additional $14 million was allocated to fund USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth program, which has financed efforts to develop renewable energy in Somaliland, invested in the livestock and agriculture sectors, and promoted economic stability through private sector development.

The issues with Somaliland’s energy sector have had an enormous impact on private business and investment climate. A 2011 assessment carried out by USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth showed that most business owners cited electricity rates and services as a “constraint to growth.”

For small-scale and local industries especially, the high overhead costs equate to difficulties in competing with imports, resulting in fewer products being produced in Somaliland. Citing Somaliland’s “inefficient, unreliable and prohibitively expensive power supply,” Chief of Party Suleiman Mohamed asked, “how can you expect businesses that require a reliable electricity supply to succeed?”

 — Kristy Liao

Sources: DAI, The Guardian, Somalicurrent
Photo: Construction Week Online

National Climate Assessment
Recently, a Green Iowa Americorps member informed me that farmers in the state of Iowa have lost four days of field time since 1896. Due to an increase of approximately 8% in rainfall across the state, farmers now face very rainy springs and drier autumns, both of which threaten the hydrologic balance necessary for crop production.

For Iowa farmers, these changes affect their livelihood from year to year. More rain during the planting season could equate to a season without a harvest, or at least lower yields. These changes also incur anxiety for the state’s residents, many of whom were affected by the large-scale flooding in 2008 and who now look to spring with apprehension.

The Third National Climate Assessment released by the White House on May 5 takes note of the climate changes taking effect across the country, like the ones observed in Iowa, and chastises the definitive changes humans have brought to the world.

The report informs, in detail, how climate change will adversely affect the American water supply, agriculture, human health and ecosystems, among other things.

Despite the report’s thorough and informative nature, as well as its website’s appealing layout, it fails to stress the global impact of American culture on the rest of the world. While the report was created to address the problems of climate within the U.S., it only just addresses the U.S.’s prominence in creating it around the world, thereby creating a blind spot in any discussion of climate and limiting the report’s effectiveness.

Warmer air and higher ocean temperatures, melting ice and snow and an increased presence of diseases spread by mosquitoes and other vectors could disrupt food production and foster global poverty and hunger.

The U.S. itself plays a major role in climate change, a reality this report skims over lightly. While global concerns are mentioned, such as how “global temperatures could cause associated increases in premature deaths related to worsened ozone and particle pollution,” the U.S. isn’t named as one of the prime instigator’s of this trend. Instead, the U.S. is treated as one of the victims.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2008 that the leading CO2 emitters were China, the U.S., the European Union, India, the Russian Federation, Japan and Canada. For third world countries attempting to catch up with the U.S. and other world powers, energy efficient manufacturing means are out of reach, something the U.S. should confront and have a greater hand in supporting.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports that the U.S. consumes 11.65 barrels of petroleum oil per person every single day, and consumes 205,824 Kilowatt-hours of energy per person. In comparison, Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, only consumes one thousandth of a barrel per person and  21.6 Kilowatt-hours of energy per person.

Instead of addressing climate change in order to look after the U.S.’ own domestic interests, the U.S. government and its citizens need to be more responsible for how their actions impact the rest of the world.

— Emily Bajet

Sources: Houston Chronicle, U.S. Global Change, The White House, EPA, The Guardian, Green Alliance, The Guardian(2), EIA
Photo: Flickr

Since 1985, International Rivers has re-examined dam projects across the globe to promote humanitarian and environmental values. The organization is concerned with a widespread over-dependence on hydroelectric power in developing nations, as the substantial negative externalities that accompany damming large rivers frequently go unreported. To combat this problem, the nonprofit employs a variety of methods, including grassroots organizing and political advocacy to diversify energy sources and raise greater awareness about the actual impact of specific hydroelectric projects around the world.

Large dams are an understandably attractive option for governments planning to electrify underdeveloped regions. Utilizing the inherent geophysical landscape, hydroelectric power is a relatively inexpensive energy source. However, International Rivers is one of few interested parties demanding an honest reassessment of this overly-prescribed technique. Damming disrupts the natural flow of sediment, causing devastating agricultural complications for nearby terrain. For example, the Nile lost an estimated 124 million tons of sediment every year prior to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Today, close to 99 percent of that gravel remains behind the structure, resulting in a substantial decrease in soil productivity that has crippled Egypt’s agricultural prospects.

Large dams also disturb the natural workings of ecosystems and, as a result, estuary fish, flora and fauna are perishing alongside these persistent intrusions. Although this may appear to be a niche problem reserved for animal lovers, this over-dependence on hydroelectric power is adversely affecting local economies as well. In Ghana, clamming and sport fishing—once thriving industries—have virtually disappeared after the construction of the Akasombo and Kpong dams. Even worse, the lack of circulation and increased industrialization has proven to be a toxic combination, as pollution and water-based diseases now run rampant through the most accessed waterways of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America

Despite these disconcerting developments, governments around the world continue to call for increased hydroelectric power. In Africa, plans to erect a number of imposing dams are in the works, including a blueprint for a massive Congolese structure that would prove to be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant. In China, there are over 80,000 dams—a number that is expected to increase as the government continues to industrialize the rural southwest region of the country. Despite the poor track record of dams in Central America, political officials continue to appease contractors that seek to capitalize on the short-term economic benefits of exploiting unindustrialized rivers.

Yet, International Rivers is fighting back. The organization is involved in numerous campaigns to stop the construction of unwarranted dams across the globe. These campaigns have partnered with human rights groups, NGOs, researchers and affected communities to broadcast the dangers associated with hydroelectric dependence. The Berkeley-based nonprofit is also researching more environmentally friendly energy sources and taking political action to implement these safer alternatives. The passage of the Electrify Africa Act is a vital fist step, as the new law helps supply geothermal, solar and wind energy sources to nations that are overly reliant on dams. However, International Rivers realizes the importance of allying with foreign governments as well, understanding that persuading the affected countries’ lawmakers is necessary to achieving lasting change.

If you would like to learn more about International River’s campaigns, check out this website.

– Sam Preston

Sources: International Rivers, PBS USGS
Photo: Panos

Climate Change
Recently, the Center for American Progress released a report that examined the link between poverty and climate change. The “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” report was authored by some of the world’s most outstanding scientists and researchers, who argued that the international community must take immediate action against climate change.

According to a paper published by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in April, nations that do not implement clear steps to reduce the inevitable impacts of climate change will likely suffer “crippling costs to do so in the future.” The IPCC also indicated that making the effort to curb climate change would be financially achievable and help contribute to poverty reduction.

Climate change affects public health, safety and quality of life. Those living in poor and developing countries are especially vulnerable to climate change, which the Center cites as a direct cause of “extreme weather events that flatten communities and critical infrastructure, cause food insecurity, give rise to pollution-related illnesses, and disrupt livelihoods.”

Industrialized countries contribute the most to climate change, but developing nations are the ones ultimately unprotected from the deadly effects of extreme weather conditions and natural catastrophes. Climate change is notably detrimental to those whose livelihoods depend on climate-sensitive activities such as farming and agriculture. Additionally, individuals living in poor areas lack the means to adapt quickly to erratic climate patterns.

Eliminating global poverty and reducing climate change have been two enduring and persistent challenges. Experts believe that climate change can no longer be stopped, but attempts should still be made to slow its current rate. Luckily, the international community has plans to develop a comprehensive global development agenda after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015.

The new agenda would provide the necessary direction and guidelines for governments, local institutions and the private sector to downsize poverty and maintain global development projects. Environmental issues were never fully integrated into the Millennium Development Goals, and the upcoming agenda would be a valuable opportunity to do so.

The Center has suggested a number of ideas that should be added to the 2015 agenda (which has an expected expiration date of 2030): eliminating the practice of overfishing, increasing water efficiency in agriculture by 25%, ensuring universal access to modern energy services, preventing the loss of natural forests, reduce global carbon pollution and emissions from energy production, doubling the amount of renewable energy in the global mix and more.

By setting target goals like conserving natural forests and reducing the loss of coastal wetlands by 50%, international leaders could help ensure economic growth and reduce global poverty.

The impending agenda would be a significant step towards making climate change a recognized and urgent issue. And ultimately, those living in extreme poverty would benefit the most from a strong international emphasis on confronting climate change.

– Kristy Liao

Sources: American Progress 1, American Progress 2, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Photo: The Telegraph

Sustainable Energy for All
In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. There are three primary objectives: (1) universal access to modern energy services, (2) doubling the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency and (3) doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The UN established these goals in the hopes of achieving worldwide sustainable energy access by 2030.

Three billion people currently lack access to affordable energy services for basic uses like cooking and heating. Another one billion people rely on erratic power grids. Sustainable Energy for All is an international effort to decrease the scope of this energy access issue. Introducing clean energy would reduce global emissions, improve the lives of the poor and support ongoing development goals. Additionally, embracing clean energy would help keep the average rise of global temperatures in check.

However, renewable energy has just recently become economically comparable to traditional fuels, and bringing clean energy services to rural and remote communities is a challenge. At the current rate of progress, the UN’s objectives under Sustainable Energy for All will likely not be achieved by the desired date. In fact, the International Energy Agency calculates that around 1 billion people will still not have access to electricity in 2030.

Energy inequality is especially significant for women and girls living in poor or secluded areas. Many risk their safety by spending hours a week collecting firewood far away from home. Conventional kerosene lamps and cooking fires contribute to a number of health issues, such as heart disease and breathing issues. To combat the problem, nations like the United States, China and Vietnam have proposed expanding electricity grids. However, the logistics of doing so would be difficult; it is especially expensive for rural communities with low populations.

Luckily, clean energy technologies are becoming more affordable, making them stronger contenders with conventional power sources. However, reaching universal access to energy services would cost $48 billion. Approximately $37 billion is already spent annually on kerosene and traditional cooking fuels, such as charcoal. On the other hand, the clean energy industry is maturing – now constituting $250 billion of the global economy.

A new wave of clean energy entrepreneurs has emerged as a result. SunFarmer, based in the United States, is one of several non-profit organizations that helps bring reliable and affordable solar electricity to hospitals and schools in remote developing areas. The market for solar-powered products (such as televisions, radios and even water pumps) is growing as well. As part of the Sustainable Energy for All campaign, the UN created the Energy Access Practitioner Network in 2011. The Network facilitates the delivery of energy services to developing countries and supports the implementation of new renewable technologies.

In order to fully integrate clean energy services into the developing world, government subsidies for charcoal and kerosene should first be eliminated or decreased. Additionally, tariffs on imports for clean energy products should be abolished; more than 30 countries currently impose taxes on imported products like solar lanterns and clean stoves. Once these policies are addressed, clean energy technologies could have a much better chance of reaching the developing world.

— Kristy Liao

Sources: Huffington Post, Nature, Sustainable Energy, UN Foundation
Photo: United Nations


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In case there were any doubts that climate change is real and in full swing, the new UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on Monday in Yokohama, Japan, provides sobering confirmation of the sweeping consequences brought on by the climate crisis. Even more disconcerting is the report’s assertion that the risks of the planet’s changing climate will affect every corner of the globe, and as one of the leading authors, Professor Neil Adger, states, “no place in the world is immune.” The report emphasizes global impacts of a warming climate that extend far beyond rising seas levels and ecological disasters.

What makes this report stand out from previous IPCC global warming assessments is the all-encompassing nature of the issues described, and the urgency with which society must address these threats. After years of research and work from nearly 2,000 international experts, 436 authors and 309 editors, the IPCC report is a groundbreaking piece of literature that should act as the final wake-up call. The domino effect of environmental, social, political and economic problems associated with increasing global temperatures makes climate change a top priority for governments around the world.

The report breaks down five major areas that are most vulnerable to climate change:

  1. Natural Resources
  2. Food security
  3. Human Security
  4. National Security
  5. Global economy

As the global south experiences longer heat waves, intensified natural disasters and decreased crop production, impoverished nations become increasingly more vulnerable.

Experts estimate that warming temperatures could reduce crop yields by 8 to 15 percent, and that higher CO2 concentrations will reduce the quality and subsequently the nutritional value of many cereals. While the poor certainly get hit hardest, the developed world is not immune to food security issues.

The agricultural sector contributes some of the worst greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock. Unless the U.S. and other developed nations reduce their emissions by seriously cutting back meat and dairy consumption, green house gases are projected to double by 2070.

As food and water become scarce and natural disasters devastate already impoverished areas, governments face increased domestic and international affairs challenges. Climate change exacerbates poverty and economic instability, which increases the risk for violent conflicts and civil war. These rising social tensions increase national security concerns for governments, including the U.S., making poverty reduction that much more urgent in the years to come.

An article featured in the Economist this week, entitled ‘Apocalyptish,’ refers to the shocking realities that the IPCC report reveals. The article calls attention to how “the new assessment for the first time looks at climate change not just as a problem in its own right but as something that is merely part of an even bigger context.” Though the new report features more conservative estimates and predictions about future impacts as compared to past assessments, the IPCC stresses that the multiplying effect of climate change makes imminent uncertainties and vulnerabilities that much more troubling.

While the report may leave readers despondent, the IPCC believes that we still have a chance to mitigate even worse climate change conditions through global cooperation, adaptation and concrete action. The complex, multifaceted threats posed by climate change require equally dynamic and robust solutions. Now, more than ever, the success of future climate change mitigation rests on cohesive international efforts and multilateral agreements amongst all sectors of society.

-Gloria Kostadinova

Sources: The Economist, Independent, Time, IPCC
Photo: The Guardian

A report titled “Right to Food” was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in which the contemporary distribution of food was addressed. Currently, major corporations maintain control over food production and distribution—which has caused problems for society at large.

The World Food Programme stated that there are currently 842 million people without steady access to food. The UN special rapporteur on the right to food asserted that the global food system is in dire need of reform, especially considering some of the significant environmental and technological changes in society. The worldwide human population is expected to rise significantly while limited resources continue to be threatened by a global climate at risk.

Currently, the system of food production and distribution is in the hands of prominent corporations that have utilized the industrial processes to increase the efficiency of resource distribution overall. It has allowed for the global population to expand significantly in the 20th century and will continue to do so regardless of some of the environmental threats we face.

Some of the corporations that control food distribution are ConAgra, Cargill and PepsiCo. In order to be able to maintain their efficiency in distributing food resources, they rely heavily on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fossil fuels to maintain their operations. The industrial revolution marked the start of the utilization of external variables to impact food production. At the time, the global population was rising and the green revolution was necessary to sustain the population.

However, the distribution of food is now becoming outdated with environmental issues, and the system indicates challenges that may require institutional reforms to be addressed. With so much of the global population without stable access to food resources, a rise in global population will further complicate matters.

Moreover, industrial food production also requires intensive freshwater use—which is also a limited resource. So if the United Nations is able to meet its goals of supporting fundamental human rights in the access to food, the industrial food distribution system will have to adapt. Corporate sources of food distribution have been unreliable in allowing for the general population to have access to the resources they need to survive—which is causing the issue to be considered from a human rights perspective.

Society is changing faster than ever before. With the level of technological development today, we can expect to see our world become increasingly fragile. Therefore, sustenance will require the consideration of sound approaches to distribution of resources, such as food.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: TruthDig, FNS
Photo: Zoom in on Poverty

South Africa_struggles
On March 6 and 7, South Africa experienced mass rolling blackouts. The state owned utility company Eskom, which supplies 95% of the country’s energy supply, had to impose the power shortages after heavy rains made much of the coal at power stations too wet to burn.

Eskom has stated that “Customers can expect two to four hours of blackout at a time.” Additionally, it has requested that large industrial customers reduce their energy consumption by 10%. Many large firms have switched to generators for their power but many smaller enterprises have had no alternative to Eskom’s energy.

Domestic users were also asked to cease all non-essential functions and turn off appliances such as swimming pool pumps and water heaters.

While the recent blackouts are the third energy emergency in two weeks, South Africa had not experienced severe energy shortages since 2008. However, the 2008 blackouts cost the economy billions of dollars as factories and mines had to close, South Africa’s credit rating was downgraded and investment flowed out of the country.

Business organizations have already begun warning of the potential risks of the most recent blackouts.

Naren Rau, CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce warned that “If we are looking at power constraints of about a day or two, then our losses would be in the lower billions, but if you’re looking at power constraints of a week or more, it’s going to escalate very fast.” Additionally, officials at London-based Nomura International PLC, have estimated that the power outages may hurt the South African Economy at a rate of .2% of gross domestic product per day.

The blackouts are representative of larger problems facing South Africa. Poor funding has plagued Eskom and the state-owned company is struggling to meet the demands of a population that will double in the next 15 years to nearly 100 million people. It has recently begun building three new coal-fired stations, one of which should have opened in December 2013, but fell behind schedule because of disputes with contractors and labor unions.

Because of its heavy depended on coal and its struggles to increase capacity and meet rising demand, South Africa has begun evaluating expanding into nuclear energy and shale gas.

Eskom’s ability to meet South Africa’s rising energy demands will play a large role in determining the country’s future.

Currently, 31% of South Africans–about 14.5 million people–live below the poverty line. These citizens are not able to cope with the effects of mass power losses as easily as their richer counter parts. In order to protect this most vulnerable part of the South African population, Eskom must correct its structural inefficiencies and increase its energy capacity.

– Martin Levy

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, CIA Factbook
Photo: Positively Parkinson’s

Hydropower in Guyana
Guyana is currently developing a plan to harness Amaila Falls’ potent hydropower, power that is capable of producing electricity (165MW to be exact) for the whole of Guyana, reports The Economist.

The project is set to cost around $840 million and was initially headed by Sithe Global of the global investment and advisory firm, the Blackstone Group. In addition, investments from China Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank were to take part in harnessing the country’s torrents.

However, a lack of unanimous concession by the Guyanese legislative branch has resulted in Sithe Global’s withdrawal from the project. Primary criticisms by legislators were its lack of transparency—particularly the projects expenditures and the engineering plans.

The deals brokering between the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. and its power players remained cloak and dagger, arousing skepticism from the project’s critics.

Despite the halt in the project, it was predicted to minimally affect the ecological community. Moreover, the site of the project, located at the intersection of the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers is 30 km from the nearest community, supposedly to avoid disturbing any local villages in the region.

With the promise of hydroelectricity in 2017, Guyana could possibly reduce its reliance on imported oil although the cost of electricity will remain expensive.

Furthermore, with a shift to hydropower, green house gas emissions (GHG) were projected to decrease by 87%.

It’s realization would have cost the federally funded Guyana Power and Light (GPL) company to pay an estimated $100 million a year to the aforementioned investment groups and companies.

Despite the country’s massive potential for hydroelectricity, the project remains at a standstill. The secrecy of the project propelled its main investors, from remaining with the project. Yet, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar recently stated that Sithe Global is still very much interested in the project, pending Parliament’s unanimous agreement.

Regardless of legislative decision, the go-ahead for the project remains largely with Sithe Global, who possesses the license to Amaila Falls’ development.

– Miles Abadilla

Sources: Amaila Hydropower, The Economist, Fox News, Kaieteur News
Photo: Wondermodo

Wasted Electricity Can Be Prevented and Redistributed
Energy efficiency is extremely important for the economy and a green future. However, that statement seems to be undervalued in the U.S. for the amount of energy efficiency estimates to around 43.8% whereas the amount of wasted electricity is estimated at 56.2%. In other words, Americans are wasting more energy than their actual usage. A fifth of the wasted energy actually comes from commercial and residential buildings.

In residential buildings, the most common type of wasting energy is people leaving their light on when they are not at home, keeping their computers running when they are not in use or simply leaving appliances plugged in. In commercial buildings, companies leave their lights on to showcase the offices and keep companies on standby.

Even in educational buildings, computers in the libraries and computers in media labs are kept on around 12 to 16 hours a day. When computers are on standby, they consume less energy, but the large amount of computers causes the huge waste in electricity.

Saving on energy is saving money. People can reduce their energy cost and spend in more useful ways. To illustrate one instance, reducing energy cost for companies can mean more profitability, higher pay for employees or passing the savings down to the consumers.

Saving energy is not difficult, and it is an effective means of saving money. By reducing electric consumption by only 1.7 TWH — or 0.002%of total residential energy consumption — people can save more than one billion dollars each year.

Around the world, more than 1.6 billion people are living without electricity.  Saving energy might be an interesting solution that contributes beneficially to such urgencies.

Consider how the saved income from prevented energy waste can be distributed to aid a cause ending global poverty: Lets say one billion dollars saved from saving energy, 17,000 farmers can be trained, 10,000 hectares of land can be under protection and almost 600 kilometers of road can be built to offer better transportation and facilitate the world economy. One billion dollars is also equal to one-fifth of the United Nations Development Program’s budget and one-fourth of the World Food Program’s annual budget.

Phong Pham

Sources: Oil Price, MN Energy Challenge, Tree Hugger