Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

Examples of Sustainable Development Project Resource Management Sustainability
Although sustainable development is defined in multiple ways, the most often cited definition of the term comes from the Bruntland Report titled, “Our Common Future.” According to the report, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” From this particular definition, sustainable development can be reduced to two key concepts: needs and limitations. Needs refers to those in need—the world’s poor.  The limitations are those “imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.” Though many examples of sustainable development exist, the leading models are discussed below.


Top Five Examples of Sustainable Development


  1. Solar Energy: The greatest advantages of solar energy are that it is completely free and is available in limitless supply. Both of these factors provide a huge benefit to consumers and help reduce pollution. Replacing non-renewable energy with this type of energy is both environmentally and financially effective.
  2. Wind Energy: Wind energy is another readily available energy source. Harnessing the power of wind energy necessitates the use of windmills; however, due to construction cost and finding a suitable location, this kind of energy is meant to service more than just the individual. Wind energy can supplement or even replace the cost of grid power, and therefore may be a good investment and remains a great example of sustainable development.
  3. Crop Rotation: Crop rotation is defined as “the successive planting of different crops on the same land to improve soil fertility and help control insects and diseases.” This farming practice is beneficial in several ways, most notably because it is chemical-free. Crop rotation has been proven to maximize the growth potential of land, while also preventing disease and insects in the soil. Not only can this form of development benefit commercial farmers, but it can also aid those who garden at home.
  4. Efficient Water Fixtures: Replacing current construction practices and supporting the installation of efficient shower heads, toilets and other water appliances can conserve one of Earth’s most precious resources: water. Examples of efficient fixtures include products from the EPA’s WaterSense program, as well as dual-flush and composting toilets. According to the EPA, it takes a lot of energy to produce and transport water and to process waste water, and since less than one percent of the Earth’s available water supply is fresh water, it is important that sustainable water use is employed at the individual and societal level.
  5. Green Space: Green spaces include parks and other areas where plants and wildlife are encouraged to thrive. These spaces also offer the public great opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, especially in dense, urban areas. According to the UW-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning, advantages of green spaces include, “helping regulate air quality and climate … reducing energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces … recharging groundwater supplies and protecting lakes and streams from polluted runoff.” Research conducted in the U.K. by the University of Exeter Medical School also found that moving to a greener area could lead to significant and lasting improvements to an individual’s mental health.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: World Bank , International Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentGreen Living, Science Daily, Project Evergreen, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Photo: UN

The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is a Korean organization that promotes global development. In 2015, they launched an initiative known as Creative Technology Solutions (CTS). CTS awards grants to a select number of research projects that could potentially provide innovative breakthroughs in global development.

A rigorous application process is required to select recipients of the grant. First, written proposals are accepted. Among the initial candidates, few are chosen to give presentations on their proposals. Those who pass the presentation stage are then given interviews and tested on their problem-solving ability. Candidates who make it through all stages are promised a grant to fund their research.

In 2015, 10 teams were selected from the 99 that applied. One research project involved designing a portable autorefractor, which provides detailed imaging of the eye, allowing a quick diagnosis of vision problems. According to KOICA, 80 percent of cases of blindness could have been prevented with a routine checkup, so providing a method of quick and efficient diagnosis should be beneficial to combating visual impairment, especially in underdeveloped nations.

Another team has developed a solar energy system that can be cost-effectively installed in houses that do not otherwise have access to energy. This solar home system is being tested in Cambodia. With the help of this device, Cambodia hopes to increase the percentage of rural households with access to electricity from 57 percent to at least 70 percent.

In addition to creating effective technological solutions, KOICA CTS also aims for a widespread outreach. They are planning to be active in various countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Latin America. Second round searches for grant recipients have already launched on July 18 of this year.

The practice of awarding grants in this fashion is reminiscent of the Grand Challenges initiative, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began in an effort to fund research going towards global development.

In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation considered the launch of the second round of KOICA CTS as the beginning of Grand Challenges South Korea. This means that CTS will be working more closely with other groups involved in Grand Challenges. The likelihood of strengthening these efforts through the addition of CTS, and increasing research is starting to look very hopeful.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr

Pollinate Energy
India is a country that is home to 1.3 billion people and counting. Despite rapid innovation and expansion in the country, a significant portion of the population live in slums.

In fact, as of 2014, 24 percent of the urban population of India resided in slum housing. Slum housing is any housing that may lack structural integrity or space, access to clean water or sanitation or where residents do not have security of tenure.

With such a large population living in slums, there is a serious need for affordable energy. Yet electricity from the power sector in India is very unreliable and power outages of 20 hours or more occur often. As a result, many people who reside in India’s slums rely on kerosene as fuel. While kerosene is an effective substitute for an unreliable power sector, it is not cost efficient and can cause household and environmental air pollution.

To improve access to sustainable energy in India’s slums, one organization called Pollinate Energy has implemented a unique business strategy. In what Pollinate Energy calls “social business,” a salesman or “pollinator” builds connections with locals in Indian slums.

The pollinator may teach the locals about the benefits of using renewable energy and the potential negative effects of using kerosene for light or cooking. If the community members want to purchase sustainable energy products from the pollinator they can buy them at an affordable price.

Plus, if the customers are satisfied with the products, they may act as “worker bees” that refer other community members to the pollinator in return for products or commission.

This business model encourages the adoption of reliable, sustainable energy products in India’s slums and allows consumers to become entrepreneurs in their own communities.

According to their annual report, in 2014-15 Pollinate Energy sold over 9,000 products to nearly 43,000 individuals in India. These products helped save 43.7 million Rupees and eliminated 2,000 tons of potential CO2 emissions for consumers who would have bought and used kerosene for light and cooking.

For at-risk individuals like those who live in slums, any money that can be saved could be used for other essential goods like food, water or medicine. Though systematic change is necessary to fully help those who reside in slums around the world, Pollinate Energy is making a positive difference by providing clean energy products and job opportunities to those in need.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

Electricity in Africa
General Electric, or GE, has been a household brand and extraordinarily successful energy company since the early 20th century in the United States; however, few Americans know about the huge impact that GE has had in Africa.

While GE has operated in Africa for over a century, in 2011 the company began investing heavily in African power. The company currently operates in Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Among those, South Africa has the most robust power grid, with 80 percent of its rural homes having access to electricity.

For most other parts of Africa, access to electricity is far less abundant. In a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2013 an estimated 635 million or two-thirds of the population in Africa lived without electricity. All but 1 million of these individuals were located in the sub-Saharan region.

The almost universal lack of energy in Africa is a very costly problem. The IEA estimates that it would require over $300 billion in investments to achieve universal access by 2030.

Despite the seemingly dire status of infrastructure for electricity in Africa, GE has committed many significant resources across the continent in the past few years. GE employs 2,600 people in Africa, reports $4 billion in revenues and sponsors a volunteer program in various African countries.

The energy company also plans to expand to countries whose economies are struggling like Ethiopia and Mozambique. Just a quarter of the population of Ethiopia and only a fifth of the population of Mozambique had access to electricity in 2012 according to World Bank data.

A recent GE project will add a 300 megawatt system to Ghana this year, bringing an additional 20 percent of electrical capacity to the country’s entire grid.

Global CEO of GE, Steve Bolze commented on the company’s progress in Africa, saying “Africa for now is a $4 billion business for GE. It’s a big business. It’s going double digit. Our power business is close to 35 percent of that.” Additionally, the company plans to invest $2 billion in Africa in the next two years, and double its African workforce.

John English

Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in AfricaRenewable energy in Africa is one of the continent’s most promising industries. The Africa Progress Panel acts as one of the many entities responsible for making renewable energy such a priority across the continent.

The Africa Progress Panel

The Africa Progress Panel is run by 10 members and founded in 2008. Kofi Annan, recipient of the 2001 Noble Peace Prize and one-time United Nations Secretary-General, serves as chairman for the panel.

The remaining members come from all walks of life and numerous professional backgrounds. Politicians, economists and advocates representing organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank make up the Africa Progress Panel.

The overarching mission of the panel is to “advocate for equitable and sustainable development for Africa.” The organization’s advocacy covers numerous areas, including agriculture and education, but the group’s most recent focus is energy.

Africa and Renewable Energy

Africa’s natural resources represent a great opportunity for renewable energy to prosper in the continent, but millions of Africans continue to live without access to electricity. The role of the Africa Progress Panel is to influence African governments and international entities, such as The World Bank, to invest in low-carbon or renewable energy projects that move away from the dangers of fossil fuels and bring quick and widespread energy access to citizens.

Caroline Kende-Robb, the Africa Progress Panel’s executive director, wrote in an editorial piece that the panel hopes by 2030 energy will be available worldwide. The Africa Progress Panel’s 2015 “Power, People, Planet” edition of their annual publication — the Africa Progress Report — focused on achieving this goal.

Power, People, Planet

In this report, the panel outlines a number of proposals to governments, organizations and companies both inside and outside of Africa. These recommendations include terminating subsidies for fossil fuels, creating new urban centers with renewable energy in mind, setting higher goals for energy production, increasing international financing and enhancing both innovation and transparency.

Thankfully, the panel’s recommendations are taking hold — Africa is quickly becoming a hotbed of renewable energy. Solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal projects are expanding across the continent as countries begin surpassing their benchmarks for energy expansion and financing.

A recent article by CNN explores many of these projects, including the Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant in Kenya, which will eventually energize more then 250,000 homes throughout the country, and Rwanda’s Solar Power field, which brings electricity to 15,000 households.

Poverty-ending Potential

These new initiatives in renewable energy in Africa have the potential to end poverty for millions of Africans. According to the Africa Progress Panel’s Africa Progress Report 2015 – Power, People, Planet, new renewable energy bring “prices as low as US$1-2/kWh, implying cost reductions of 80-90 per cent”.

Many Africans are extremely dependent on agriculture, as it is one of the continent’s largest industries. The Africa Progress Report 2015 expressed that the inconsistent availability of energy is damaging yields for farmers and forcing them to use techniques that are harmful to the environment. New technology will not only bring electricity to countless homes, it will also re-energize agriculture in Africa by helping to produce more food and protecting the ecosystem.

This rise of renewable energy in Africa will introduce light to the dark, impoverished and long forgotten corners of the continent.

Liam Travers

Photo: Pixabay

Caterpillar increases energy access
Caterpillar, the globally-recognized U.S. construction equipment company, is leading the fight against energy poverty in the Central African country of Cameroon. Priding itself on its commitment to sustainability and social change, Caterpillar has increased energy access in Doula, Cameroon’s largest city. The company plans to expand its reach by joining hands with Altaaqa Global.

Altaaqa Global is a rental dealer of Caterpillar products, and the company’s goal is to ensure that electricity is dependably supplied to vulnerable communities. Through its new customer development program, Altaaqa Global and Caterpillar plan to increase energy access by providing local employees with the technical knowledge needed to manage Doula’s natural gas power plant.

As Fahah Y. Zahid, the chairman of Altaaqa Global, explains, “We have always aimed to play an active role in spurring growth and progress not only by providing a reliable supply of electricity but also by transferring knowledge to locals. We hope that the Customer Development Program yields a globally competitive workforce that will drive the continuous growth of Cameroon.”

Plagued by a lack of energy access, Doula faces extreme poverty, which affects 13 percent of the city’s population, as well as a 30 percent unemployment rate. Caterpillar and Altaaqa Global’s work is thus crucially important because providing Doula citizens with electricity will lead to greater economic growth.

In May 2015, the Government of Cameroon announced that it wanted to achieve “economic emergence” by 2035. Thanks to Caterpillar and Altaaqa Global, the government’s target may be within reach.

While Caterpillar increases energy access in Doula with the help of Altaaqa Global, more people will use the newfound electricity to gain an education, start their own businesses or find jobs. As a result of these new opportunities, Doula’s residents can effectively contribute to Cameroon’s success and help the country become the economic powerhouse it has the potential to be.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Pixabay

Solar and wind energy projects have been praised as potential ways to reduce global poverty. But German start-up organization B-Energy is promoting an efficient use of another form of renewable energy to improve life in the developing world.

B-Energy has supplied households in Africa with biogas balloon backpacks, digester systems and stoves to help them convert organic waste into harnessed biogas. The energy that the bags and digesters produce can serve as cooking fuel and provide people with a source of income.

Developing countries have struggled to supply stable forms of energy to many of their inhabitants. According to the World Energy Outlook, approximately 80 percent of people without electricity live in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. With no other alternative for energy, many people rely on biogas and struggle to efficiently transport and store it.

Founded by German entrepreneur Katrin Puetz, B-Energy serves as an innovative and affordable system that offers a reliable source of energy from human and animal waste and agricultural residue. B-Energy’s method revolves around its ‘B-pack’, which is an inflatable balloon backpack that holds methane gas produced from waste in a biogas plant or digester. People without their own plant can refill their B-packs at a nearby digester.

According to the BBC, each bag comes with a metal pipe, which users can attach to a gas-cooking stove. The bags hold 1.2 cubic meters of gas—enough for about five hours of cooking—and spare households from relying on wooden fires to prepare food.

Another key aspect of B-Energy’s system is that it creates entrepreneurial opportunities. As a “social business venture,” Puetz’s start-up encourages individuals with biogas digesters to sell their biogas to households. People with B-packs can also profit from supplying their leftover gas to others. B-Energy even provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a beginner’s kit—which includes a biogas digester, B-backpacks and stoves—and professional training to help them launch their biogas business.

Since its inception in 2014, B-Energy has steadily grown, establishing franchises in Sudan and Ethiopia. Puetz refused to accept grants from global charities in order to prove that her enterprise can be self-sufficient.

Moving forward, a significant obstacle for B-Energy is to determine how to lower the cost of its system. The Inter Press Service has reported that Ethiopians have to pay approximately 12,000 birr—equivalent to $600—for a biogas plant, two backpacks and a cooking stove.

Puetz hopes to make the B-Energy systems more affordable by allowing franchises and households to pay in installments. This change would expand access to his innovative energy solution and assist countless more in need.

Sam Turken

Photo: Geographical

Energy poverty
Access to energy around the world, and 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

An energy crisis in Haiti has developed due to a high dependency on charcoal and an extremely damaged electricity sector. These challenges result in a lack of affordable and reliable electricity for Haitian businesses and individuals alike.

In the summer of 2015, three students attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to establish a computer center at Le Villages des Petits Princes School.

The students ran a six-week computer literacy program at the center, teaching basic computer skills to Haitian youth from the surrounding area of Port-au-Prince. The youth participating in the program, ages 11-20, worked in pairs to learn how to use applications such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

52 Haitian youth participated in the program last year. Currently, the computer center serves over 300 people and sustains 20 open office hours a week.

Over the past year, complications in powering the computer center have come to light.

According to the World Bank, less than 38 percent of the Haitian population has access to electricity. Furthermore, users in Port-au-Prince who do have access to electricity only have an average of 10 hours of service per day available.

This energy crisis in Haiti leads households, schools and businesses to install costly and environmentally detrimental generators, such as the gas-powered generator used to operate the computer center at Le Villages des Petits Princes School.

Simply running the computer center requires 60 gallons of gas per month, costing nearly $240.

In order to combat complications of the energy crisis in Haiti, the Lewis and Clark students are partnering with Enersa, Haiti’s first and only designer and manufacturer of solar panels and solar appliances.

The Portland students are returning to Port-au-Prince in July 2016 to educate the community on renewable energy and help Enersa train locals as solar power technicians, in order to maintain the installed panels. The installed solar panels will sufficiently provide electricity for the computer center in addition to other classroom facilities at the school.

Interestingly, Valcourt Honore, one of the three Lewis and Clark students, grew up in a town within the surrounding area of Port-au-Prince.

In a program overview written by the students Honore stated, “Growing up in Carrefour-feuilles, I feel so grateful, fortunate and proud to make a difference in this neighborhood. It is such a great feeling to impact my friends’ life in a way that they have never expected; I am very grateful to have that opportunity.”

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr


Cheap Solar Power to Zambia
The World Bank has enabled three companies—First Solar Inc. from the U.S., Neoen SAS from France and Enel SA from Italy—to provide the cheapest solar power on the entire African continent to Zambia.

First Solar Inc. and Neoen SAS will jointly provide electricity to Zambian homes for 6.02 cents per kilowatt-hour, while Enel SA will be selling electricity for 7.84 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Through financial services as well as insurance and advisory roles, the World Bank, International Finance Corp. and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency have created a sustainable energy movement through the Scaling Solar program. In addition, these groups are also investing in solar power for other sub-Saharan countries, such as Madagascar and Senegal.

This comes at a time in which renewable energy markets are emerging all over the world and becoming increasingly important. Investing in these companies and projects will allow electricity to expand to homes across the globe. As individuals who can afford it begin to purchase electricity, they will join the international market as new consumers of power.

Set for construction in the capital city of Lusaka, the private companies plan to complete their projects by mid-2017. They will work with local Zambian organizations, such as ZESCO, the state-run utility mogul, to ensure seamless operative standards between these international powers.

In recent years, the South African region has shown economic promise. Debt levels across the entire continent remain low and there is a set spending cap in the region. Consequently, these fiscal improvements have yielded an environment in which projects like cheap solar power can flourish.

Investing in countries stricken by poverty is an ideal way to receive a return on investment in U.S. companies, as citizens of those regions become future consumers of U.S. goods and services as they escape the cycle of poverty.

In the quest to intersect sustainability and capitalist ventures, bringing cheap solar power to Zambia—and hopefully to the rest of the continent—is a step in the right direction.

Connor Borden

Photo: Greentechlead