Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

47 of the World's Poorest Nations Aim to Use Completely Green Energy
A recent U.N. climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco demonstrated that the multinational fight against rising global temperatures continues, as the event ended with 47 of the world’s poorest nations pledging to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

The goal was set in place during the conference’s Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a meeting designed to discuss methods in which nations could meet benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Deal. Haiti, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Malawi, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Cambodia, Sudan and many other nations made the commitment to transfer to renewable energy.

The Paris Climate Deal is an agreement reached by 195 nations during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference to limit the average rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Switching to renewable energy sources will allow the world’s poorest nations to avoid the mistakes of more developed nations, also known as “leapfrogging.” Though the term is usually used for economics and business, it describes the ability of parties to avoid the problems plaguing their more developed counterparts by skipping over these problems entirely.

For example, the world’s poorest nations switching to renewable energy sources allows them to fuel economic growth without raising greenhouse gas emissions to dangerously high levels, like countries such as the U.S. have done.

The nations in agreement planned to have 100 percent renewable energy systems in place sometime between 2030 and 2050. Each nation must turn in a detailed plan to reach this goal to the U.N. by 2020.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions may also help the world’s poorest nations increase water and food security, as some of the nations are part of the Vulnerable Twenty — the group of nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

For example, Bangladesh already suffers from flooding and rising sea levels due to its low elevation. Cyclones regularly displace the country’s 156 million people. Though the country had planned to build 24 coal power plants to expand energy access to the half of the population that lives off the grid, the CLF called for Bangladesh to use sustainable energy to meet this demand. Coal power plants will only worsen the catastrophic events Bangladesh experiences due to climate change.

The success of the Paris Climate Deal will hinge largely on monetary contributions from developed nations which agreed to contribute $100 billion to sustainable energy initiatives. The U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion.

The goals of the climate agreement are put in jeopardy if powerful nations defer or abandon their contributions. So far, the U.S. has only contributed $500,000 of their promised contribution.

Though the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stated he will cancel the U.S.’s part in the Paris climate agreement, in recent interviews Trump said he will simply keep “an open mind” about the agreement.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Avant Garde Innovations Creates Wind Energy in India
Based on the most recent data available by the World Bank, wind energy in India only comprises 0.4 percent of the total final energy consumption for the nation. Renewable energy calculates higher at approximately 39 percent, but there is still room for improvement for the entire clean energy sector. Hoping to fill some of the voids, Avant Garde Innovations will soon test the market with a newly developed wind turbine.

Avant Garde Innovations (AGI) was founded in January 2015 by two brothers, Arun and Anoop George. Based out of Thiruvananthapuram on the southern tip of the subcontinent, the mission of the organization is “to eliminate energy poverty, reduce dependence on struggling state power grids, and create energy self-sufficiency.” They also place emphasis on affordable, locally operated products. As such, the first move toward this goal was the construction of a windmill prototype intended to eventually replace nonrenewable energy sources throughout India, particularly in households.

AGI’s turbine is unique in its smaller size, producing slightly less energy but at a dramatically lower cost. Right now, competitors offer windmills to develop wind energy in India for about 200,000 rupees per kilowatt, but AGI’s model is only expected to cost 50,000 rupees per kilowatt – a 75 percent reduction in price! Some media sources are even boasting comparisons that a typical Indian family will now be able to install windmills to power their entire homes for less than the price of an iPhone. In terms of power, AGI expects 20 percent capacity utilization in contrast to the 25 percent capacity utilization of larger mills. However, even at this rate, their turbines can produce five units of power every day, which is plenty for the average-sized household.

For the moment, the first AGI turbine has been constructed outside of the Madre De Deus Church in Vettucaud, India where it will undergo its pilot testing phase this January. Once the trial is complete, AGI intends a full launch in the international market during the first quarter of 2017, and investors are already showing interest. The Indian government also aims to formally introduce the design by 2022.

Their updated windmill is not the only reason to find promise in AGI, however. Arun believes the patent-pending design is transferable, which could form the foundation of future projects such as hydro- and tidal turbines, and potentially even an automobile motor. The basic blueprint is also said to require little maintenance, and will still be able to generate power at lower wind speeds than competitors’ offerings.

As a result of their startup success, the organization has already been honored with numerous accolades. To name a few, AGI has been invited to attend exclusive conferences hosted by the U.N. as well as a major energy forum in Silicon Valley, California. Drawing further attention is their commitment to operating on 100 percent clean energy themselves. For the future of wind energy in India, AGI’s business model is a major step on the path toward sustainability.

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Power Africa Initiative
President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative is looking to solve a monster problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where two out of three people lack access to electricity. Power Africa suggests “ambitious but achievable” goals, including the creation of 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 megawatts of new and cleaner power.

According to President Barack Obama, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity.” With Power Africa, the U.S. is investing in Africa’s potential. Obama has brought together private and public organizations, political leaders and power generation experts with the goal of improving peoples’ quality of life and stimulating economic growth.

USAID’s goal with the Power Africa Initiative has been “to remove barriers that impede sustainable development.” A recent article in Bloomberg, however, claims that after three years, those barriers are still in place.

Writers Toluse Olorunnipa and Tope Alake cite evidence that Power Africa “has fallen well short of its goals, so far producing less than 5 percent of the new power generation it promised.” They highlight political dysfunction, policy bundling and economic hurdles as major obstacles to progress.

USAID, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, is aiming to implement policy and regulatory reforms, and the Department of Energy has partnered with the Clean Energy Solutions Center in the Power Africa Initiative to “help governments design and adopt policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies.”

With over 120 public and private partners, the Power Africa Initiative has the potential to make an enormous impact in the African continent, despite the bleak progress reported.

In September 2016, President Obama argued that progress is being made, citing successes involving “solar power and natural gas in Nigeria; off-grid energy in Tanzania; people in rural Rwanda gaining electricity.”

Obama went on to say that the global community must continue to invest in Africa’s youth in order to build upon the progress that has already been made. It may be that maximizing investment in Africa’s young people will “spur Africa’s energy revolution.”

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to assume office, his choice of cabinet members is demonstrating a philosophical shift in foreign policy. It is uncertain at this point whether the incoming U.S. administration will continue to support international development projects such as Power Africa.

As long as funding continues, however, the initiative will continue to make an impact.

Tim Devine

Photo: Flickr

SunSaluter: Energy, Water and Jobs Rolled Into One
There are upward 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

Poverty in Senegal
Senegal is a rapidly developing nation in West Africa. Like many developing nations, it is gaining access to lots of new technologies but still lacks many key tools for effective education among other issues.

More specifically, many schools in Senegal do not have electricity. While many technologies exist to foster education that can help to raise people out of poverty, few of these technologies can be used without a stable power source. However, the oil industry is emerging in strength and may be able to help end poverty in Senegal.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Senegal’s economy has been stable and growing at a rate of 6 percent. This is in part due to the development of the country’s oil industry. Oil is one of the world’s most demanded commodities. Despite this fact, the oil resources of Senegal and West Africa are mostly untapped.

Yet, interest in the region is increasing. The Scottish-based company Cairn Energy has stated they plan to spend nearly $70 million exploring projects to drill in Senegal; Australia’s FAR Ltd is considering setting up commercial operations in a basin off of the coast. This basin is speculated to contain at least 200 million barrels worth of oil.

The managing director of FAR’s development plan said that the expansion plan will yield “a world class oil field that can support a commercial development.” FAR has also noted that the costs of operating offshore have decreased by more than 20 percent since 2014. Because poverty in Senegal affects so many citizens, the government must take advantage of their emerging position as a major oil producer for the region.

Senegal’s economy is based largely in the agricultural sector. In addition to the lack of educational technology, poverty in Senegal often stems from agricultural workers who face the threats of drought and climate change.

However, the country benefits from peaceful leadership and one of the most stable democracies on the continent. With this in mind, the burgeoning oil industry may be able to help end poverty in Senegal.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

GravityLight Glowing on Developing Countries
The GravityLight Foundation developed a gravity-powered LED lamp funded by Siemens to provide energy access in developing countries. The aim is to reach 15,000 people in off-grid areas of developing countries by 2017.

The light harnesses kinetic energy from gravity activated by a 12-kilogram weight. The weight can be made from accessible sources such as a bag of sand or rock. The resulting light lasts for 20-30 minutes, takes three seconds to recharge and is six times brighter than a kerosene lamp.

GravityLight costs approximately $10 and pays for itself over the course of two to three months when the cost of kerosene is removed.

The project is funded by Siemens Stiftung, a German engineering firm that sponsors a competition for sustainable development improvements. The gravity-powered light was chosen as the winner from 800 submissions across 88 countries.

GravityLight was tested in 26 countries with 55 partner organizations. Feedback received during these trials from countries such as Liberia, Guatemala and the Philippines provided invaluable feedback regarding the use of the light and the needs of those living off the grid.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains that 1.2 billion people in developing countries do not have adequate access to safe and affordable lighting. Kerosene is expensive, dangerous and an environmental hazard.

According to the World Bank, kerosene costs 20-30 percent of a family’s income. Approximately $38 billion per year is spent on kerosene, the equivalent of $80 per kilowatt hour for electricity, among the world’s poorest citizens.

A kerosene lamp burning for four hours emits 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Additionally, inhaled kerosene fumes are the equivalent of 40 cigarettes per day, killing approximately 1.5 million Africans every year.

The GravityLight Foundation intends to locally produce the lamps, creating a market for skilled jobs and contributing to local economies. The foundation is currently testing assembly in Kenya. The next goal is to provide GravityLight to 100,000 people in Indonesia and Peru in 2018.

Dependable lighting is taken for granted in developed countries. Technology such as GravityLight can change social dynamics in developing countries by allowing children to complete homework after dark, allowing adults to work longer and allowing families and friends to come together for interaction and other activities.

Light, even for just a few additional hours per day, can change lives and create opportunities in developing countries.

Mandy Otis

Photo: Flickr

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

KOICA CTS
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