Monday, 31 July 2017

Highlights of Talk on SDG7: Affordable & Clean Energy Access

Below are the highlights of my virtual presentation given on SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy at the World Merit Youth Summit, SDGInfo session, at Bohol, The Philippines on June 24, 2017.

The idea is to explain briefly the 7th sustainable development goal and what it means and then to share takeaways from the rural and urban components of Sunshine Millennium, list a few best practices for ensuring Affordable and Clean Energy from India and finally to highlight solutions that would work in The Philippine and more specifically Bohol. 
The global goals for sustainable development are more comprehensive than 8 millennium development goals and are a clearer roadmap for planet-friendly development.

 •             Energy is key for sustainable development and poverty eradication. SDG7 is ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. by providing access to clean and cheap energy we can address all the SDGs, this is where the concept of interrelatedness and interlinkages comes in: SSG7 underpins progress on other SDGs such as health and education, gender equality, economic growth and climate action.
             Yet One in five people still lacks access to modern electricity
             The Urban Rural Divide is glaring in energy access – it is also poor in conflict affected zone and part of a vicious cycle there.
             Nearly 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. and 4.3 million people are dying prematurely annually as a result of household air pollution resulting from cooking and heating with smoky traditional fuels.
             Unclean fuel is a dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions
             Reducing the carbon intensity of energy is a key objective in long-term climate goals.

But my focus in this presentation will be on renewable energy solutions. Renewable energy (RE) technology especially solar and wind energy systems both successful in parts of India. Wind energy especially has been popular in my home state of Tamil Nadu.
We a still hovering around 19%  share of renewable energy in the world’s total final energy consumption – this includes hydropower, solid and liquid biofuels, wind, the sun, biogas, geothermal and marine sources, and waste.
Even though RE accounted for 60% of all new power-generating capacity since 2014. The absolute number of people relying on polluting fuels and technologies including solid fuels and kerosene, is unacceptably high and accounts for nearly half the world population.

By combining the corporate social responsibility mandate Sunshine Millennium  aims to set up green, off-grid solar or other renewable energy powered smart millennium centres – with RWH, composting, biogas production and a telemedicine corner . The hope is that the smart centre will function as a green enterprise incubator which encourages women entrepreneurs and women’s empowerment.
Key Takeaways from Sunshine Millennium are the importance of the following:
  • Community engagement
  • Community participation
  • It’s essential to Address local needs
  • Also its best to Concentrate on using donations in kind and time to avoid the possibility of diverting funds to line corrupt powerbroker’s pockets – look for communities with strong women leaders they are more open to inviting developmental initiatives that uplifts the whole community as I have seen with my interactions with women panchayat leaders – A panchayat is a grassroots local self-government organization popular across India and parts of South Asia.

 Best Practices in Ensuring Affordable and Clean Energy
Examples and pilot projects that work in India which can be adopted or scaled-up anywhere especially in the Philippines or Bohol.
The first of the examples I share is the rooftop wind energy system by AvantGarde Innovation from Kerala, India. Their publicity is just awesome where the investment is explained beautifully as one-time investment the cost of an iphone (INR 50,000, USD 750, 39000 Pesos) and enough electricity to run a household - 3-5 kiloWatt hours of electricity.

The next person is Mr. D Suresh of Chennai a retired business man who has turned his home into a solar powered and biogas fuelled green home. “Solar” Suresh as he is known - is the face of a layperson pioneering adapting the technology efficiently at home. His solar panels provide a Kilowatt of power per 80sqft; 3kw system (which costs up to Rs. 2,50,000) is an on-gird and battery backed up system. It powers 11 fans, 25 lights, a refrigerator, two computers, a water pump, two televisions, a mixer-grinder, a washing machine and an inverter AC. I have attended his talks and he explains very simply the steps involved in going green – he also helps individuals, schools and businesses adopt on-grid rooftop solar energy systems. He made news during the December 2015 Chennai floods and again during the Cyclone Vardah in December 2016 as his home was one of the few with electricity amidst city-wide days long power shutdown as a result of the natural disasters.

Mr. Suresh also composts his kitchen waste and has a very efficient 1-cubic metre capacity Biogas plant in his compound which turns kitchen waste to cooking fuel, it processes around 10kg organic waste and can produce about 20kg of gas per month. As the methane from the biogas plant is not pressurized like the LPG (liquefied petroleum gas cylinders used for cooking in our homes) there is no danger of explosion or fire hazard due to gas leak.
Please note that on a larger scale washed biogas can be liquefied and filled in cylinders – to make the very clean automobile fuel LNG cylinders that power green taxis and tuk-tuks in my country. Although this has not picked up as much as natural gas exploration with the added devastation of agricultural and river basin lands.
The international NGO Greenpeace’s  Solar Shakti campaign is also worth noting – Their solar powered Solar Comet  was launched this Environment Day on  June 5, 2017 . This wonderful campaign shares the experiences of solar adopters and assists in going solar. It has great public outreach. Perhaps the most effective PR is from the solar comet as solar powered bus is equipped with household devices that can run on solar power produced by the panels atop this mobile unit. This shows the public that going solar won’t disrupt their routines but will only end up saving money by off-setting the massive bills that are normal in middle class households with a/cs in Tropical India.

Rural Indian women solar engineers from Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan are unique. They demonstrate that even the illiterate can be trained in setting up and maintaining solar panels, solar street lighting system and manufacturing and selling solar lamps and other solar products. Hence by ensuring affordable and clean energy access these women and villagers are becoming professionals and are empowered by solar technology.

The next example in the use of physical energy to generate electricity.
Teenager Jose Remya of a village in Kerala has put together a cycle powered washing machine which could easily be transformed into a electricity generator.
This shows that by fostering innovation,  good science teachers and rewarding science projects even in the school level we can solve our problems of clean energy generation.
The bike dynamo and the physics of kinetic to electrical energy conversion is part of high school physics but it took Manoj Bhargava and the Billions in Change project in 2015 to come up with the Free Electric Bike where 1 hour physical energy (Kinetic) can produce 5 hours of electricity.  
(c) The Hindu

While a little controversial I also need to highlight Waste to Energy plants as they tackle both the solid waste disposal problem and provides energy security. Definitely not as polluting as coal powered thermal energy plants. The successes of such zero emission plants in Scandinavia and Japan makes it something to look into especially if landfills are a problem in your countries and communities.
Plastic pollution is also a major problem that can be tackled by Plastic to Fuel systems which are WtE on  a small scale. There is both Indian and Japanese plastic oiling systems. If such systems are combined with solar energy generators and set up in urban slums   especially this will provide employment opportunities, recycle the deadly plastic waste, tackle the plastic menace and produce a smokeless fuel that can be used in the poorer kitchens instead of kerosene.

Now we move onto looking at the SDG7 in the Philippines – your nation and population is spread out over tens of thousands of island communities. This in itself is a major challenge to ensuring affordable and clean energy access for all.
As the world gorges on fossil fuels being a nation of islands you are greatly at risk of sea level rise and on the path of the extreme weather patterns that are a consequence of climate change. So prioritizing clean energy is important in more ways than one to your nation like it is in mine.
I need to reemphasize the it’s not just about electricity it’s also about clean fuels and smokeless cooking and heating fuel.

Going on to the next slide we see that your nation is home to the Liter of Light project that is a refracting system that brings sunlight into homes via a  DayLight, this photo is from Jacob Maentz’s photoessay: a 1.5/2l plastic bottle filled with water and bleach which can last for  5-10 years. Costing only 50 pesos/1.10USD this is a very affordable and efficient lighting solution. Liter of LightUSA upgrades the Daylight to  a NightLight by adding a micro solar panel, rechargeable battery and an LED diode to the DAYlight bottle for an additional 10 hours of light at night.

I now need to mention the exciting research from CHALLENERGY out of Japan. Like Japan, the Philippines is also at the mercy of the many typhoons that batter it. Now Challenergy is innovating to turn this challenge into an advantage. They are testing an Egg beater shaped wind turbine which harnesses the energy of a typhoon without being destroyed by it. This could potentially provide up to 50 years of Energy security.

From international to national to local.
 Let’s look at Bohol and some of the challenges it faces and how by ensuring clean and affordable energy access we can tackle some of the problems listed by your Provincial Planning and Development Office.
In my city we have an organization called the Energy Alternatives India which provides newsletters, research, consultation on adopting renewable energy solutions. A similar organization in your province or country will greatly benefit the cause of SDG7.

Some of the challenges faced by Bohol as per Bohol Provincial Planning and Development Office include: 
  • Poverty
  • High power rate due to 8%-10% system losses
  • Limited employment opportunities
  • Poor infrastructure
  • Inadequate water resources
  • Inadequate access to healthcare
  • Inadequate tourism development
Energy Solutions could be the key to tackling all of them
Now India is making renewable energy affordable with 22% transmission and distribution Losses so an 8%-10% systemic loss can be tackled by both off-grid and on-grid rooftop solar panels or rooftop wind energy generators.
Electrification of communities especially making it affordable in poorer section can energize enterprise development and generate employment.
Solar powered desalination and biogas powered distillation plants can deal with the water scarcity.
Off-grid Renewable energy powered smart centres can bring telemedicine to the remotest community.
With resources being available to all, infrastructure improvements would follow and tourism will benefit.
If there are successful renewable energy  pilot projects in your community then there will be scope for professional tours to see and learn from your successes – not just traditional tourism to your beautiful islands and of course the chocolate hills.

The challenges to prosperity in Bohol can be tackled by the International Solar Alliance, green finance and corporate social responsibility. I believe in community engagement and solutions from the grassroots. With an education that fosters innovation and creativity that is key to empowering a community.
I am also betting on the International Solar Alliance of which The Philippines is a member.
It was mooted at the start of the Global Goals regime and built upon annually since.  The ISA was launched in the 2015 India-Africa Summit and again at COP21 in Paris and opened for membership at the Marrakesh climate summit. It has 121 “Sunshine States” as members and is headquartered in Gurugram, India near the National Capital Region.
 Sustainable livelihoods are possible by ensuring affordable and clean energy access. It’s a virtuous cycle. I also feel that the involvement of young people in implementing energy access solutions can vitalize communities and create many energizers and Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs.
You are future and we have this window of opportunity to make sustainable development the path to peace and prosperity.

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