OAKLAND, CA: JULY 27, 2016: GRID Alternatives has announced a partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), to integrate research into GRID Alternatives projects providing solar power to communities around the world that lack access to electricity.
RAEL researchers will work with GRID Alternatives staff and partners to study off-grid solar projects by GRID Alternatives in Nicaragua, Nepal, and tribal communities in the United States. The research will evaluate project models and outcomes to inform energy access practices worldwide. RAEL is part of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and was founded by Professor Dan Kammen with a mission to design and implement environmentally sustainable development in culturally and socially appropriate ways. The GRID-RAEL partnership builds on more than four years of informal collaboration with UC Berkeley students interested in renewable energy.
Through its international program, GRID Alternatives has installed 70 solar PV systems in Nicaragua to-date, and continues to ensure the systems remain online and provide long-term benefits to residents. GRID Alternatives is also developing a 16-kilowatt solar-powered microgrid project in Dhapchung, Nepal to provide electricity to the community’s school, 40 families, and several businesses to aid in earthquake recovery and create a sustainable economy.
“GRID’s volunteer-based model has long provided a way for people interested in renewable energy work--from industry representatives to academics and the general public--to get hands-on with solar technology and see how it makes a difference for underserved communities,” said GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO Erica Mackie. “This partnership will help us go a step further and contribute to a global body of knowledge around how to maximize impact and ensure that projects are sustainable for the long term.”
The partnership will provide direct and indirect benefits through GRID Alternatives’ energy access projects and help expand off-grid solar internationally. RAEL researchers will participate in and have access to beneficiaries of GRID Alternatives’ projects, and RAEL will work with GRID to secure funding for research projects as appropriate. RAEL will conduct system modeling and design research, technical potential analysis, qualitative surveys, and impact analysis with a focus on social and cultural issues.
Dr. Kammen is a member of GRID’s National Advisory Council, was recently appointed U.S. Science Envoy for the U.S. State Department, and has been a leading voice in renewable energy deployment globally.
“Getting electricity to the 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting edge technologies. It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve,” said Dr. Kammen, “Partnering with organizations like GRID doing this work on the ground is a great opportunity to study what’s working and why, and get that information to the people who can use it
ABOUT GRID ALTERNATIVES
GRID Alternatives is an international nonprofit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities through a network of community partners, volunteers, and philanthropic supporters. GRID has installed more than 7,000 rooftop solar systems with a combined installed capacity of nearly 25MW, saving $192 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing more than 537,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing more than 27,000 people with solar training. For more information, visit www.gridalternatives.org
Based at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1999, RAEL has focused on systems approaches to fostering sustainable development at the household, community, and national levels. With a mixture of students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting scholars and practitioners, RAEL is currently active in the Balkans, China, Central America, East Africa, Southeast Asia, across North America in the design of technical and analytic approaches to clean energy systems. For more information see rael.berkeley.edu.
[caption id="attachment_1915" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Camp for internally displaced persons in Malakal, South Sudan, following February 2016 violence[/caption]
For a brief video introduction to the program, click here.
Launched in May 2016, this new initiative focuses on the increasing overlap of conflict and climate change, and the potential of renewable energy as a tool for peace building and conflict prevention. The program will combine research, policy-based advocacy and operational programming in conflict-risk countries. The emphasis of the program is on action with three related goals: First, to build stronger links between the communities working on conflict prevention and those working on climate change. Second, to help encourage the use of clean energy development programs as accepted tools for peace building and conflict prevention, including through pilot projects in conflict-risk or crisis settings. Third, to highlight the opportunities for peace building and inclusive political mobilization that come from a shared threat of climate change.
Climate change is having a significant impact on livelihoods and natural resource scarcity, contributing to conflicts in countries such as Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Nigeria. Many of the worst affected geographies – in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia - include countries with a history of conflict. Existing international institutions are often siloed in their approach to cross-cutting issues such as climate change. Conflict-risks are usually met with security-first solutions, such as peacekeeping missions, and the relevant international institutions have yet to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change as a driver of conflict. Given that the negative impacts of climate change are expected to increase, we anticipate the role of climate change as a driver of conflict to grow, particularly in the most fragile states. Though these States are minimally responsible for climate change and global greenhouse gas emissions, they currently receive only a small fraction of the global climate-related financing, while often struggling to attract outside investment, and thus are likely to remain vulnerable to potentially worsening climate change-related cycles of conflict. Despite this worrying trendline, there is not yet a meaningful response to these new risks.
The Program seeks to address this gap by harnessing the potential of renewable energy in conflict-affected areas based on the following assumptions:
Recent advances in renewable energy technology, declining costs and international mobilization following the Paris Climate Agreement present a unique and potentially revolutionary new opportunity to address problems associated with intractable conflict, particularly in climate-affected states. Renewable energy can offer cheap, clean and reliable power to millions of people without access to electricity in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, two of the regions most severely impacted by climate change;
Renewable energy provides a unique opening for pro-peace, pro-development investment in climate-impacted conflict-risk countries. Investment in renewable energy has dramatically increased and now comprises approximately 75% of all global climate-related financing. However, the global response to climate change has been overwhelmingly focused on the worst polluting countries rather than the worst affected: less than 10% of all global climate financing goes to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia combined.
Renewable energy provides a potentially powerful new entry-point for peace building by facilitating cooperation between conflict parties on an issue, and creates energy infrastructure that is reliable, clean, scalable and easily distributed.
We have developed three initial models for delivering energy/peace benefits, in order to help prove the concept and demonstrate the potential opportunities. We are also working on developing a new financing mechanism that is designed to specifically support the deployment of renewable energy in conflict and crisis-risk settings.
Model 1, Relief camp settings: We are launching pilot projects in large Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in South Sudan, and a cluster of refugee camps in Chad and Kenya. Leveraging the international humanitarian footprint, we will demonstrate how a transition to solar power in such contexts can offer both a cheaper energy solution, while building long-term energy infrastructure and building blocks for peace for local communities. We are also exploring the applicability of this approach in other settings, including Northern Iraq and Myanmar.
Model 2, Integrating renewable energy into peace building and conflict prevention programming: We are partnering with the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce, a leader in unarmed civilian protection, to test this model through pilot projects in South Sudan and Myanmar.
Model 3: Renewable energy as a peace dividend strategy: We are promoting the use of a renewable energy as highly visible, quick impact and meaningful tool in the peace dividend toolkit – which seeks to deliver development gains to help support recently concluded, or soon-to-be finalized peace agreements. We are exploring the applicability of renewable energy to support local agreements in Central Nigeria, and at the national level in support of Myanmar’s peace process.
Peace Renewable Energy Credit (PREC): We are developing a new financing mechanism specifically designed to support renewable energy investment and deployment in conflict and crisis risk settings. The PREC will help address some of the financing challenges unique to these settings, in order to help draw a greater share of global renewable energy investment to the places that need it most.
Under the overall leadership of Dr. Dan Kammen, the founding director of RAEL and professor of Energy, our team includes experts in renewable energy and climate change, as well as conflict prevention and peace building.
David Mozersky is the Founding Director of the Program on Conflict, Climate Change and Green Development. An expert on Sudan and South Sudan, he has been involved in conflict prevention efforts in Africa since 2001, with a specific interest in mediation, negotiation and peace processes. He has worked with the International Crisis Group, the African Union High-Level Panel on the Sudans, and Humanity United, among others. He has written extensively about the conflicts and peacemaking efforts in the Horn of Africa, and has testified or presented before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Canadian Parliament, and South Sudanese Parliament. David has authored and co-authored more than two dozen International Crisis Group reports and briefing papers, and his writing has appeared in the Harvard International Review, International Herald-Tribune, Financial Times-Europe, and other publications.
David Williams was selected as one of Time Magazine’s Innovators of the Year. He has been an advisor for US Department of State, merit reviewer for the US Department of Energy's SunShot program, technical reviewer for Sandia National Laboratory, solar advisor for USAID, and contributor to National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Mr. Williams has been involved in developing renewable energy projects in the Caribbean, Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Sherwin Das most recently served as the Chief of Political Affairs for the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa. He has designed and implemented conflict prevention and peace building strategies, policies and programming for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Africa. Following a stint in the UN’s Mediation Support Unit in New York, he served as the UN’s Peace and Development Advisor in Moldova.
Alex Thier is a leading thinker and policy maker on international development, poverty reduction, and inclusive growth. As Founder and CEO of Triple Helix, Alex is working with a variety of organizations on expanding renewable energy access, strategic planning, and addressing fragile states. As a senior U.S. government official from 2010 to 2015, he led internal and external policy-making, reform, and implementation for USAID representing the U.S. government at the highest levels of international engagement on development policy and finance and managing a $10 billion+ portfolio of programs. He played a leadership role in the creation and implementation of several major US and international initiatives, including the Vision to End Extreme Poverty, the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership, and Power Africa. Alex has held leadership positions in the UN, Stanford University, USIP, and several NGOs. He’s authored and co-authored books, articles, and op-eds in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, and appears frequently in international media.
Elliott Donnelley is a Founding General Partner of White Sand Investor Group, LG, a fifth generation investment partnership of the Chicago-based RR Donnelley family. In this role, he has increasingly focused on the nexus between investment for financial return and investment for social and environmental impact. Elliott is an advisor and/or co-founder of a number of ventures, including Ethic Inc., My Bliss, The China Philanthropy Forum, and KD Venture Partners. He is also on the boards of trustees of Synergos and the Philanthropy Workshop, and on the board of Stanford’s Global Project Center, where he promotes research on innovative models in philanthropy and impact investing. Elliott is a graduate of Yale University and spent years living and working in Beijing, where he still has strong ties in the philanthropy and impact investing industries.
Dr Youba Sokona has over 35 years of experience addressing energy, environment and sustainable development in Africa, and has been at the heart of numerous national and continental initiatives. He coordinated the scoping, framing and development of the “Africa Renewable Energy Initiative”. Reflecting his status, Dr Sokona was elected Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2015. Prior to this, Dr Sokona was Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III on the mitigation of climate change for the Fifth Assessment Report after serving as a Lead Author since 1990. In addition to these achievements, Dr Sokona has a proven track record of organisational leadership and management, for example as Inaugural Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and as Executive Secretary of the Sahara and the Sahel Observatory (OSS). Dr Sokona’s advice is highly sought after, and as such, he is affiliated with numerous boards and organisations, including as a Member of the Board for the Institute of Development Studies, as a Honourary Professor at the University College London (UCL), and as a Special Advisor to the African Energy Leaders Group.
Kenji is a Ph.D. student with the Goldman School of Public Policy and a researcher in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. His current research interests include empirical studies and quantitative modeling on the effectiveness of renewable energy policies in developing and developed countries for effective decision making. He is also interested in developing better tools for quantitative assessment of the multiple benefits of climate policies such as energy access, job creation, and technology development and transfer.
Kenji has more than 10 years of professional experiences in the area of Japan’s and international environmental policies as a Deputy Director for Market-based Climate Policy of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, a Managing Director of the Global Environment Centre Foundation, etc. For example, he has spearheaded and managed various government energy incentive programs for funding energy efficient and renewable energy projects in Japan as well as in Southeast Asia and Africa under the Joint Crediting Mechanism, bilateral cooperation scheme between 14 countries and Japanese Government. He has also initiated and led international cooperation initiatives on environmental policy planning, capacity building, and technology transfer focused on low-carbon city development with Japanese municipalities for Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Vientiane (Lao PDR), and other cities. He has negotiated at COP 18 and 19 of the UNFCCC as an international negotiator of the Japanese delegation on technology transfer. Outside of environmental policies, he is a creator and a leading trainer of policy analysis training courses for Japanese policy professionals.
He holds an MPP with the Smolensky Prize (the Best Advanced Policy Analysis (master’s thesis)) from UC Berkeley, for which Dan Kammen was his APA advisor. Kenji has a MEng and a BEng in Chemical Engineering from University of Tokyo.
Rebekah Shirley is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at RAEL. She completed her doctoral studies in the Energy and Resources Group in 2015. She previously obtained a MSc. Energy and Resources (2011) and a MSc. Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley (2011). Her doctoral and post-doctoral research focuses on distributed renewable energy (DRE) technologies and designing integrated modeling frameworks to support energy planning in emerging economies with a focus on Southeast Asia, Africa and island regions.
As a researcher at RAEL Rebekah has conducted feasibility studies, built impact calculators and designed energy systems for clients across Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. She has worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and USAID. Rebekah is a University of California Chancellor’s Fellow and has won grants from organizations such as the DOE and the Rainforest Foundation that support her work.
Rebekah is also currently the Director of Research at Power For All, a global education and advocacy initiative founded by energy access practitioners and implementers to advance renewable solutions for universal energy access. Rebekah oversees the development of Power For All’s Platform for Energy Access Knowledge, an interactive open-access research hub focused on decentralized energy technologies.