Monday, March 12, 2012

Jiwan Acharya – a Nepalese childhood creates a life long commitment to energy for the poor

Jiwan Acharya is a Senior Climate Change Specialist with ADB's Sustainable Infrastructure Division. He is responsible for overseeing the Energy for All Initiative which works to increase ADB's investments in projects that bring modern energy to the poor.

I was born and raised in Nepal, and until I was nine years old, I had never seen an electric light. When I first saw one being switched on, I was amazed. Even at that age, I could tell that this light was better and brighter than any candle or kerosene lamp being used by my family.

When I was ten, another new thing was introduced to our household – biogas for cooking. This change was especially beneficial for my mother. The gas burner was better, cleaner and much more convenient for her, compared to using firewood.

I know that I am not alone in this direct experience - to the life changing effects of modern energy.

Over the past few decades, millions of families gained access to electricity and fuels throughout developing Asia. These people now have bright lights in the evening, and the energy to mill grain, or pump water, or cook their food without worrying about smoke from an open fire damaging their lungs. Modern energy allowed new schools to open, giving many more people a chance at an education - myself among them.

My path eventually led me to the Asian Development Bank and working with Energy for All, which is helping to expand the number of people who benefit from modern energy.

Even with all the progress that has been made, there are still too many people with no access to modern energy. In my home country, at least 16 million people, or more than 40% of the population, do not have access to electricity.

Asia and the Pacific region is home to most of the world’s energy poor – 700 million without access to electricity and 1.9 billion people without access to modern fuels. The rural poor are those most in need of modern energy, but the hardest to reach with traditional infrastructure.

ADB is working on solutions to this, such as piloting the concept of a renewable energy village whose mix of renewable energy technologies can be replicated almost anywhere else in developing Asia.

There are many ways to make energy more accessible for the poor. Working for Energy for All, I have seen that there is no lack of innovative approaches, but a common problem is a lack of scale. Solutions that bring access to hundreds have to be scaled up with financing and policy support to reach thousands and hundreds of thousands.

We have to think big to take on energy poverty at the regional level, and that is the great feature of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All – it is a global scale effort to improve energy access for everyone, nine years old or otherwise. Speaking on behalf of Energy for All, we hope to see some excellent videos out of the My View contest that we can highlight during this very important year.

Speaking on behalf of Energy for All, we hope to see some excellent videos out of the My View contest that we can highlight during this very important year.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sing, Dance and ….. Make Energy?

For those who are used to flicking a switch for light, turning on the TV for entertainment, and keeping food healthy through refrigeration, it’s pretty hard to imagine life without watts.

But over 700 million people in the Asia and Pacific region do not have access to electricity.

It’s so easy to overlook the lack of electricity when thinking about the causes of poverty – but education, good health and economy are all connected to a country’s supply of energy.

There are many ways you can find out about how to be more energy efficient in your life, and back in December we looked at some unusual renewable resources – including turkey guts, chocolate and onions.

While some of the ideas may sound, well, unconventional, necessity is the mother of invention, and if turkey guts light up your life, why complain?

More research is being done on building prototypes for sustainable, renewable energy. At the University of Utah, work is quickly advancing on turning heat caused by sound into energy. While you would need an awful lot of noise to create even a small amount of heat, right now the researchers say they can power up computers, televisions and other small devices through sound waves.

Like waves created by sound, people create a lot of hot air. Researchers have started harnessing that human movement to create energy. Already it’s being used on a small scale here in Asia.

Hungry for more? We’ll leave you with another off the wall idea: spinach. There’s a new solar energy harvesting system currently in development based on on photosynthesis. The solar cell system is generated by a protein called Photosystem I, which is derived from spinach. When researchers extracted the Photosystem I and exposed it to light, heat was generated. While spinach was initially chosen because of its intense green color ( indicating high photosynthesizing power) the energy researchers are also looking into the potential of peas, olives and other green vegetables.

There may be a day in the near future where we could plant vegetables for power as well as for food. But in the meantime, conserve what energy you have...flick on your brain...and enter MyView.