Building Local Economies with Solar

Solar Energy Foundation technicians test a system in Ethiopia.
Friday, August 24, 2012
From September 2012 World Rivers ReviewInnovative Models Help Poor Communities Light Homes, Grow BusinessesSolar is the ultimate community-owned energy source. It’s widely available for purchase, and is relatively easy to install and maintain. Many of the many millions of people who lack access to electricity live in places where the sun shines steadily.“Solar is so important because the grid is never going to reach many remote communities because of expense, location, and so many other reasons,” says Laurie Guevara-Stone, a solar expert with decades of experience bringing solar to rural

Small Hydro a Potential Bridge for Africa’s Energy Divide

Opening the sluice gate on a small hydro project.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
From September 2012 World Rivers ReviewAfrica is home to one of the world’s largest off-grid populations: approximately 590 million people live with no connection to their national electric grid, according to the International Energy Agency. Grid expansion in Africa has been notoriously slow, and thus new solutions are needed to bridge this energy divide. Small hydropower can play a pivotal role in providing energy access to large parts of Africa, either in stand-alone isolated mini-grids or as distributed generation in national grids. The potential role of small hydropower in eradicating e

China’s Nuclear Backlash Fosters Local Power

A biogas digester system
Thursday, August 23, 2012
From September 2012 World Rivers ReviewWhen Ding Jie, a water program officer for Wuhu Ecology Center, travelled to Wangjiang County, in China’s Southern Anhui province, to examine local water pollution cases this spring, she encountered something surprising. Ding was amazed to learn of Wangjiang's popular protest movement against a nuclear plant being built in neighboring Pengze, across the Yangtze, in Jiangxi province. Wangjiang is located downstream of Pengze, where Jiangxi's first nuclear power plant was underway. Pengze was poised to be the first nuclear power station in an inland prov

Too Big Not to Fail: India Blackouts Highlight Need for Change

India’s grid system is in poor repair, as symbolized by this ad-hoc collection of connections in Raipur, India
Thursday, August 23, 2012
From September 2012 World Rivers ReviewThe world’s biggest power outage, which struck northern and eastern India over two days in July, affected nearly 10% of the world’s population, and 19 of the country’s 28 states. Many factors were behind the catastrophic failure, but one that is especially troubling in a changing climate is the relationship between water and the blackouts. Robert Kimball of the World Resource Institute blogged that the blackouts “were created as much by pipes and pumps as they were by power plants and transmission lines. In many ways, the country’s power proble

WRR Commentary: A Shining Light

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Commentary: September 2012 World Rivers ReviewAs I write this, the failure of India’s electricity grid has created what surely must be the world’s largest blackout. The New York Times reported that over 600 million people live in the impacted area. In case anyone is feeling numb to the number of zeros in that figure, the Times points out that we are talking about roughly 10% of humanity affected by the outage. This news is being spun in a number of ways, for a range of motives. Was an operator asleep in the control room? Is India’s electricity demand outstripping its generation capac

Community Energy: A Powerful Force

The 2011 launch of Australia’s first community wind project, the Hepburn Wind Project, was cause for celebration.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
From September 2012 World Rivers ReviewThe 2011 launch of Australia’s first community wind project, the Hepburn Wind Project, was cause for celebration. There are very few similarities between Rangkhani, Nepal and Feldheim, Germany. Rangkhani is just one of many struggling rural villages in a remote region in one of the world’s least-developed countries. Feldheim is a thriving modern farming community in one of the world’s richest nations. Yet both have turned to locally owned energy projects to bring light to their homes and local control over a critical resource. Rangkhani’s fortun

Reality Check for Guatemala’s Energy Plans

Thursday, June 7, 2012
From June 2012 World Rivers ReviewEfficiency and Renewables Could Forestall Dams, Study Shows In 2008, International Rivers’ staff visited communities that would be affected by Xalala Dam in Guatemala. We began documenting threats posed by more than 20 dams planned for Guatemala’s rivers. Guatemala also has a legacy of poor social and environmental standards on its past large dams. As with many developing countries, energy planning in Guatemala was marked by unrealistic expectations for growth in energy use, political pressure to develop large projects, and incomplete analysis of alter

Turkish Dam Boom Threatens Anatolian Rivers

Thursday, June 7, 2012
From June 2012 World Rivers ReviewIn recent years, dam building in Turkey has increased by leaps and bounds. River ecosystems and associated communities are under immense threat, and dams are one of the most hotly debated issues in Turkey. No legal measures have been taken to protect the irreplaceable natural and cultural assets of Anatolia from the impacts of these dam projects. As it currently stands, the government of Turkey plans to construct 1,738 dams and hydroelectric power plants by 2023. Nearly 2,000 water supply dams are also underway. There is serious concern that in a few years, t

Carbon Offsets Misused by Hydropower Industry

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
From June 2012 World Rivers ReviewBrazilian Megadams Make Mockery of Clean Development Mechanism The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is meant to catalyze climate-friendly and sustainable projects in low-income countries by providing financial support to projects that could not go forward without the extra help. Instead, it's been used to subsidize destructive large dams that fail to meet the CDM’s two main criteria: promoting sustainable development, and supporting clean energy projects that are only able to go ahead if they get funding from carbon credits (this is called being “additi

A Climate-Safe “Green Economy” Protects Rivers, Rejects Destructive Dams

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
From June 2012 World Rivers ReviewThe twentieth anniversary of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, comes at a time when human-caused emissions have pushed our planet to the brink of a climate crisis. The effects of the global industrial economy brought planetary levels of carbon dioxide to a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2011, according to a 2012 International Energy Agency (IEA) report – only 1 Gt below the level that the IEA considers necessary to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C. In response, many governments, banks, and corporations are incre


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