The global effort to tackle climate change is currently taking center stage in Paris. The world is looking to its leaders to address the health of our planet and commit to bold goals for clean energy and sustainable development.
One group often absent from these conversations, however, is the more than 1 billion people around the world who still lack access to even basic electricity. While we applaud negotiators in Paris for recognizing how renewable energy investment can benefit the global climate, we shouldn’t forget that renewable energy is also a vital tool for immediately improving people’s lives today – through giving them clean, affordable power.
Consider if we were to travel back in time to when our countries’ economies were developing — and we took affordable low-carbon renewable energy technologies with us; given that scenario, we might find ourselves not needing to host a conference in Paris this month. Alas, more than 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions today are from energy-related sources – with the majority of those emissions coming from just a handful of industrialized or rapidly industrializing countries.
SolarCity is well-known for aggressively pursuing alternatives to conventional carbon-intensive energy, and we’ve made significant progress to date – so far bringing solar energy to nearly 300,000 residential and commercial customers. Lesser known are the initiatives that we pursue “beyond the grid” — developing energy products for emerging markets and building resilience in remote communities, where expensive kerosene lanterns or candles may be the only source of light after sundown.
Installed by a SolarCity GivePower crew, a rooftop solar and battery system in Bla Village, Mali made this nighttime adult literacy class possible. Photo Credit: buildOn.
The GivePower Foundation, established by SolarCity in 2013, has funded the installation of solar-powered light and electricity in over 1,500 projects to date. GivePower deploys crews of SolarCity electricians, installers, and energy experts around the world, bringing solar power to off-grid schools and communities. On all GivePower projects, we work closely with local installers, vendors, and community leaders. By cultivating local support, market development, and knowledge exchange, we can help ensure each project will be successful in the long term.
Since 2014, SolarCity has funded a GivePower off-grid solar system for every megawatt of solar power installed in the US
Our for-profit and non-profit partners — such as Off Grid Electric, d.Light, buildOn, and Bank of America’s charitable foundation — have allowed us to reach far beyond where the power grid ends. As CEO Xavier Helgeson of Off Grid Electric explains, bringing power to schools is already having a transformative impact on communities: “Many children who don’t have lights in their homes can now safely study at their school long after the sun goes down.”
GivePower represents the essential idea that solar is not only a solution for the grid-tied, credit-worthy, roof-owning population, but also for people who cannot and need not wait for additional infrastructure investments that can take years to develop.
Because teaching in the light is more fun (GivePower project in western Nepal, 2015). Photo Credit: buildOn.
In order to meet our global goals, we believe it’s crucial to support energy solutions that empower communities and light the way toward long-lasting social and economic opportunity. We’re thrilled to be partnering with a broad and growing number of stakeholders who are committed to bringing clean and affordable solar energy to every corner of the globe. And we’re hopeful that the outcome of the Paris climate summit will provide additional momentum to make it possible.
David Reichbaum is the Program Manager of the GivePower Foundation