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Women: Promoting Clean Energy & The Renewable Energy Revolution

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 33 Discussions 1 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

According to the the UN’s Industrial Development Organization, approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to basic energy, for cooking, lighting and powering homes. The organization also suggests that women’s lack of access to clean energy is particularly dangerous to their health and to family livelihoods, limiting their opportunities for education and income generation. However, these barriers are not stopping women from playing an important role when it comes to promoting clean energy access and innovation in the world. Recently, various NGOs and companies across the globe have focused their efforts on eradicating energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity.

One particularly innovative startup, Solar Sister, works to combine the breakthrough potential of clean energy technology with a “woman-centered” sales network, centered on “bringing light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa.” Solar Sister believes that “investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.” Since 2010, Solar Sister has helped over 2,000 women across Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria become entrepreneurs, selling solar lights, mobile phone chargers and clean cookstoves to more than 300,000 people in off-grid communities. The women pay for the products with savings, income from other businesses, funding circles or through Solar Sister’s startup funding packages. Solar Sister allows women and their families to save significantly on costly fossil fuels, helping to raise the whole community’s economic prospects. As female entrepreneurs become advocates for clean energy in their communities they create “a multiplier effect, catalysing health, education and economic benefits for the wider community,” according to Allison Glinski of the International Center for Research on Women. For example, Solar Sister customers in Tanzania are saving approximately $3.61/week in reduced fuel costs, which is money they can use to purchase more nutritious food, pay school tuition and book fees and books, as well as cover medical service costs. For more information about Solar Sister see: https://www.solarsister.org/

The model of female-led clean energy entrepreneurship in developing countries expands beyond Africa. Ajaita Shah, founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, a social enterprise employing women to distribute clean energy products in India, has recruited and trained 250 solar sahelis across Rajasthan. The social enterprise has sold some 127,000 products in five years, saving nearly 600,000 tonnes of CO2--equivalent to removing nearly 127,000 cars from the roads--by helping women and their families switch from fossil fuels to clean technologies. They believe that due to their helpful customer service and support, women and families in India have begun to trust their brand and regain confidence in clean-energy solutions as a way to improve household health, wealth and productivity. For more information see: http://www.frontiermkts.com/

The Renewable Equity Project (REP) at Tufts University has been driving the women in clean energy movement in the United States. REP is driven by the idea that women’s advancement in the clean energy workforce is a “climate-smart” achievement. Building on the evidence of women’s imperative roles in the economy and the shortage of skilled workers in the energy sector, they are working to show that diversifying the energy workforce would help hasten the transition to renewable technologies in both the US and the developing world. For more information, see: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/CIERP/Research/Projects/Renewable-Equity-Project

This is also the aim of GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization that seeks to bring together community partners and volunteers to empower women and low-income families to utilize solar power, providing energy cost savings, valuable hands-on experience, and a source of clean, local energy. They are based in Oakland, California and have ten regional offices and affiliates serving all of California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Nicaragua. For more information see: http://www.gridalternatives.org/

There also exist nonprofits seeking to bring other alternative sources of energy to low-income families and women, such as Women of Wind Energy (WoWe) and Women in Geothermal (WING). WoWe was founded in 2005 with the goal of ensuring that women have a productive role in the development of wind power. WoWe believes that the equal engagement of women in the workforce and in senior management has been linked to greater organizational communication and efficiency, broader consumer awareness, and increased profitability. They have local chapters across the US and Canada. The geothermal-based group, WING has rapidly become a well-known forum where women can connect and communicate with other women globally. They’ve got members from countries--some of which don’t even have geothermal associations--with the intent of connecting them to the wider industry through WING. Even though they’re a young company, WING is seeking to provide advice, support for women across the globe, providing them with jobs and knowledge about the geothermal industry. For more information about WING and WoWE, visit their websites: http://www.womenofwindenergy.org/; https://www.geothermal-energy.org/wing/

Though the movement for women in cleantech is gaining momentum, there are barriers that exist that prevent women from succeeding in these efforts, especially when considering the social conservatism of many rural communities. There is hope though, as some of these organizations are also attempting to bring education and awareness about women’s skills and clean energy to these communities. One organization, Barefoot College, is setup to help rural communities in the least developed countries build resilience and self-sufficiency through educational and financial assistance. They train women worldwide as solar engineers, innovators and educators, with the intent that these these women will bring with them new awareness and knowledge to educate their own families and communities about the importance of using clean energies. For more information about Barefoot College see: http://www.barefootcollege.org/about/

With the increasing influence and development of organizations like WoWe, REP, Frontier Markets, Solar Sister, Barefoot College, and more it is likely that within the coming years, we will see even more of a global shift allowing for more and more women to become a part of the clean energy sector.

For further information see:

https://portals.iucn.org/union/sites/union/files/doc/women_at_the_forefront_of_the_clean_energy_future_1.20.15.pdf
http://genderandenvironment.org/resource/women-at-the-forefront-of-the-clean-energy-future/
http://www.womencleantechsustainability.org/blog/why-women-are-critical-to-clean-energy
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/09/women-leading-clean-energy-revolution?platform=hootsuite

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