Speakers suggest going green to keep gold

Lecturers spoke to students about increasing energy efficiency in Third World countries

By Leigh Ann Henry

In the developing world, electricity is a rare thing. The efforts of Brian Thomas, senior lecturer of electrical and computer engineering, Richard Hansen, founder and CEO of Soluz, Inc., and Megan Rapp, a U.N. consultant and graduate student of Columbia University, are helping move these struggling countries towards sustainability by presenting various potential solutions to the energy deficit.

Thomas, Hansen and Rapp explained these solutions in a lecture Tuesday, hosted by the McBride Center for International Studies as part of the annual Global Business Forum this week. The focus this year is global energy sufficiency and sustainability, the topic of Tuesday’s lecture.

Thomas’ presentation centered on lessons learned during the building of a business called Village Energy LLC.

The business focuses on villages in Honduras, each with a population of about 50 to 200 people. Electricity is an unmet demand in Honduras and it is prohibitively expensive for individuals to access it, Thomas said.

The company’s leadership aims to reduce the cost of energy by providing three items: kerosene, batteries for flashlights and a way to cover the cost of recharging a cellphone.

“They have a cell phone and use it for market purposes. They would use it for business, they would use it to stay in contact, not quite in the same way we do, but in large part it provides their connectivity to the outside world,” Thomas said.

Hansen’s company Soluz Inc. distributes micro power to developing countries.

The company distributes the energy through photovoltaics, a method of converting solar energy into direct energy.

A substantial part of the company’s work is focused in the Dominican Republic. Soluz Inc. provides photovoltaic products and educates natives on the use and installation of the technology. The company has also created many jobs.

Rapp spoke on three types of poverty: financial poverty, time poverty and energy poverty.

Financial poverty is a lack of financial stability and economy.

Time poverty is not having time to take care of everything that needs to get done. Rapp gave an example of women in Senegal who spend 12 hours a day doing manual labor shucking peanuts. The process would take 30 minutes if they women had up-to-date technology, which would then allow them to take care of their children and complete other daily duties.

Energy poverty was the main focus of her lecture. The lack of energy available in Haiti affects the population’s livelihood, health, clean water and education.

“Four-fifths of people in Haiti live on less than $2 per day, which is the lowest consumption per capita in the world,” Rapp said.

One of the initiatives she has taken part in is providing more efficient cook stoves that don’t require as much fuel. The stoves would save money but would also help slow deforestation. Inefficient wood-burning stoves require constant refills, draining local resources. Stoves that require less wood would aid in the resolution of many other problems caused by deforestation.

“It was really cool to meet people so involved in business and so passionate about poverty,” San Antonio freshman Eryn Shaffer said.

Joseph McKinney, professor of international economics at Baylor was present at the lecture as well.

“They were really informative presentations on very important issues of energy access to the poor of the world,” McKinney said.