American Startups Work to Bring Solar Powered Electricity to Parts of Africa

A June 26, 2017 article by Bill McKibben in the New Yorker titled, The Race to Solar-Power Africa explains the reasons why implementing an electric grid on the continent presents a unique challenge. McKibben writes,

“There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady.”

The demand for reliable and accessible electricity has prompted some entrepreneurs in the West to launch solar companies in Africa. It has some advantages over the traditional electric grid infrastructure but comes with its own set of problems relating to the newness of technology being used, engineering challenges, and uncertainty around financial feasibility, both for the consumers and for the companies.

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“The Uninhabitable Earth” Provides a Heavy Dose of Reality

David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine wrote an article earlier this month titled, The Uninhabitable Earth, that brings vague anxieties about climate change into clear focus. The link to the annotated version of this article is highly recommended as it reveals a clear path from the scientific evidence to Wallace-Wells’ assertions of the enormity of forthcoming global challenges as the Earth’s temperature rises.

 

An Economic Perspective on Energy Efficiency

The term “energy efficient” is common enough, used to describe everything from dishwashers to windows. A Freakonomics Radio podcast episode titled How Efficient Is Energy Efficiency? explores the complicated relationship between energy efficiency standards and their real world outcomes. Arik Levinson, an environmental economist and professor at Georgetown University, discusses the 1974 California Energy Commission whose regulations were the first of their kind in the nation. Levinson’s paper on energy consumption as affected by these regulations asserts,

“There is no evidence that homes constructed since California instituted its building energy codes use less electricity today than homes built before the codes came into effect.”

This conclusion, based on Levinson’s research leads the host, Stephen Dubner, to question the validity of his statement and to explore the reasons why energy efficiency regulations are still such a major part of the United States’ climate policy.