Cool Effect is on a quest for carbon reduction. A not-for-profit (NFP) that can trace its origins back to 1998 and a cookstove project in Honduras that was clean-burning. It was a small beginning, but one that certainly sparked great interest in the minds of founders Dee and Richard Lawrence for what else could be done to grow the use of renewable technology, and drive down carbon emissions.
Since the official launch of Cool Effect at the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015, this NFP’s team has been hard at work showing the promise of their ideals can indeed be put into practice in helping individuals, businesses, and other groups to reduce carbon emissions.
Unquestionably among the most exciting pursuits on Cool Effect’s agenda is their support of the Solar DC Program. This writer was very pleased to be in touch with Sid Yadav, Cool Effect’s Director of Project Research for an insight into this project, and what we should understand about its impact in India.
An overview of the Solar DC Program and India’s engagement with solar
In order to understand the unique merits of Cool Effect’s Solar DC Program in India, a quick overview of the venture’s specifics, alongside the progress of solar in India generally is useful for context. At its core, the Solar DC Program is providing 40,000 rural households with access to clean renewable energy.
Although the nation has made some strong inroads in renewable energy, ultimately affordable and reliable power remains limited in India—over fifty million residents live off the grid and half of Indian homes are unable to afford even subsidized electricity—so the work of Cool Effect in this project is very valuable. Both on its own merits, and also as a beacon for others passionate about growing green energy tech in communities where it currently has a more limited presence.
For Cool Effect, the exceptional efficiency of the Solar DC Inverterless system was particularly attractive in seeking a solution that would not require compromising on the accessibility factor when it comes to affordability in rural communities of limited means, that are not connected to a regional or national grid. Created by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, the technology removes the need for conversions of AC to DC and DC to AC, and accordingly assists in driving down costs.
As expressed through its commitment to Carbon Done Correctly, Cool Effect has chosen to support the Solar DC Program on its platform following a rigorous vetting and selection process. Sid has led this process, has personally reviewed 1,500+ projects, and is a key part of Cool Effect’s project selection and monitoring.
On an individual note, Sid has a degree in Engineering and a postgraduate degree in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford. In his day to day, Sid works closely with Cool Effect’s technical advisory board, and in collaboration with key greenhouse gas experts globally. Central to his duties is responsibility for the technical due diligence of financial, socio-economic, and climate change related attributes of various projects in energy and renewable energy.
Sid has devoted his entire professional career to fighting climate change, and alongside having evaluated more than 1,500 carbon mitigation projects, he has personally visited more than 250 of them in over 60 countries around the world. We’re delighted to feature Sid here at Solar Magazine.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with Solar Magazine, Sid. It’s clear the Solar DC Program is a very exciting one, but as with any project, there’s of course some complexity to it. To start, for someone just hearing of this venture for the first time what would you most like them to understand about the project?
The Solar DC Program provides electricity to off-grid communities in rural India, replacing inefficient fossil fuel energy sources such as kerosene with a rooftop solar panel system. The proceeds from the sale of carbon offsets through Cool Effect are used for maintenance of the systems and ensure their long life. This innovative and award-winning Direct Current (DC) system was created by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and now generates electricity for over 40,000 rural households in a planet-friendly way.
Families benefit from clean energy for light for reading and studying after dark and the fans that help cool homes and keep dengue bearing mosquitos at bay. In a country where only 44% of rural residents have access to electricity, over 50 million homes are completely off the grid, and half of Indian homes cannot even afford subsidized electricity, having access to reliable and affordable power sources just isn’t common. A typical mud thatched home consumes less than 500 kWh of electricity per year, about what an average U.S. electric water heater uses in a month. This amount of energy is easily generated by the simple solar panel and battery set up.
Families obtain additional savings since they are no longer reliant on purchasing fossil fuels to power their homes—some families often spend up to a third of their regular income on kerosene alone.
Beyond what you’ve just noted, is there anything else about the project you’d particularly like to emphasize? Perhaps something that makes it very distinctive in your mind?
The project is a standout example of Cool Effect’s commitment to scientific integrity and disciplined approach to identifying projects with true carbon benefit. Many projects are often unable to expand or survive due to lack of resources or support, and Cool Effect efforts ensure that high-quality projects across the globe overcome that challenge.
When traveling to India to see this project, I was able to both confirm the scientific merits, and be exposed first-hand to the profound impact that access to clean, renewable energy provides these rural communities. Our role at Cool Effect is so much greater than fighting climate change; it’s helping communities around the world prosper in sustainable living conditions.
Right now it’s a reality countless businesses and ventures have been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tell us, how has it impacted your progress in 2020?
While we are currently unable to travel directly to the project to check up on progress, existing families have remained healthy and safe amid the pandemic and are continuing to experience benefits thanks to access to clean, renewable energy.
From a business perspective, we’ve been encouraged to see that both individuals and businesses are continuing to take action to reduce their carbon footprint by supporting carbon reducing projects such as the Solar DC Program. While the pandemic has presented insurmountable hardships across industries, it has been encouraging to see that individuals and businesses alike still care about the future of our planet.
Imagining a post-coronavirus era (where even if the virus isn’t eradicated outright it is at least under control), what does the approach to this project then look like for you?
Aside from the current inability to conduct on-site evaluations to ensure the project continues to meet Cool Effect’s high standards, our approach will remain consistent. We are continuing to do our part in spite of any implications of the pandemic—connecting virtually with project partners, continuing to garner support for these projects and providing a solution for individuals, businesses and organizations who are looking to make a tangible impact in the fight against climate change.
We would like to conduct visits to other off-grid locations where this project has been implemented. These include the villages in the desert region of western India and the villages in Northern Himalayan mountains.
It’s been terrific to talk with you, Sid! Before we sign off can you tell us: is there any other recent Cool Effect pursuit or upcoming project you’d like to tell us about?
In July, Cool Effect completed the sale of two million tonnes of carbon since inception almost 5 years ago with more than 90% of the proceeds going directly to the projects. Good projects sell out quickly, so on the heels of that milestone, we’re continuing our rigorous project vetting and selection process to continue to find new projects that help the planet and its people.
Growing nations cannot blow hot and cold on renewable energy
This venture comes at a very notable time for India and its pursuit of renewable energy. Like its neighbor in China and other nations such as Indonesia with rapidly growing economies and sizable populations, India’s aspiration to go green and cultivate more renewable energy projects competes with advocates who hold that going green must not be permitted to forestall economic growth in any way. In turn, by other stakeholders who are often appreciative of renewable energy’s potential, but hold managing population growth and lifting living standards of poorer citizens must take priority over the implementation of renewable energy projects.
As regular readers of Solar Magazine know, the notion of implementing green energy projects must come at the expense of economic growth or living standards is wrong. When done right, a renewable energy project can create jobs and help enhance and secure better living standards. But just as the old adage goes “the proof is in the pudding”, so too do projects like the Solar DC Program represent real proof of the capacity for renewable energy projects to drive positive change. That change here is surely exciting for India in this instance, and indeed for all of us enthusiastic about the growth of renewable energy sources across our lives and communities. comment↓