The Green Corridor: Resilience from Diversification

The Green Corridor: Resilience from Diversification

by Timothy Foote, Founder of Susymbio

Access to Sustainable Power is the Challenge of Our Time, but when clean power sources are diversified it promises more stability for our future.

The past century has been plagued with conflicts fueled by the want or need of fossil fuels. From the attack on Pearl Harbour more than 70 years ago, to the occasional collapse of a government brought on by the inability to manage the import or export of fossil fuels. Just recently in Sri Lanka, the rising global fuel costs for oil precipitated the bankruptcy of a once thriving economy.

I recently came back from vacation in Malawi a land-locked country of 19 million that surrounds Lake Malawi. Like many countries today, Malawi struggles to provide basic services to a large number of its people. Clean running water, waste disposal, electricity and the infrastructure needed to provide these services are not yet developed.

During my week there, the gas pumps at every station stopped pumping. The government simply ran out of  foreign currency to buy imported fuel. This was not the  first time either. The same thing happened in January.

In countries like Malawi, it is the people that need to be resilient because access to affordable and steady power simply is not. There is always a tipping point though where resilience can’t be maintained. When fuel runs out at gas stations in Malawi, black market fuel smuggled into the country quickly appears but at double the price. Very quickly the industries all cut back on using power, people run out of savings, and livelihoods shrivel.

Sadly, Malawi’s most used local source of power is its shrinking forests. All of its trees are being cut down to make charcoal for heating and cooking. Some of this is additionally exported to get foreign currency needed for the gas. At night in the regional capital of Blantyre my throat would itch from soot as a result of all the charcoal stoves. It is completely understandable why this is happening. Fossil fuels, oil and gas and other commodities are not locally available. Like Sri Lanka and many other countries in the world, these fossil fuel power sources must be imported. The forest resources do not have to be imported yet, but sadly it is disappearing faster than it can grow back.

 

Development Challenges for a Resilient Future

Malawi and countries in the global south are often rich in a variety of clean energy raw materials. Sunlight is plentiful, water bodies with rivers and windy valleys or windy off-shore areas with shallow coastlines can often be found in the developing world in some combination. Some countries even have geo-thermal resources (the same power which ignites volcanos) like Kenya and Indonesia. That said we live in a world where when you win – you win more, and when you lose? Well, you can end up in a hole too deep to dig yourself out.

To harness sunlight in Malawi, it will take capital and know-how requiring foreign currency and technology from other countries. In other words this needs foreign direct investment. A large advantage over similar investments of fossil fuel drilling or digging is that once the investement is made the power could come from local sunlight which is a far more stable natural resource. This allows the local power system on the whole to be massively more resilient. Maybe even the remaining forests could be saved, because power generation happens on the spot with solar power systems.

 

Moving Money

Enter the world of carbon offsets Projects involving solar, wind and hydroelectric power projects are everywhere these days and quickly multiplying. Some people criticize carbon offsets because they believe that companies that buy them are not planning to really clean up their own processes. Most of the business community as well as myself, feel that carbon offset projects are critical to reconstruct the power infrastructure of our planet. The case of Malawi clearly shows where without some outside funding (via carbon offset projects), countries will struggle to transition to cleaner more resilient sources for power.

Where Malawi sits 13 degrees south of the equator, Thailand sits 15 degrees north. Thailand is starting to shed its dependency on imported fossil fuels by switching to solar.  Siam Solar Energy 1* is an example of one project receiving funds from companies looking to mitigate their carbon emissions. It is currently generating up to 148,000 MWh of clean energy per year. Thailand is currently Asia’s second largest oil importer. It is 80% reliant on fossil fuels for its energy needs. Therefore home generated solar power will play a leading role in decreasing that over the years to come. Getting that done quicker is always better and carbon offset funding is helping that happen today.

Spending on a needed clean energy transition not only provides for a cleaner future; it also provides a more resilient energy mix for the country’s people and business. Here are the steps I list for clients interested in getting green by using carbon offsets:

    1. Understand the amount of emissions your processes generate
    2. Collectively discuss and decide what region of the world you ideally would like to develop
    3. Collectively discuss what general offset type you are interested in. Is it:
      • Protecting and increasing forests, mangroves or other carbon sink areas?
      • Developing sustainable energy power that replaces fossil fuel power like solar, wind, or other green energy project?
      • Community energy transition projects – these reduce emissions by switching high emission power sources used by a community to a more efficient cleaner power source (eg. switching a community to use more efficient cookstoves)?
    4. Reach out to partners that offer legitimate options and start offsetting!
    5. Inform your stakeholders of your actions.

If your company is not already involved with carbon offsets to mitigate your current emissions, then there are companies that can help. There are even websites where you can purchase carbon offsets as an individual or small business. I will be using one to mitigate my trip to Malawi. Offsets are a way to invest for change – so be a change maker!

* Siam Solar Energy 1 is a project that bundles 10 solar power plants across the provinces of Kanchanaburi and Suphanburi (central Thailand). These PV (photovoltaic) systems use the latest technology to generate electricity and provide it to the grid. Annually this is currently providing 148,00 MWh.

About the Author” heading_tag=”h5″ alignment=”left”]

Tim Foote runs Susymbio, a boutique consulting firm advising on e-commerce logistics solutions and sustainability program management services. Tim has held various positions with MNCs, gaining a wide knowledge and expertise in logistics operations. He crafted delivery solutions for e-commerce clients and managed supply chains for several chemical and freight forwarding companies. At DHL eCommerce’s first Asia Pacific Head of Go Green, he put in place carbon footprint management, sustainability training, illegal wildlife smuggling monitoring training, and employee engagement. Tim volunteers his free-time with the Singapore Wildcat Action Group, a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness and funds for wildlife conservation.[vc_text_separator title=”MORE FROM THIS EDITION” border=”no”][vc_single_image image=”20247″ img_size=”medium” qode_css_animation=””][ult_layout layout_style=”4″ list_style=”6″ s_image=”0″ s_excerpt=”0″ s_categories=”0″ s_metas_o=”0″ s_metas_t=”0″ quick_view=”0″ taxonomies=”post_tag” price_font_weight=”” atcb_font_weight=”” title_font_weight=”normal” title_font_style=”normal” title_text_transform=”capitalize” metas_font_weight=”” excerpt_font_weight=”” filter_font_weight=”” tab_font_weight=”” pagination_font_weight=”” title_font=”Lato” title_font_size=”12pt” i_taxonomies=”362, 363″ d_i_filter=”362″]