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Three Ways Third-Gen Clean Energy Tech Can Protect Vulnerable Communities

As discussed in our article "What Is Energy Democracy?" traditional energy sources are profit driven and aggravate climate change. Climate change has been linked with severe weather events, which in turn jeopardize the grid’s reliability.  Clean energy technologies can help lessen the damage a vulnerable community may experience following a severe climatic event or natural disaster.

What is a “vulnerable community”?

A community is labeled “vulnerable” when it is unable “to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural or man-made hazard,” according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies. Vulnerability involves many factors that influence the quality of life for people in a community, including poverty, political instability, poor access to food and water, or social inequity.  

What is third-generation clean energy technology?

The most commercially available forms of clean energy come from the sun, wind, and water. However, cutting-edge scientific research is developing new technologies that can collect energy from new places, like below the Earth’s crust, or from materials we usually don’t think of as energy sources, like what we flush down the toilet each day. These new methods are sometimes called third-generation technologies and include hot-dry-rock geothermal power, biomass gasification, and biorefining.

Current and new sustainable technologies are better suited to help vulnerable communities achieve energy security than traditional electric grids that use coal, oil, gas, or nuclear power. Below are three reasons why:

1 - Clean energy technology adapts to a community’s environment.

Many vulnerable communities around the world are situated in regions with unique geographical or biological features. Third-generation technologies take advantage of these features to create local power systems, thereby avoiding the need to build costly coal-, oil-, or uranium-powered stations, which often are easily damaged by severe weather events. Ocean energy, also called hydrokinetic energy, is an example of a potentially large and untapped source of energy for coastal communities.

2 - It allows people to store free energy for when they need it.

Both current and new sustainable energy technologies all have something in common: you can charge a battery with free electricity. Solar panel and storage systems for affordable housing developments, shops, and public service facilities in a vulnerable community ensure electricity even if the traditional grid fails during a disaster.

3 -  It can transform human and animal waste into energy.

Third-generation technology makes use of what is already widely available. For vulnerable communities located in rural areas and far from any electric grid, converting natural forest and agricultural waste into energy through a process like biomass gasification is a win-win for everyone.

With so many voices in the conversation on clean energy and climate change, it can be hard to get your head around just what it all means. The EESI blog puts the sometimes complex issues surrounding sustainability and renewable power into simple, plain language. Take part in the discussion–share your opinion in the comments section.