Greenpeace Australia Pacific BLOG

Renewable Energy for All: How an Indian Village Was Electrified

Posted on April 27, 2015 at 16:23 by Kumi Naidoo

Let’s accept it. Climate change is a reality and current and future generations are up against the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. Yet some people believe that there is a trade-off between combating climate change and delivering development for the people. Around this year’s Earth Day, it is time to explode this harmful myth. It’s time to accept that the key to dealing with both poverty and climate change is energy security. And that energy security can be achieved without fossil fuels.

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On a global level renewable energy is winning the race against fossil fuels as more clean-power capacity is being installed than coal, oil and gas together. Solar power is growing faster than even we at Greenpeace predicted, and renewables are now the cheapest way to provide more electricity in an ever-growing number of countries.

Dharnai, a solar-powered village in India, shows how we can make the renewables boom deliver for all — including the rural poor. Dharnai is located in Bihar, one of the poorest provinces in India. It did not have access to electricity for 30 years before a solar mini-grid was installed with the support of Greenpeace India in July last year.

The village faces extreme poverty, deep caste divisions and very high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has been transformed in the last 10 months since an affordable solar-energy grid arrived. Dharnai is the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar. The 100-kilowatt (kW) system powers the 450 homes of the 2,400 residents, 50 commercial operations, two schools, a training center and a health-care facility. A battery backup ensures power is available around the clock.

Solar-powered lighting means children can now go out and play after school and finish their homework after sunset. Women feel safer venturing out after dark and families at home do not have to spend time in darkness. The arrival of solar-powered water pumps has brought new hope to many farmers in improving access to fresh-water resources. With solar energy, more villagers have been able to recharge their mobile phones regularly, and so the solar grid has also opened up Dharnai to the world of the Internet.

This is just the beginning. Improvements in the quality of life of Dharnai’s residents have become the talk of neighboring villages that are eager to understand and replicate the Dharnai model. India has 80,000 other villages that also need solar micro-grids.

That is why it is so important that Greenpeace India continues to work for a better life for India’s citizens and to help deliver clean, reliable electricity for all. Dharnai shows what real development — development that doesn’t cost the Earth — looks like. It is this kind ofsustainable development that Greenpeace India stands for. And it shows the absurdity of recent suggestions that Greenpeace in India is acting against India’s national interest.

Ironically, Greenpeace India’s work to bring energy to Dharnai has been rewarded with brickbats rather than bouquets by India’s recently elected government. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has suspended Greenpeace India’s ability to receive foreign donations and has also frozen the organization’s domestic accounts.

Even as my Indian colleagues prepare to answer the MHA’s allegations, in court if necessary, the Indian government’s actions beg the question — how does delivering electricity to a village that had none, or advocating for clean air, safe food, protecting forests and legally sanctioned rights equate to undermining economic interests?

But the story of Dharnai goes well beyond India. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide live without electricity. For them, the Dharnai solar-powered micro-grid could be a game-changer, a model for bringing clean, reliable energy to all.

Communities without electricity, and their governments, can make a leap forward by setting up their own renewable-power systems. They can avoid the pollution from coal-burning power plants and build a clean-energy system that local communities own and control.

If all of us put our efforts into achieving a renewably powered world, we can conquer climate change and vastly improve the livelihoods of people in even the poorest regions. That is the message of Earth Day in 2015. That is the message of Dharnai.

Kumi Naidoo is the International Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

To learn more about Dharnai, please visit: dharnailive.org.

This post is part of a Huffington Post What’s Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference — whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.

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A huge day for my home land

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 15:33 by Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Tomorrow is a huge day for my country, the Cook Islands, where people are coming together to stop a type of fishing that catches way too many tuna.

Purse seine fishing uses massive nets which catch everything in their path. They’re bad for our marine life and bad for the island communities who depend on fish for food and money. The call to ban this type of net from the Cook Islands is building, and tomorrow my people show their feelings at a rally in Rarotonga. Chants are being practiced, t-shirts have been printed (Tiki Tane was wearing one last weekend) and the word is spreading. We need to make the right choice for our ocean and for our future.

Action against the Biggest Tuna Fishing Vessel

The waters of the Cook Islands have traditionally provided plenty of kai moana for our people, from reef species to pelagic fish like tuna. But those resources are becoming more and more scarce as big fishing companies target the region. Bigeye tuna, one of the Pacific’s most valuable tuna species, is already overfished, and other stocks such as albacore are in worrying decline.

I’ve sailed with Greenpeace for over a decade, and in those years have crossed the Pacific many times, observing and taking action to protect our vital fisheries. I’ve been proud to be involved in defending our moana from industrial overfishing and pirate vessels.  In 2009 we were able to catch a Japanese longliner red-handed stealing fish from the Cook Islands, where it had no permission to fish.

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6 simple ways to go green at work

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 10:07 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

Are you the Captain Planet of your office? These 6 easy tips could help you go green at work and dramatically reduce the impact you and your co-workers have on the environment, climate and our Earth.

GREEN office

Sarah Neal has been volunteering at the Sydney office for years: archiving, campaigning and mercilessly correcting our grammatical errors. She’s also keen on  maintaining a sustainable, low-resource lifestyle. Here are her tips for keeping your office green and Earth-friendly.

1. Try to cut down on energy use

It’s best to avoid purchasing anything battery operated. If it’s essential, try keeping some rechargeable batteries in the office. Here are some of her other tips for saving energy in the office:

  • Only use hot water when necessary
  • If you can, use stairs instead of the lift
  • Always turn off your computer at the end of the day

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We have less than a week to Save the Reef

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 12:40 by Jacki Boyce

Can you imagine a world without our Great Barrier Reef? Right now, We have a big decision to make. The Australian government will soon choose a future with coal, or a future with the Great Barrier Reef. What we do in the next 7 days can change the course of the world’s greatest reef.

Save the reef petition

The Abbott government is reviewing yet another proposal to dredge millions of tonnes of seafloor in the Reef’s waters to make way for one of the world’s largest coal ports. The Queensland Government is proposing this disastrous project, and all they need now is the tick of approval from the Federal Government.

If it goes ahead, this project would open the floodgates to coal expansion along the Queensland coast and put a nail in the coffin of our Great Barrier Reef. Right now, the Abbott government wants to hear from you.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt can throw this proposal out but we have only until the 1st of May to convince him.

Let’s come together and put a stop to this short-sighted greed. Send a submission here before May 1 and tell Environment Minister Greg Hunt to dump this proposal once and for all.

The world’s most beautiful light shows are natural: 20 breathtaking photos of the Northern Lights

Posted on April 22, 2015 at 10:18 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

Alongside its Southern neighbour Aurora Australis, the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis) is truly Mother Nature at her finest. These spectacular natural artworks put the colours of the world on display. Here are our favourite photos of the Northern Lights taken by Greenpeace photographers in the Northern hemisphere.

How are the Northern Lights formed?

Charged particles emanating from the sun stream towards earth and then collide with the highest air particles. The color we see is a direct result of which gases are in the atmosphere. Oxygen produces the most common yellow-green color and the violet we often see at the lower edge of the aurora is due to nitrogen.

White Mountains in Quebec

White Mountains in Quebec

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Remembering the devastation: photos from the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill

Posted on April 21, 2015 at 12:14 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

5 years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, spewing 210 million gallons of crude oil. These Greenpeace photos from 2010 reveal the devastating mark the BP oil spill disaster left on our planet.

Gulf residents and wildlife continue to reel from the impacts of BP’s negligence. Coastal residents are struggling to maintain their livelihoods and culture, while they wrestle with health problems from exposure to oil and toxic chemicals.

Oil from Oil Rig Disaster

Boats try unsuccessfully to clean oil from the ocean, near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Boats try unsuccessfully to clean oil from the ocean, near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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New tuna market creates unique opportunity for the Pacific

Posted on April 21, 2015 at 11:37 by Lagi Toribau

Opinion Editorial by Lagi Toribau in Islands Business  SYDNEY, 30 MARCH 2015 —- There could soon be a whole lot more demand for sustainably caught tuna from the Pacific. For the first time ever, Greenpeace has just released a canned tuna guide in the United States – the largest tuna consuming nation in the world. Continue reading →