Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Light Bulb Moment- by Lauren Campbell

When I was younger, I was in all kinds of extracurricular activities: band, softball, French club, national honor society, the list goes on. There were many late nights spent after school for band concerts and exhausting softball games; sometimes I did not get home until 10 pm, long after the sun had gone down. I would go home, shower, and sometimes do my homework. I would sit in my bed room with my stereo softly playing, my bedroom light on, and force myself to finish the last of my math homework for the next day.

I hated math…

Being the young, sheltered, teenager I was, I did not see the benefits of doing math; nor did I see the privilege I was given to be able to study by light after dark. The access to electricity is something that most Americans take for granted, myself included; but not all students on this planet have the luxury of energy efficient light bulbs. Some use candles and others do not get to use anything at all and have to end their studies when the sun goes down.

Although at the time I was sitting in my bedroom doing my math homework late at night, having to stop a sun down seemed like a dream come true. But back then, as a teenager, I couldn't have appriciated the learning that would otherwise been impossible. Having to live and learn by the sun, my education would be slow and limited; my opportunities also limited.

Energy accessibility for everyone on this planet is becoming an ever larger discussion. It is currently a hot topic at the Rio +20 Summit. One of the most important discussions to hit the Rio +20, titled Sustainable Energy for All, is presented by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Ban Ki-moon has been leading the discussion on this topic for the past year, after the UN General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for all.

Secretary Ban Ki-moon has proposed five steps that must be taken in order to achieve modern energy access for all.
  • Modern energy access must be adopted as a political priority and policies and funding must be adapted accordingly. Governments must set goals, define a strategy, and allocate funds for this to be accomplished.
  • Additional investments, above the $14 billion per year assumed currently, to $34 billion. All sources and forms of investment are important and all must grow. The sum is large, but is equivalent to around 3% of global investment in energy infrastructure over the period to 2030.
  • Private sector investment needs to grow the most; however, there are some hurdles. National governments need to adopt regulatory frameworks and invest internally. The public sector needs to use its tools to influence private sector investment and encourage the development of replicable business models. Public subsidies also must be efficiently used to reach the poorest. 
  • Use multilateral and bilateral to fund the most difficult areas of access, which do not offer a quick commercial return.  Operating through local banks and micro finance arrangements can support the creation of local networks and the necessary capacity in energy sector activity. 
  • Make provision for the collection of robust, regular and comprehensive data to quantify the outstanding challenge and monitor progress towards its elimination. 
Read the full report.

Secretary Ban Ki-moon is a big proponent for implementing sustainable development in developing countries, which offers a launching pad for sustainable energy.

These initiatives are great ways to promote sustainable progress and track what sustainable technologies work best in different geographic locations.

In addition to focusing on energy development, access to energy can help many of these countries tackle poverty by increasing education and productivity, providing better healthcare options, and promoting economic growth.

Giving children the ability to study after dark increases their ability to compete on a global scale and helps drive innovation. Basic access to electricity helps prepare creative minds for the challenges of our generation. It’s with this step, the development and implementation of sustainable energy for all, that we will finally begin to understand what ‘sustainability’ really means.

We can empower all children on this planet by providing sustainable energy for all; providing them with the tools necessary to make the most of their education: a light to read by, a home cooked meal to nourish their brains, and clean energy to power them into a bright future. 


  1. The UN with Philips and Osram - and Ban Ki-moons support - are also involved via that program in a worldwide replacement of ordinary bulbs for complex more profitable patented CFL and LED alternatives made by, er, Philips and Osram ;-)
    Philips, Osram, the UN and the World Bank: How we will en.lighten the World in 2012
    There are many good ways to save energy, light bulb regulations is not one of them, as described in the "deception" rundown linked on the left

  2. Thanks! The more I research into various issues regarding sustainability, the more I realize economics (profit) drives much of the conversation and initiatives. I keep asking about the "people/community" and "environmental" aspect of sustainable development, but are often met with blank stares... I get the feeling a lot of the govt or NGO sponsored programs are not ways to solve the core problems, rahter are window dressing... but then again, it will take time for people's thinking to change first about wanting real sustainable solution first. Then we can demand more accountability and better implementation of real solutions that affects the triple bottom line...

    In the mean time, Lauren and I do what we can to help people to just start thinking about the issues... some, as of yet, don't even think we should save energy at all... but then again, maybe they stand to profit from the crash and burn mentality.

    Thank you for the comment.


    Jin Kong