In today’s world, it's more common than ever before for energy companies to get a bad wrap. Not least as many of us now seek a world where burning fossil fuels is consigned to the history books. As such, most of us realise that climate change is an issue we need to find solutions to. Not least 97% of scientists can’t be wrong2. To do so the switch to renewable energy is an essential part of our fight against climate change. Thankfully, there’s also a growing number of energy companies out there genuinely working for a better planet. Below we’ve had a scour and selected some exemplary renewable energy non-profits doing good in the world.
Not that long ago the big oil companies were largely held in high esteem as they busied themselves fuelling the industrial revolution. Of course, growing energy demand to fuel our cars, our homes and factories making our stuff were also partly responsible. For supply rarely exists without demand.
During this time when oil demand was growing fast many of us may not have even given too much thought to where our energy really came from. Or its environmental consequences. However, if the lights failed or the price of petrol went up we might have been worried. And that was the worst of it.
Today things are changing. The kind of energy company that drills, spills, burns and pollutes is now increasingly tarnished by its core activities.
Global protests, science, activism and politics now all help to highlight in their own ways the many issues fueling our energy needs with oil has caused. And continues to cause.
There’s little doubt our energy future is no longer about continuing to use polluting nonrenewable energy sources6. We now know we must move at a pace towards a cleaner energy landscape to prevent the most damaging climate change scenarios. It will be about clean energy generation, clean energy projects and using alternative energy resources that reduce our impact on the environment1. In turn, the switch to sustainable renewable energy accelerates across the world8.
Consumer demand for better, cleaner energy will further build momentum. Thus, if we are to protect the environment, the focus must shift from solely making money and profits. It should be about seeking solutions that help us to drive down carbon emissions and that do well by communities and planet at the same time. For we all stand to profit from a more sustainable future.
As such, only by working together towards ambitious and shared carbon neutral objectives do we stand a chance of meeting our 2050 targets. With this in mind, the following renewable energy nonprofits are doing something right whilst doing good. So, as the world is seeking change, innovative non-profit renewable energy companies offering something different deserve more than a second look.
We Care Solar is a non-profit with a difference. Using sustainable energy from solar power, it is helping to change the medical industry across the world. The company began back in 2009 with a recognition that maternal mortality rates were needlessly high in developing countries.
Certainly part of the reason was that sporadic access to electricity often prevented healthcare professional using their equipment to treat patients. And as mothers can give birth at any time of the day or night, even having to do so without the benefit of light.
Therefore, after a visit to Nigeria, the founder Dr. Laurel Stachel felt the need to do something. Working with her husband, they developed the solar suitcase7.
The aim of the solar suitcase was to provide simple to use and portable solar power. Their invention has gone on to provide more than 4,000 health centres with solar lighting and power.
The solar suitcase now helps to save the lives of mothers and babies. Today more than 2.5 million births have taken place in facilities powered by the Solar Suitcase.
SunWork is rewarding those who are already doing their bit for the environment and have reduced or already have relatively small energy demands. This renewable energy non-profit located in California provides solar energy to those who use less than $100 of electricity each month.
The company has a mission to make solar more affordable. Through a team of volunteers, SunWork will install solar panels at a third of the cost. The aim is to help more people benefit from and contribute to a sustainable energy future.
All money that the company generates is put back into helping to keep the costs down for customers.
Grid Alternatives is a nonprofit that delivers solar to communities that need it in the US. It works with low-income families and other non-profits to offer free solar installations.
The company has a set of clear aims and is doing good on a number of levels. So far, it has installed 54 MW of high-quality solar systems. The initiative has already prevented almost 1 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
What’s more, the company also provides training programs. Their training programs help people to find work in the solar industry and contribute to a cleaner, greener society.
So far, 43,000 people have benefited from the training, while 12,492 systems have been installed. The company has a clear focus on equity, inclusivity, diversity and sustainability.
Since 2002, Vote Solar has worked to make solar affordable and accessible. Its aim is to work at the state level throughout the US, supporting the grid with clean energy.
Another renewable energy non-profit company, it focuses on six areas in order to promote the solar industry:
The company has gained support from local governments as a result of its community solar projects and the way it helps low-income households access solar energy.
Vote Solar want to change the thinking around energy consumption. Therefore, projects, incentives and the development of policies relating to net metering has helped more people to adopt solar energy. One of the aspects key to the decision making process of adopting solar4.
Solar Village Project is an organisation that works to deliver power to poor communities throughout the world. The project installs solar power systems, giving communities access to a source of energy providing electricity that many of us take for granted.
Most of the work takes place in Africa and India. The project works by receiving donations. Therefore, $50 will help to provide a complete solar power system that can provide light to a home.
The company is also helping to reduce the use of Kerosene which is harmful to the environment. What’s more, homes can access electricity that they can use to charge phones that help to provide connections within their local communities and access to essential services.
The Government of India promises that every village will have access to electricity. They plan to achieve this through the Saubhgaya Village electrification scheme. Despite this, 31 million homes in rural areas still do not have reliable electricity access, many with none at all.
There are 1.1 billion people living in energy poverty around the world. Solar Electric Light Fund aims to provide those people with a reliable source of energy. So far, it has completed projects in more than 25 countries.
The projects that they have completed have utilised innovative solar-based energy solutions. This helps to power homes, medical centres and even helps to purify water. Therefore, they have delivered power to schools, health facilities, water systems, small businesses and communities. They are an organisation that believes in providing sustainable energy to the masses.
Through having access to clean energy, communities can cook, clean, grow food and have access to better healthcare. SELF is helping to improve sustainability while giving underprivileged communities a chance to thrive.
Ebico is a UK renewable energy non-profit. It is the only energy company that works to fight fuel poverty in the UK. To achieve this, Ebico also uses 100% green energy.
The term fuel poverty has only been around for 20 years or so3. Since various studies have shown fuel poverty to be a serious national issue. In short, most research talks to a ratio of 10% needs to the threshold, or more simply fuel poverty occurs when a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel. A study from LSE even found that poorer households were likely to spend almost £600 a year than better-off households on fuel for heating largely due to poorer home energy efficiency5.
As it currently stands, there are 2.53 million households living in fuel poverty in England.
Ebico has no shareholders and is a Limited by Guarantee company. As it has no shareholders, it means that all profits are put back into fighting fuel poverty via their Ebico Charity. This offers support and projects in areas that are fuel-poor. Currently, it delivers fuel to 60,000 homes in the UK.
All of Ebico’s energy comes from UK based wind and solar farms. Their unique structure allows them to offer affordable electricity to those who are living in poverty. They have a zero tariff with no standing charge, providing people with the chance to only pay for what they use.
Ecotricity boasts the title of the “Greenest Energy Company” in the UK. In fact, it was the first green energy supplier in the world. All of the electricity that they supply comes from 100% renewable energy.
However, where this supplier differs is the way in which they use their money. All the money that they receive is put back into building solar and wind parks. Therefore, they also generate 25% of the green electricity that they supply.
The company has 35 energy parks, some of which are completed, some are under construction. and some are in planning. In ten years it has increased its installed capacity from 50.3 MW in 2009 to 87.2 MW in 2018.
As the company has an eye for creating a sustainable environment, it also plans to become a zero carbon organisation by 2025.
We live in an energy-hungry world and traditional energy suppliers have fed off that for decades. However, these renewable energy non-profits are proof that it is not all about pocketing the profits.
If we are going to make a change then we need to act fast. It is 2019 and there are billions of people living in fuel poverty around the world. To add to that, we also need to tackle the climate change problem.
These companies are unlike traditional energy companies. They are all about working for the planet and community whilst providing energy solutions where they are most needed. As well as this, they also focus on creating energy from renewable sources. They are helping to solve two of the biggest problems we face - fuel poverty and greenhouse gases. Here’s to their continued success!
|Meeting the Clean Energy Demand: Nanostructure Architectures for Solar Energy Conversion. J. Phys. Chem. C200711172834-2860. Publication Date:February 1, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1021/jp066952u. Copyright © 2007 American Chemical Society|
|Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. John Cook, Naomi Oreskes, et al. Published 13 April 2016 • © 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 11, Number 4|
|Christine Liddell, Chris Morris, S.J.P. McKenzie, Gordon Rae, Measuring and monitoring fuel poverty in the UK: National and regional perspectives, Energy Policy, Volume 49, 2012, Pages 27-32, ISSN 0301-4215, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.02.029|
|Duncan G. Labay, Thomas C. Kinnear, Exploring the Consumer Decision Process in the Adoption of Solar Energy Systems, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 8, Issue 3, December 1981, Pages 271–278, https://doi.org/10.1086/208865|
|Hills, John (2012) Getting the measure of fuel poverty: final report of the Fuel Poverty Review. CASEreport (72). Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.|
|Relative contributions of greenhouse gas emissions to global warming. Daniel A. Lashof & Dilip R. Ahuja. Nature volume 344, pages529–531 (1990)|
|Harnessing Africa's untapped solar energy potential for health. Bull. World Health Organ. 92 (2) Feb 2014. https://doi.org/10.2471/BLT.14.020214|
|The path towards sustainable energy. Steven Chu, Yi Cui & Nian Liu. Nature Materials volume16, pages16–22 (2017)|