Once again, leading actors and heads of state have gathered to discuss the climate. Significant issues are being addressed during the UN Climate Week in New York, and some of these are the world’s need for renewable energy and technology that can accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.
When new energy systems are developed, the enormous need required to heat and boil the household’s drinking water is seldom prioritized. In places where the electrical infrastructure is still lacking, wood or coal is used, which is far from sustainable. Here, a rapid transition to renewable energy can provide many benefits for people, the environment, and the climate. Proven technology is available and can be scaled up to address this need.
The energy demand for domestic water use is largely unmet. 2.8 billion people burn wood and coal daily for cooking, hygiene, and heating, and boiling the water clean. The fuel comes from forests that are shrinking and disappearing. It has well-known and severe consequences for humans, the environment, and the climate.
The vast energy demand will not be able to be met with electricity in the foreseeable future (Figures from World Energy Data show that 21% of the world’s energy consumption is electricity and a 100% conversion to electricity would, according to forecasts, take more than 100 years from now). But thermal solar energy is a renewable source that is well proven and suitable for domestic water use in large parts of the world. The sun’s thermal energy can heat water to a high temperature and the sun’s UV radiation can simultaneously purify drinking water. Great benefits for the climate can be made here. Unfortunately, there is little exchange between actors in the energy and water sectors. The gains of such resource efficiency can be so significant that it needs to come higher up on the UN agenda.
Little cooperation between the energy and water sectors
The UN’s sustainability goals should enable more exchanges between the energy and water sectors. For the world to get closer to the vision of a sustainable future for all, cross-sectoral collaborations are needed that enable synergies and hybrid innovations. This also presupposes that decision-making actors in both development aid and politics change their way of thinking and count on the renewable and (solar) resources available.
– Politics: Energy transition and climate justice need to take place in parallel.
– Development Assistance: Prioritize renewable energy for domestic water needs in places where functioning electrical infrastructure is lacking, where those most affected by climate change live.
– Industry: Invest, there is a huge market for renewable energy in countries and populations rising from poverty.
The Future is in our hands
The transition to renewable energy is not as difficult as it is often presented. We need to understand that the future is in our hands, the very worst impact of climate change is not yet here and can be avoided. How? by cutting our emissions by using our resources more efficiently. The sun’s rays have a direct effect that can be optimized to meet families’ most basic energy needs.
In 2006, I launched the innovation Solvatten with new mothers in mind. It is a portable water purifier and water heater that needs nothing but solar energy to work. The combination of thermal heat (i.e. direct heat from the sun), and exposure to harmful UV, neutralizes dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites. The heat makes the cell membranes of the microorganisms fragile, which makes it easy for the UV rays to penetrate and destroy the cell’s DNA. When the water is exposed to enough heat and UV, an indicator changes – from a red sad smiley to a green and happy one. The result meets the WHO’s highest level for safe drinking water and also has a temperature of up to +75 ° C. Either it can then be allowed to cool in the shade and drunk later or stored in a thermos to use the hot water for cooking, hand washing or other hygiene. Today, more than 450,000 people have access to Solvatten.
Do you also think that more should be invested in renewable energy for households’ water needs?