energy infrastructure

Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: The Role for Science in International Development

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

What’s that, you say? International development is best left to experts in policy and economics? Well, think again because I believe that engineers and scientists have an important role to play.

While it’s easy for most of us to take our roads, electricity, schools, police forces, and food supplies for granted, there are still billions of people around the globe for whom these are not yet a reality.

Think about how much people’s lives—their health, education, safety, and well-being—would improve if they had the same level of infrastructure many of us probably take for granted. Transportation is faster and safer with paved roads; electricity improves education and healthcare, which, in turn, improves quality of life and people’s productivity, feeding tax revenues to the government to use in further improving infrastructure.

It’s positive feedback, spiraling upwards if we could only get it started!

This is what motivates me and the rest of my team. Over the past six years, we have been working to improve energy infrastructure in developing countries by building a better option for distributed energy generation: one that is renewable (uses solar energy), affordable, and can be made entirely with local materials, skills—and people.

image of solar panelsThe technology, which we call a Solar ORC, uses a solar thermal co-generation technique to simultaneously provide electricity and hot water in volumes required by typical rural institutions such as schools and clinics, allowing them to improve services, stretch their budgets, and avoid environmental degradation due to burning of fossil fuels. At the same time, local fabrication and dissemination of the technology provides good jobs and spurs the local economy.

In conjunction with our partners in southern Africa, we have already installed and tested several prototype systems, optimized for construction in Lesotho. Our most recent achievement is the initiation of our first full-scale system installation at a rural health clinic in Lesotho in 2009.

This type of work is challenging but also immensely rewarding. With each installation I am directly involved in improving the quality of infrastructure—and quality of life—for local people.

So to all of the young scientists and engineers out there wondering how you can make an impact on the world—think outside of the box and consider whether international development might have some challenges in store for you.

About the Author: Amy Mueller is a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder of STG International, a non-profit organization combining science and engineering with international development. STG’s work developing a novel solar energy technology is supported in part by an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award research grant.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.