‘We are all Solar Sisters’ – Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Recap

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On June 2 and 4, 2015 the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) held the first in a series of online trainings presented as part of the new U.S. Women’s Climate Justice Initiative. Launched with the goal of building a collective voice for U.S. women advocating for climate justice and action in the lead up to COP21 climate negotiations, the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond, these free education and advocacy sessions strive to provide the resources and support needed for women to become effective climate leaders in their communities, and at the national and global scale.

The first training, ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ centered on a few key questions including:

  • What policies are most important to advocate for in the transition to 100% renewable energy?
  • What is distributed/decentralized energy and how do we realize it?
  • How do we move to install solar in our own homes and communities, including for low-income women?

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy’ featured presentations by Angelina Galiteva and Diane Moss of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, Cathleen Monahan of Grid Alternatives, Allison Archambault of EarthSpark International, Lynn Benander of CoOp Power, and Robert Styler of Powur, with an introduction and moderation by WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake. Full biographies are available here.

WECAN International and Renewables 100 Policy Institute advocating for 100% renewable energy at the Peoples Climate March in New York City, September 2014.

Osprey Orielle Lake opened the June 2nd training with a warm welcome and brief discussion of why women are so central in this stage of the human journey, as we move to address the climate crisis. Focusing in on one very tangible indicator, Osprey explained that in the United States women make approximately 80% of all consumer choices, giving them a powerful ability to direct fossil fuel divestment, clean energy choices and investment, and community-led grassroots transitions.

Osprey also opened the floor to a discussion of a central training topic; what does an equitable transition to renewable energy entail? She explained that a justice framework calls for renewable energy that is accessible to all peoples, that works with respect for Nature’s needs and diversity, and that does not pursue any false solutions, such as large-scale hydropower, nuclear energy, or shale gas.

She also spoke about the concept of a Just Transition and how a fair and sustainable low-carbon economy must care for workers, families and communities currently involved in conventional fuel production, ensuring that they do not bear the brunt of the transition to new ways of producing wealth.

Concluding her introduction, Osprey drew attention to the fact that the U.S represents 5% of the world population, yet produces upwards of 26% of global carbon emissions.

“As one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, the US has a historic and current responsibility to lead the way to a clean energy future. But simply transitioning to renewables will not solve our problems, we must also dig deeper to address over-consumption and unequal distribution, analyzing how we can live better, not more,” she explained.

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Angelina Galiteva, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Angelina Galiteva, co-Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute, presented first, providing a big picture look at why we must transition, what progress has already been made, and how women can work to further this transformation.

According to Angelina, we need to focus on 100% renewable energy because it is achievable, because it is an environmental imperative, and because dirty energy lies at the root of all of our problems, from poverty and inequality, to health, war, and climate catastrophe.

“Its very clear that pollution is not free,” Angelina commented, explaining that the fossil fuel industry is the worlds second largest water user, a primary source of water and air contamination, and a creator of huge wealth disparities. The pursuit of 100% renewable energy on the other hand, creates jobs, improves quality of life, mitigates climate change, and can bring energy security and environmental justice.

Angelina provided data to show that there is absolutely no technologic or physical barrier to 100% renewable energy, but rather, only issues of “political and investment will”.

To power the world with solar we need only 0.07% of global land area, and capturing just two minutes of the solar radiation that hits the Earth each day can power the world for a year. Not only could this provide clean and reliable energy, but it could also bring power to the 1-2 billion people who still do not have access to electricity.

“Local action matters,” and is driving the transition, with 8 countries, 55 cities, 58 regions, 9 utilities companies, and 21 nonprofits and educational and public institutions representing more than 52.8 million people already committed to a 100% renewable transition. On a good day, grid power from renewables is reaching more than 40% in California, and we have the demand, knowledge, and community support needed to bring this to fruition in communities across the U.S. and the world.

“We are all solar sisters,” Angelina concluded as she passed the floor to Renewables 100 Policy Institute co-Founder, Diane Moss.

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Diane Moss, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Diane provided further insight into some of the 100% renewable victories already taking place, highlighted key policies to push for, and provided tips for successful organization.

Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas have both achieved 100% renewable electricity, and many other U.S counties have firm commitments, including Aspen, Colorado by 2015, Palo Alto, California by 2017, Georgetown, Texas by 2017, East Hampton, New York by 2020, San Diego, California by 2030, and Hawaii by 2045.

According to Diane, some of the important initiatives that U.S. women can advocate for include policies that:

  • set zero net-energy building targets
  • streamline the permitting process for renewable energy installs
  • promote and allow net metering
  • cut direct and indirect subsidies for conventional energy sources
  • educate and train citizens of all ages in clean energy and green job development

Diane explained that the first and most successful 100% renewable campaigns have come from communities that have promoted cooperation between activists, businesses, and the government. She also suggested that, whether at the household or global scale, 100% renewable energy projects be pursued with a set of short, medium, and long-term goals, with plenty of milestones to celebrate along the way.

Cathleen Monahan, Director of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program at GRID Alternatives, spoke next.

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Cathleen Monahan, GRID Alternatives

Cathleen and GRID Alternatives focus on solar accessibility for low-income communities for a few reasons. For one, solar installation can result in an 80% average reduction in monthly electricity bills. Secondly, the homeowners who can least afford clean energy are often the ones living in closest proximity to toxic conventional production.

After discussing the importance of renewables in a social justice context, Cathleen provided a look into some of the technical aspects of solar configuration and installation, including an overview of the parts of a solar energy system, different designs for mounting, options for connection (batteries vs. grid connected), selecting a contractor, financing your project, and tips for where to place your panels, which sizes to use, and system set up in different microclimates.

Cathleen also shared information about GRID Alternative’s Women’s Solar Initiative, which as gotten more than 1,000 women out on job sites to learn about solar energy. More information about opportunities to volunteer on a solar install with a powerful all-female team is available here.

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Allison Archambault, Earthspark International

Allison Archambault of Earthspark International opened the second day of training on June 4, joining the call from Haiti. She discussed the three keys to 100% renewable energy; storage, integration, and demand management. The later was of particular importance in her presentation, which busted the myth that supply must equal demand. Rather, Allison explained, in a sustainable renewable energy model, we should work to adjust demand to meet supply. For example, if we know that the grid will be strained in the afternoon on a hot summer day, we can work to pre-cool homes, thus re-distributing demand to function in harmony with the flow of energy production.

By building renewable energy infrastructure in optimal locations, using a mix of complementary technologies, and using smart grids to bring demand into equilibrium with supply, we can create “clean, local, efficient, affordable, reliable energy systems”- the CLEAR choice. Community micro grids were also discussed as key component of a resilient energy system, functioning independently of the bigger grid with on-site generation and storage.

Concluding her presentation, Alison spoke with participants about the idea of shifting from being consumers to ‘prosumers’, and discussed the sense of empowerment and connection that develops when individuals and communities re-claim local power and begin contributing back to a renewable energy grid.

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Lynn Benander, Co-op Power

Lynn Benander of Co-op Power spoke second, presenting the strategy of consumer owned energy cooperatives, as modeled by the Co-op Power network already up and running across New England. Participants in the New England renewable cooperatives come from multiclass and multirace backgrounds, promoting justice and diversity as the first step in sustainability and the clean energy transition.

Using the locally owned coop model, every community can decide what direction they want to take- be it solar, wind, biomass, or geo-thermal- and work to ensure that energy is created and distributed in a just and inclusive way. In bringing power back into the hands of residents, deep and sustained local economic development becomes a real, powerful possibility. According to Lynn, women are playing a key role on every level of community renewable energy development- as purchasers, activists, policymakers, supporters, organizers, and builders.

She also shared the Co-op Power ‘5 Years to Energy Freedom’ plan, which asks people to pledge to reduce energy consumption by 50%, and then work towards using renewables to supply the other half.

Lynn ended her presentation with a powerful assertion that the only precedent to the renewable energy movement is the abolition movement, with both striving to address economic injustice and root causes of unequal power and poverty dynamics. In fighting for 100% renewable energy, we are thus furthering the work of the important movements that have come before us.

Robert Styler of Powur spoke with training participants last, expanding upon Lynn’s sentiment that a virtually unprecedented movement is taking place. In his words, “the greatest transfer of wealth in history is happening now, from the fossil fuel industry to clean energy entrepreneurs like you.”

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Robert Styler, Powur

“Concentration of power is a disaster,” Robert commented, highlighting how the pursuit of renewable energy gives us an opportunity to reverse this trend by decentralizing both energy production and wealth creation. Despite being up against big obstacles, Robert explained that we are at a tipping point, with even the big banks and head of the Federal Energy Regulation Committee conceding that renewable energy is well on its way to making fossil fuels obsolete.

Robert provided background on the Solar City program which is installing a new solar system in the U.S. every three minutes, and discussed the ways that Powur is working to make financial support accessible for homeowners and organizations leading the renewable energy transition through an ingenious new fundraising system.

Thanking WECAN International and training participants for allowing him to present, Robert expressed his deeply held belief that the shift to a just and healthy world will be one led by women, and supported by men.

During the question and answer segments of the two-day training participants and speakers engaged in discussion about passive solar and the promotion of net-zero energy homes, how to modify the renewable energy tax credit system so that it benefits low-income communities, and the need to address campaign contributions so that big utility and fossil fuel companies cannot continue to push dirty energy. They discussed the need for carbon taxes, the potential of geo-thermal, how to promote renewables in high-density urban centers, and the power of focusing on your own zone of influence while educating others and taking personal steps to further the 100% renewable energy transition.

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ was presented by the WECAN International Women’s Climate Justice Initiative (WCJI). More information about future education and advocacy sessions is available on the WECAN International webpage. The next free online training- ‘Health & Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done’ will be held on June 23rd and 25th. To register for WCJI updates and calls to action, please click here.

 Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Resources:


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator & Project Assistant

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Democratic Republic of Congo Climate Women Take On Deforestation & Clean Energy Needs

The second largest rainforest in the world lies cradled in the Congo Basin of Central Africa. It represents more than 60% of the African continents total rainforest area, and holds within it an almost unfathomable diversity of life. However, like many of the Earths most precious places, this center of immense cultural and ecologic importance faces escalating deforestation and threats from pressures including fuel wood collection, timber and coal production, unsustainable agricultural practices, and social and political unrest.

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For more than a year, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN International) has been collaborating with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) South Kivu Province as part of the ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mega Dam/Mining Resistance’ program. Through a series of online trainings and on-the-ground strategy and action sessions, WECAN International and local partner SAFECO are providing an arena to address regional socio-economic need, support women in their role as community leaders, and confront critical environmental issues by building local solutions with a global vision.

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WECAN International and SAFECO led the most recent three-day training in February 2015, bringing together twenty women and seven men from ten different villages around the Itombwe rainforest. The DRC Climate Solutions Training is part of an ongoing program held in the area with the aim of growing the knowledge and capacities of the local, indigenous women to create and enact place-based climate action plans. Building on previous sessions, the February training covered topics including deforestation in the Itombwe forest, forest protection and restoration techniques, and the use of Improved Cooking Stoves as means of reducing pressures on the forest and improving family health and wellbeing.

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During the first session, participants engaged in conversations about the importance of trees and their relationship to climate change, focusing specifically on the immense value of native species and why exploitative practices such as logging are so detrimental to the health of the rainforest, the livelihood of their communities, and the global environment. Crucially, the group discussed and observed how they can work as guardians of the forest and as climate leaders without sacrificing their livelihoods or access to the diverse gifts provided by the land.

In connecting the lives, stories, and experiences of the local women to a larger climate change narrative, the facilitators hoped to help the women see the great power and agency they hold.

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Day two was spent visiting a small nursery where women learned techniques for starting and maintaining a tree nursery to contribute to reforestation efforts. Participants planted over 100 trees and discussed how these trees contribute to water purification, soil fertility, carbon sequestration, biodiversity protection, sustainable food production, medicinal plant access, and so much more.

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“From these trees we expect to fight climate change by protecting wild ecosystems, as well as satisfy our needs of fuel wood, medicine, and timber production,” explained training participate Yena Nasoka.

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The third and final day was dedicated to discussions and practicums surrounding the use of Improved Cooking Stoves. Participants learned about the characteristics of the stoves, which facilitate more energy efficient, rapid cooking and reduce the amount of smoke polluting living spaces, lungs, and the surrounding air. Because of their improved efficiency, the stoves require less fuel wood, which can help reduce deforestation rates in a region where the collection of wood for cooking and light pressures the local environment.

During discussions, women expressed excitement about the use the Improved Cooking Stoves for cooking and to contribute to forest conservation, but explained their concerns about not having a substitute for open fires used for light at night. WECAN International and SAFECO have begun the next phase of the program, which includes arranging for small hand-held solar lights to be brought into the region for light at night and for the women to develop their own small businesses selling and maintaining the solar lights.

“I’m excited by WECAN’s holistic approach to bring solar light so we can have light at night and Improved Cooking Stoves. This will work in our region,” reflected one woman, Butunga Nalisa, on the final day.

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Participants in this and previous WECAN trainings have formed a local conservation committee to insure that the progress made during training sessions will continue to grow and take root in their region. Through the committee they aim to share what they have learned with other community members, work to document and denounce deforestation, and create a collective voice to speak out when fellow citizens or local authorities facilitate unauthorized timber and charcoal production.

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Following the February session, the committee of training participants held a meeting with local chiefs, government officials, and the WECAN DRC coordinator to present their suggestions and requests.

Their recommendations for the protection and restoration of community wellbeing and the precious Itombwe rainforest are the following:

  • Implement laws and regulations to prevent forest fires and deforestation by holding guilty groups and individuals accountable for their actions.
  • Provide diverse tree seeds to local people and organizations involved in the process of planting trees.
  • Support and create campaigns to make others aware of the importance of forest protection and tree planting, and to promote the use of Improved Cooking Stoves in all villages.
  • Extend environmental education to community members of all ages.
  • Uplift and implement Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
  • Support local villages in getting cheaper solar panels and solar lamps to charge phones and provide light at night.

The WECAN/SAFECO partnership will work to help the communities surrounding Itombwe bring these recommendations to fruition, and will continue to strive to support, encourage, and strengthen the women leaders forging the way.

For an inside look into the recent Climate Solutions Training in the DRC, check out this short video created by the participants: 

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By Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

First Solar Engineer Grandmother Moseten

FIRST SOLAR ENGINEER GRANDMOTHER FOR MOSETEN NATION IN BOLIVIA

 By: Kiyomi Nagumo and Carmen Capriles

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 Solar panel installations provides electricity to indigenous families in the Mosetén Nation.

On March 18, Maria Vani from the Mosetén nation, 53-year-old, grandmother, returned to Bolivia as the first indigenous Solar Engineer.  She was welcomed by local authorities, family and neighbors in the community of Villa Concepcion located in the north of the region of La Paz, Bolivia.

After five months at Barefoot College in India, our solar grandmother was trained in the installation and maintenance of solar panels. Maria said the assembling of components of panel parts is what she enjoyed the most.

The purpose of this program is to support sustainable development and access to renewable energy sources, such as solar, to families in rural and indigenous communities, as an alternative source of energy friendlier with the environment and at the same time less expensive.

Mrs. Maria expressed, “I never thought in my life, at my age 53, being a woman, and indigenous, that I could not do something worthwhile. But now I’m proud of myself and I know I can do everything, and I can help my community, and my people. ”

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The Solar Grandmother is proud to contribute with the development of Mosetén Nation, and specifically within her community. She is excited as she waits for the arrival of solar panels. They will provide alternative energy to those who need it most in her community.

This initiative was coordinated through the efforts of volunteers from the city of La Paz committed to climate change and sustainable development of the country and Reaction Climate, Peace Network Integration and Development (PAZINDE) in collaboration with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN-LAC).

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PRIMERA ABUELA SOLAR POR LA NACION MOSETEN EN BOLIVIA

Por: Kiyomi Nagumo y Carmen Capriles

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 La instalación de paneles solares, brindará electricidad a familias de la Nación Indígena Mosetén  

El pasado 18 de Marzo MARIA VANI indígena de la Nación Mosetén, de 53 años de edad, abuela, retorna como la primera Ingeniera Solar Indígena de Bolivia, fue recibida por autoridades locales, familiares y vecinos en la comunidad de Villa Concepción, ubicada en el Norte del Departamento de La Paz, Bolivia.

Tras cinco meses en el Instituto de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot College) en la India, la abuela solar fue capacitada para la instalación y mantenimiento de paneles solares, lo que más le gusto a María fue el armado de componentes, como así lo asegura.

La finalidad de este programa es apoyar en el desarrollo sostenible de familias en comunidades indígenas, con el acceso a fuentes de energías renovables como es la solar como una alternativa energética más amigable con el medio ambiente.

María expresa “Yo pensaba que nunca en mi vida, menos a mis 53 años, siendo mujer e indígena podía hacer algo y que no valía nada. Pero ahora estoy orgullosa y sé que soy capaz de hacer todo y puedo ayudar a mi pueblo y mi gente”.

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La abuela Solar orgullosa de aportar en el desarrollo de la Nación Moseten y en especial a su comunidad, está ansiosa por la llegada de los paneles solares, para poder brindar energía alternativa a los más necesitados de su comunidad.

La iniciativa fue coordinada gracias a la gestión de voluntarios de la ciudad de La Paz  de Reacción Climática y la Red Paz Integración y Desarrollo (PAZINDE) con la colaboración de la Red de Acción de Mujeres por el Clima y el Ambiente (WECAN-LAC), todos comprometidos con el cambio climático y el desarrollo del país.