OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Knowledge is Power!

Alternative energy is an emotional topic, but regardless of our opinions, the laws of physics will determine the ultimate solutions. The engine of real social change is connecting real people to real information. Community members must have a solid idea of the central challenges and currently feasible solutions. For instance in England, wind power only has the potential to create about 40% of England's power needs if every available square inch of the land and sea surrounding the UK were used for wind power generation--every single available square inch! However after public opinion is considered (ie. "not in my backyard"), wind power at the current moment will only be able to be used to generate 2-5%. We must learn the real challenges!

Photo of Prof Kurti
27 15

Written by

I recently read a book by a British physicist called, "Sustainable Energy -- Without the Hot Air".  Curiously, it was actually readable.  However, the book brought up many disturbing issues I had never considered.  For instance, it turns out the most abundant and immediately accessible resource is nuclear energy which isn't necessarily renewable but has the highest potential to wean us off of fossil fuels in the near term.  Yet none of us is excited about nuclear energy after the recent accidents.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of renewable energy.  I even have my own windmill that powers my family's electricity needs and more.  Yet, I have discovered that renewable energy has quite a bit of hype and hot air.  There are solutions, but they are not as simplistic as we've been led to believe.  However, I believe the real data can be understood and communicated clearly along with the real challenges.

We just need better information packaged in more understandable, bite-sized pieces.  When we can clearly explain the real challenges to a 10 year old, we will be ready to educate our communities.  The kids in the photo are learning to program a microprocessor.  That may seem quite advanced for a child of 10 years, but I've learned that most anyone can learn something as long as they're excited and presented with bite-sized morsels of information.

To get a start on your own education, check out the online version of the book I mentioned:   http://bit.ly/ZT1sc6

The example I mentioned can be found at this point in the book:   http://bit.ly/1xsBBEm

We need to repackage information such as in the book I mentioned and boil it down for real people without all the political and commercial hot air!  Let's find the real information, make it exciting, and discover how to teach it to a 10 year old.  Then we'll be ready to help our communities make that rapid transition to renewables.

27 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Meena Kadri

We know it's a crazy time of year – but our team thought you're onto something here which could translate well into a new concept for our Ideas phase. You've got till Jan 15 to summons the creative energy to post an idea. Here's some tips: https://openideo.com/blog/rr-welcome-to-ideas and we hope you'll find some time to get your innovation game on!

Photo of Tim Haines

As a member of solar sales company, I can say energy education is absolutely essential for our business. Electricity can be an amphorphous concept to wrap your head around (what the heck is kilowatt hour??).

However, in order to successfully transition to renewable sources, every sales pitch starts with some basic education around what energy and solar are. Once the customer has that foundation, they understand how it will benefit them.

One trick that works well for us to compare kWh to gal of gasoline. Everyone knows what the local $/gal price is, but rarely understand their own $/kWh on their utility bills. Once they get the analogy, they have a much clearer understanding of how they are billed.

Photo of Prof Kurti

Tim, I am a practicing physicist, and I never looked at my own electricity bill (unless it was too big) before I purchased a windmill. We just never considered our $/kWh. You are absolutely correct that we need to understand such numbers and their impact on our decisions.

Photo of Matt Renner

Tim - What comparison between $/kWh to gallon of gasoline do you use with your customers?

Photo of Tim Haines

I don't make the actual conversion from $/gal to $/kWh, although that might be interesting/enlightening for the homeowner to understand the equivalency.

You just need to get them thinking about it. So, pose the question, what the price of gas in your area? They will know instantly. Then, ask what's your price per kWh. Only about 25% of people will have even a clue. From there you can simply make the comparison and say, "Well price per kWh is analogous to price per gallon, and it's how the utility company charges. It's just as important as price per gallon because it often increases over time, although it's not as easy to realize that." Something along those lines. I suppose it's a thought experiment of sorts.

Photo of John V. Kimario

Hi Kurti,
Thanks for coming again. We said many of our dear people are 'closed out'. How? How can we come together and GET OURSELVES OUT to be with and serve our dears in dire need of SIMPLE and BASIC solutions to start with?

You've correctly suggested the internet...it really presents A MILLION opportunities. BUT strange enough the internet rich platform has to be SIMPLIFIED and MADE BASIC ENOUGH for consumers to access the great potentials out there.

One layman's suggestion: What if efforts are made to design a basic incubator kind of competition; lets say around energy smart entrepreneurship for low income youth sell it out on this platform. If resources are won then the INCUBATOR FOR INNOVATIONS IN ENERGY ENTREPRENEURSHIP is translated in a Local SWAHILI LANGUAGE for the grassroots youth to read, be encouraged to come at a community platform for more ...eye opening session' . At the end experts assess outputs for small funding potential,,,,get SOME SMART IDEAS IN THE FIELD, Monitor ...share feedback stories, best practice notes and all that comes with successful interventions....them and see people happy all over

... please am just shouting on a platform...

Photo of Prof Kurti

John, those are very actionable suggestions. With collaborators like you, meaningful education can make it to the people who need to hear it the most.

Photo of John V. Kimario

Thanks. Knowledge is power...a team is forming Fast. Lets Go ...

Photo of Prof Kurti

John, We need to find a few more excited team members. Any idea where we can find them?

Photo of John V. Kimario

Hi. this very platform gives vibrant teams AROUND AN IDEA. An ideas serves as a POWERFUL MAGNET...The potential is there. Knowledge is Power .needs to be sprinkled...

Photo of Matt Renner

I have a guy who is interested in this idea - he has a fuel cell technology that could be appropriate for this kind of application.

His info:
Benson P. Lee, President Technology Management, Inc. Cleveland, Ohio 44108 USA
(216) 541-1000, Benson@AnywherEnergy.com, www.AnywherEnergy.com

He has a white paper on the concept but I'm not sure if it is public or not.

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Love the conversations that are happening around how to get communities aware and invested in their energy usage. Thanks for post, Kurti!

Photo of Prof Kurti

Joanna, thank you. We work with students a lot, and I'm constantly amazed at the power to comprehend once the knowledge is placed in the right form. Typically, the right form is one in which--to quote one of my favorite educators, Jean Piaget--the student is free to become a creator, inventor, or innovator. As an educator, our primary aim is to teach the learning process, and any student that understands the learning process can quickly become educated on any topic they find interesting.

Original quote:
"Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society... But for me, education means making creators... You have to make inventors, innovators, not conformists."
--"Conversations with Jean Piaget" by Jean Claude Bringuier

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Amazing. Truly something we should be striving for in our education system.

Photo of Meena Kadri

We're loving: "The engine of real social change is connecting real people to real information." This presents some great opportunities for our upcoming Ideas phase across a number of potential communication channels. Hope to see you there!

Tip: to activate links in your post, hit the Update Entry button up there on the right, then follow the instructions here: http://bit.ly/oi_link  

Photo of Prof Kurti

Thank you, Meena, for the kudos and the tech tip.

Photo of André Fernandes

nice insight Kurti about to make information accessible for people. I've been seeing that many projects in Brazil regarding renewable energies are unknown by many citizens or known superficially without comprehend our impact as consumers and producers. Other barrier has been the political lobby, which here predominantly comes from auto industry and petrol companies.

In addition, many products we use in our daily lives have components originated by petrol, like plastics and other chemical materials.

Photo of Prof Kurti

Andre, your technical insights are on the money. In Brazil, how can we do a better job getting "real information to real people"?

Photo of André Fernandes

yes Kurti, money plays a key role, especially talking about lobbying. and corruption in Brazil, as in many developing countries, is endemic, which contributes for a gap between authorities and communities. what has been working here are local and small initiatives to promote awareness on environmental issues, more common among youngers and students.

Photo of John V. Kimario

Yes Andre. Now Kurti see this..."what has been working here are local and small initiatives to promote awareness on environmental issues, more common among youngers and students...'

Knowledge is power,,,,show us the WAY a team is forming FAST...Cheers....

Photo of Prof Kurti

Andre, corruption is a problem in every culture. It just shows up in different manners. How can we promote awareness in Brazil?

Photo of André Fernandes

Yes, Kurti, no country is free of corruption. In developing countries, its degree is normally enough to serve as barrier for social changes. In Brazil, promote awareness through student associations and NGOs have been working partly engaging a part of the youth into sustainability and social changes issues. The big steps to achieve a wide audience depends upon moblizing resources and support of media, that's have been the main struggles.

Photo of Prof Kurti

Andre, other than media support, what other channels do Brazilians use to gather information? Could we use Facebook? Twitter? A website? Some other source?

Photo of André Fernandes

yes, wesbites and social media have been working and are important tools to spread the messages. Social media are heavily used in Brazil

Photo of John V. Kimario

I really admire the " way out" as narrated by Kurtis. It is very true even from the previous "Youth Employment Challenge" . Many of our dear people are closed out ...simply for lack of VERY SIMPLE AND BASIC SOLUTIONS AS THEIR WAY FORWARD...Lack of simple GUIDANCE to an everlasting solution that would carry many many of such dear ones miles and miles away from poverty and un-necessary suffering for mere lack...of information on this matter.

This challenge has again opened out to me that,,,SOLUTIONS ARE THERE FOR EVERYONE ENERGY NEEDS. BUT MISSING LINKS. i'D EM BRASS THIS PLATFORM MUCH MORE WHEN WE CAN JOINTLY EASE THE LINKS OF AT LEAST A HAND FULL OF OUR PEOPLE IN NEED in a country like Tanzania. Kurtis, I'll be very happy to join in a team around very basic solutions and linkages for this energy course.

Photo of Alper Yaglioglu

I couldn't agree with you more, John. I'm located in Istanbul and I haven't heard anything about renewable energy before. At first, I thought that there aren't any projects going on but a small research on topic revealed the truth. There are plenty of renewable energy firms and projects but there is no link between these efforts and people. That's why I haven't heard of renewable energy before and that's why I have never seen it being used. We need a link between the existing technology and real people indeed.

Photo of Prof Kurti

John and Alper, thank you for the "real feedback from real people". Just from your quick responses, I can tell that the education piece will need to be culturally customized. John mentioned the need for simple, basic solutions. How simple and basic will the solutions need to be, and will internet education solutions be possible? Alper, other than creating lists of companies to contact, what information would you find valuable?