The USA-China agreement is great news for renewable energy

Last week the United States and China announced a historic agreement to combat climate change. Under the agreement, China pledged to generate 20% of its electricity from zero-emission sources by 2030. China will need to install nearly 1000 gigawatts (GW) of renewable and nuclear energy to reach that target. How big is 1000 GW? Huge.

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Meeting the target should be easy for China: 9.8% of its energy already comes from zero-emission sources, and that share is growing fast. China installed 11.3 GW of solar PV in 2013 alone, more than a 200% increase over the previous year. At that rate, China could exceed its 1000 GW target by 2020 using just solar. Now that’s a Rooftop Revolution.

It’s more proof that renewable energy is a viable, scalable alternative to fossil fuels. And for China, where air pollution is the fourth biggest health risk and leads to between 350,000 and 500,000 premature deaths every year, it also means that millions will breathe easier.

One Year Later: See what ICAPO did after winning Sungevity Gives Back

PHOTO: Thanks ICAPO for all you do to Generate Positive.

Last December, after a hard-fought campaign against 29 other non-profit organizations, ICAPO (Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative) won Sungevity Gives Back and walked away from the contest with an extra $20,000 and a mission to Generate Positive. Here’s what happened next.

First, some background. ICAPO is a grassroots organization comprised of 50+ individuals and organizations that work together toward a single purpose: to protect the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle from going extinct in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

What makes the hawksbill interesting? At first glance, they seem like your typical sea turtle: large maritime reptiles with big flippers that help them glide through the water. Compared to other sea turtles, hawksbill are medium-sized and have a hook-like beak. They live in warm tropical waters across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

However, what makes hawksbills particularly unusual is that they are stunningly beautiful. Their uniquely patterned shell contains splashes of ambers and yellows, with radiating streaks of light and dark brown. Their shell is so iconic that they are depicted on Venezuelan and Brazilian banknotes. The town of Worcester, Massachusetts even has a statue depicting a boy riding a hawksbill that’s lovingly called “Turtle Boy.”

But being beautiful has come at a cost for the hawksbill. Historically they have been exhaustively hunted for their shells, which is then traded on the black market. The demand for products made from their shells was so high that the global population of hawksbills has decreased by over 80% over the past three generations. By some estimates, there are fewer than 20,000 nesting females remaining in the wild.

That’s where ICAPO comes in. ICAPO launched in 2008 to protect the subpopulation of hawksbill turtles that lives in the eastern Pacific Ocean. ICAPO works with local communities from Mexico to Peru to find sustainable solutions that help both the turtles and the local fishermen thrive.

So how did ICAPO Generate Positive with $20,000?

They set out to address one of the biggest threats facing the eastern Pacific hawksbill population: lobster gillnets. When local fishermen set nets to capture lobster, hawksbill can get caught in the gillnets and drown. Over the past year, ICAPO has been able to expand their educational programs to raise awareness in local communities about the danger gillnets pose to hawksbill turtles. They worked hand-in-hand with lobster fishermen to collect data on how and where hawksbill are most likely to get caught in gillnets, and are now using that data to develop a marine protected area in one of the primary hawksbill hotspots. They also began testing alternatives to gillnets such as lobster traps. One year later, they are close to finding an alternative fishing method that prevents hawksbill bycatch, while also allowing local lobster fishermen to make a living.

Now that’s what a brighter world looks like.

Learn more about this and ICAPO’s other inspiring work by visiting their website at http://www.hawksbill.org. Sungevity Gives Back is an annual contest that invites non-profits to compete to win $20,000 to support their important work. To apply to the contest, organizations can submit a statement explaining how they will Generate Positive with $20,000. Enrollment ends November 10th. Apply today: http://us.sungevity.org/gives-back-enroll

Meet Mauricio, a clean energy crusader

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This is Mauricio. He became a solar advocate to grow the clean energy economy and reduce society’s reliance on fossil fuels. We chatted with him to hear what keeps his passion for solar alive.

How did you learn about solar?

I first became interested in solar after learning about it in an environmental science class in high school. In 2012 I got some hands on experience working with Blue Energy, a sustainable development NGO that does solar and clean water projects for rural areas on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. I see solar as a way to help people help themselves – installing solar on a school, for example, allows classes to be taught at night and it’s a great way for people to empower themselves.

How did you learn about Sungevity?

I was filming a video for Earthjustice at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and I ran into my friend Danny, who works at Sungevity. When he mentioned to me that in the last 10 months he had helped offset somewhere around a million pounds of carbon, I said, “Sign me up!”

What makes you excited about solar?

The momentum solar is generating is very exciting. The research shows that we can power the state, the country, and the world with 100% renewable energy – and save money by doing so. We are at the forefront of an economic transformation: as a growing number of business, institutions and individuals transition their investments into renewables like solar, we foster innovation in technology, finance and community development. That paves the way for a just transition to a new economy.

When you’re talking about solar, what messages resonate with people?

I think it just makes sense to people to power their lives with the sun, rather than with energy sources that degrade our environment and public health. We now have the ability to create an economy that is based in regeneration, not extraction and scarcity. The more renewable energy scales, the cheaper it becomes – whereas the more we scale fossil fuels, the more expensive it becomes. It took 30 years for solar to become 1% of this country’s energy mix, and with that 1% solar is already employing more Americans than coal – that’s a really exciting concept for people to learn.

What sparks your solar conversations?

I’m lucky that a lot of my friends and peers are dedicated to the same goals I am. After writing my college thesis on carbon feedback loops, I realized that the actions or inactions of the following decade or two will determine the fate of humanity. Solar is a solution that enables us to democratize our energy infrastructure, create jobs across all sectors of the economy, and create a more livable world for present and future generations.

How do you show your Sungevity pride?

I think the Generate Positive tagline encompasses what Sungevity is doing as a company and what people are doing in their own lives – spreading solar, helping people and mitigating climate change are all examples of generating positive.

Mauricio has been a solar advocate since the summer of 2014. Click here to learn more about Sungevity’s Advocates program.

Meet Doug. He’s a geek for solar.

Meet Doug, a voice of the solar revolution.

This is Doug. He started advocating for solar full time as a Sungevity employee because in his words, “It’s just cool!” Whether he’s talking with a good friend or a stranger in line for coffee, Doug is ready to shine with unbridled enthusiasm. We sat down with him to learn more about what gets him excited about the solar revolution.

How did you learn about solar?

I was a high school economics teacher and often used renewable energy when explaining different theories. I liked it because it is something that can be applied on a mass scale that everyone can use and have.

How did you learn about Sungevity?

I was working as a designer/installer for another solar company and heard about Sungevity’s ability to design a system remotely. I couldn’t believe the accuracy of their software! I felt Sungevity was making the right moves in this rapidly changing industry and wanted to be a part of it. I’m amazed at culture here – it’s unmatched in the industry. Sungevity is very careful in hiring and gets creative people who are skilled, and that means a company full of energetic, bright people working collaboratively towards a single mission.

What makes you excited about solar?

Using the sun for energy generation just makes sense. It’s a giant energy source that’s there every day. There’s also a lot of room for innovation, especially at the community level.

When you’re talking about solar, what messages resonate with people?

There are a lot of different things that interest people in solar, but my favorite is just how cool it is – I mean, isn’t it just cool in general? Isn’t it neat that you can convert the light around you into a usable energy source? People also connect with the idea of self-reliance and reducing their dependence on utilities, because who knows what’s in our future? This is the chance to take control in an area we’ve never had control before.

What sparks your solar conversations?

It typically comes up because people know I’m in the industry and people have questions because solar is in the news a lot. Solar is really building critical mass. It’s the next big wave.

How do you show your Sungevity pride?

All my Sungevity swag is my favorite because it gets people talking solar! I try to wear something orange and logoed at all times when in public because I want someone to ask me about it. I mean, you’ll know in 24 hours if it’s going to make sense for you or not. So give me your card, I’ll call you.

Doug has been a solar advocate since 2010. Click here to learn more about Sungevity’s Advocates program, or click here to see a list of green job opportunities at Sungevity.

Meet Lisa, a voice of the solar revolution

Lisa W., Solar Advocate Since 2012

This is Lisa. She became a solar advocate because, as a mom, she is passionate about making communities healthier and safer for kids everywhere. And, she can earn extra money to save for her son’s and daughter’s college educations. (They just need to graduate elementary school first.) We sat down with her to learn how solar advocacy became a part of her life.

How did you learn about solar?
I wanted to go solar on my new house but found out that there were too many trees shading my roof (darn neighbors!). Even though I couldn’t go solar, I tell everyone I can who might be able to.

How did you learn about Sungevity?
I requested a quote to go solar – but found out that my house wasn’t right for it. I had a great conversation with the people at Sungevity who helped me realize that even though my house didn’t work – there are still a ton of other people in my neighborhood who can benefit from solar. That’s why I became an advocate.

What makes you excited about solar?
Doing a good thing and saving money – how can it get any better than that?

When you’re talking about solar, what messages resonate with people?
People want to understand how it works – how they can actually save money while doing something they know is good for the earth. There is still a lot of confusion that solar is affordable – you don’t have to have $20,000 sitting around – you can actually finance a system for very little money and still benefit. It’s exciting to make people realize that there are options out there for everyone.

What sparks your solar conversations?
My EV! Whenever people comment on my electric vehicle – I also get to tell them that they could get one and never use fossil fuels again by going solar. How cool is the thought of powering up your car with the sun!

How do you show your Sungevity pride?
I love the tagline Generate Positive. I show my Sungevity pride by considering each day how I can Generate Positive for a better future for my kids – that’s why I talk to everyone about solar as an option.

Lisa has been a solar advocate since 2012. Click here to learn more about Sungevity’s Advocates program.

Lowe’s and Sungevity are helping Long Island go solar

Long Islanders can now learn more about solar at their local Lowe’s! We just finished a week of training store representatives to be ready to answer your questions and spread the solar love.

Pictured: Sungevity’s solar-powered educational vehicle stopped at Lowe’s, a Lowe’s training session fueled by Dunkin’ Donuts, and Sungevity’s low-emission fleet on the ferry to Long Island.

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