Social Enterprise – Part 5

Presented by: Center for Balanced Development


Focus: Renewable Energy


Conceptual Framework:


History and Background

From the time man was able to make fire, the production of energy has been an integral part of the development of civilization. Progressively, throughout history we have been able to use various elements and technology to create energy. From the days of using water in mills till the development of coal, oil and fossil fuels, the energy industry has been developing at an incredibly fast pace as the industrial revolution and its evolution in the last century has increased the demand for energy mostly supplied by fossil fuels.

The auto industry and the invention of internal combustion gasoline engine as the primary source of power, has increased the demand for oil to unprecedented heights.    

Against the background of the high demand for fossil fuels and its impact on the environment and the ever-increasing levels of pollution, great efforts have been made since the 1970’s to introduce alternative sources of energy.


Present Status & Needs

Renewable energy today is developing at a fast pace as the fossil fuel demand and prices increase as well as the environmental impact reaches catastrophic dimensions. The air quality in many of our large metropolitan areas has reached dangerously unsafe while traffic and congestion makes life in the big city very stressful and the average resident wastes huge amounts of time driving to and from work. At the same time industrial production and its needs for fossil fuel adds to the pollution and the desperate picture that we are facing. Currently, the production of renewable energy only provides a very small portion of the global demand for energy. There is a great need for ways of reducing the consumption of energy as well as developing more applications of the renewable energy to replace the need for fossil fuels.     


Future Outlook

Considering the need, the greater awareness and the efforts being in renewable energy, the future is bright. In some parts of the world like Denmark and Brazil where systematic plans for creating renewable sources of energy have been adopted for a number of years, the results have been tremendous in terms of becoming self-sufficient in the production of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the production of electric cars and new models of urban development with efficient mass transit systems as well as the development of renewable energy technology is very promising. Social enterprise is gradually playing a role in bringing awareness and making use of the various renewable energy technology in small applications at the local level.   



Application for Social Enterprise Focused on Renewable Energy:


Solar energy

Since the development of solar cells in the 19th century, solar energy has evolved tremendously. Today, solar cells are used for a variety of applications including, water heating, electricity, solar vehicles, water treatment, agriculture and numerous other uses. So there are lots of possibilities for a social enterprise based on Solar power. For example, a young entrepreneur in central Africa, is teaching local youth on how to make a lantern using solar cells. An engineer in Bangladesh makes a very affordable small solar system which is subsidized by the government and Grameen bank micro-lending program to bring electricity to more than 200,000 homes in the villages.      


Wind power

Wind turbines are now becoming very popular in many parts of the world. Wind power is ideal in the oceans and coastal area as well as open meadows and hills where there is a constant flow of strong winds. The technology for building small wind mills is widely available and it is wonderful social enterprise to focus on. Innovations in this field are very promising and we are going to see expanded application of wind power in the near future. Currently, Denmark is using wind power extensively for its power needs.  



The building of dams on rivers to create power has been a popular method and massive dams have been built throughout the world. However, the use of water in mills, waterwheels, micro hydro providing electricity to a few homes or a village are also very suitable projects for a small social enterprise.   



The production ethanol fuel from sugarcane and biodiesel from used cooking oil, palm oil or sybean oil are among the popular methods of crating bio-fuels. Currently, there is research being done on the use of algae to create bio-fuels. Algae-driven biodiesel fuel is most promising since it can grow on arid land and where other vegetation would not grow plus it can grow 20 to 30 times faster than other food crop and it can produce 300 times more oil per acre than palms or soybean.


Geothermal Energy

The use of heat from the earth’s interior is another source of energy. Today a number of countries are using geothermal energy in power plants. International Geothermal Association (IGA) projects that by 2015 more than 18500 MW of geothermal power will be produced around the world.  


Fuel cell

The use of Hydrogen to create energy through chemical reaction is another area of research and a number of car manufacturers have developed proto-types using the fuel cell technology. This is a very clean and cost-effective form of energy production.



Today, batteries are used for a variety of uses in common electric gadgets and toys to industrial applications in cars and heavy machinery. Meanwhile, research is being done to create more powerful batteries for wider application in electric cars and vehicles. This is a great field for social entrepreneurs to focus on as new applications are being developed with tremendous possibilities. Also, the area that is in need of help is the recycling of old and dead batteries.


Implications of a Social Enterprise Focused on Renewable Energy:



The production of energy using oil and fossil fuels has had a profound impact on our global community. Whether, we focus on the geo-political impact of the oil industry, our reliance on oil  and emerging conflicts in the middle-East and other parts of the world or the environmental impact and its effects on the health of the global population, the energy industry plays a key role in the life of our communities around the world. A strong focus on the production of renewable energy can have great positive impact on our lives and how we live together as a global society – in peace and in harmony with the environment.     



The ever-increasing demand and cost of energy around the around the world is adversely effecting the global economy. Nations who have access to sources of energy and specifically oil – enjoy prosperity and development while nations and regions who have to purchase oil are under great economic pressure as a big portion of a family’s income goes towards the purchase of oil which also impacts the cost of manufacturing, transportation, services, goods and food. Becoming self-sufficient in energy using local renewable energy sources is a sure alternative to a better and more stable economy.     



Needless to say, focusing on renewable energy is the ideal path toward balance in the global ecology. Fossil fuels and its environmental impact continue to play havoc on our environment. Over the past century we have seen a trend towards global warming and climate change and some 98% of scientists agree on the man-made effects of our development policies and our extreme reliance on fossil fuels.        


In conclusion, future generations will judge our behavior and the practices that will cause unprecedented hardship and difficulties in terms of social-economic and ecological landscape. Renewable energy is not just a good idea that a group visionary entrepreneurs and scientists support and try to initiate projects, but it’s a path and a long term strategy that governments, social institutions and private entities wholeheartedly adopt and put to practice for the sake of preservation of human species and the protection of our limited and fragile natural resources.  


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