• Hey there,

    I’m excited to let you know that Keaton and I have just launched a new podcast called How To Stop Climate Change. It’s a show about the people that are working to fix the climate crisis. Sometimes it seems like no one is doing anything about this upcoming catastrophe.

    It’s true that most of the world’s leaders aren’t doing nearly enough, but a lot of people are hard at work every day trying to change our course. It’s not just people in renewable energy or in the activist community. There are people fighting climate change in nearly every industry, from agriculture to transportation.

    How To Stop Climate Change will share stories about the determined people who are working on the climate crisis. We’ll also take a look at the actions and policies that could make a real difference and identify the things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about.

    Thanks so much for listening to Clean Power Planet over the years. It’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot from the amazing people that we’ve interviewed.

    We hope you enjoy How To Stop Climate Change. Episode 1 is already live. Please look for it on your favorite podcast app and subscribe. If you like it, please take a second and give it a positive rating.

    You can find it here:

    Apple Podcasts Spotify HowToStopClimateChange.com

    David Butler

  • Frank Morris is a former coal miner who was retrained as a residential energy specialist through the New Energy Intern program. This is the third episode in a three-part series about the program, which helps out of work coal miners train for jobs in energy efficiency. Frank now works for the Appalachia Heat Squad and the Housing Development Alliance.

    The New Energy Intern program is run by MACED (the Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development) with funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

    Here is an excerpt

    DB: Would you like to see your kids work in coal mining when they get older?

    FM: If my son picks up a coal shovel I might smack him with it.

    DB: Alright, you should warn him about that in advance though.

    FM: Oh yeah!

    Please support the show

    If you would like to support Clean Power Planet please make a donation on Patreon.

    If you would like to hire Keaton Butler to engineer or produce your podcast contact her at KeatonButlerRecording@gmail.com

    Please give us a review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

    We would love to hear from you. Just email david@cleanpowerplanet.com.

    Links mentioned in the show

    MACED has a lot of fantastic programs for people and businesses in Eastern Kentucky. You can find out more about them at MACED.org. If you’re interested in the New Energy Intern program contact Chris Woolery (cwoolery@maced.org).

    The episodes in this series were recorded at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky which is a fantastic organization that helps people in the region tell their stories through music, film, video, art - you name it. You can find out more about them at Appalshop.org.

    Music Credits

    Original music for this episode was provided by:

    Wonderhills Keaton Butler - keatonbutlerrecording@gmail.com Avery Reidy
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  • This is the second episode in a three part series about out-of-work coal miners in Eastern Kentucky that are being retrained to do energy efficiency work through the New Energy Intern program. It was created by the Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development or MACED. In the first episode of the series Rachel Norton from MACED told us about the program.

    Today we’re talking to John Craft. He’s spent a lot of his working life as a coal miner, in both underground and surface mines. He started out doing surface mining permit work at 19 and did a lot of different types of mining jobs over the years. He finally left mining in 1995, partly because he got a bad chest x-ray but also because he saw the decline coming in the coal industry.

    Now John’s starting his own energy efficiency company, and looking forward to helping people in Eastern Kentucky cut their electricity and gas bills and save money. That means more fossil fuels can stay in the ground. He’s got some great stories to share.

    Here’s an excerpt.

    David: So if you realized that coal didn’t have a great future in ‘92 I’d say that you were a few years ahead of people because there’s still plenty of people that are hoping it will come back.

    John: Coal will never be back. Ever. It’s too dirty. We can’t do it and live on this planet.

    David: When you talk to guys that you used to work with, what do they say about it? Do they feel the same way as you?

    John: Everybody I used to work with is on disability man.

    Our next episode will feature Frank Morris, another of MACED’s New Energy Interns.

    MACED has a lot of fantastic programs for people and businesses in Eastern Kentucky. You can find out more about them at maced.org.

    The episodes in this series were recorded at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky which is a fantastic organization that helps people in the region tell their stories through music, film, video, art - you name it. You can find out more about them at appalshop.org.

  • This is a very exciting episode. It's the first in a three part series about a cool internship program that retrains out-of-work coal miners for energy efficiency jobs. All three episodes were recorded at the historic Appalshop media center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, right in the middle of the Appalachian coalfields.

    Our guest for this first episode in the series is Rachel Norton. She's not an out-of-work coal miner. She's an energy efficiency expert that works for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) the organization that created the New Energy Intern program. The coal industry in Appalachia has been in decline for many years and it’s left behind a struggling economy with very few job opportunities. Retraining miners to do energy efficiency upgrades has several positive outcomes. Obviously it helps the miners find work or start businesses but it also helps homeowners and businesses lower their energy bills, which allows them to invest the savings in something more important. When energy costs are reduced it helps the entire local economy and the efficiency upgrades pay for themselves through the savings they generate.

    Rachel studied Biosystems Engineering at the University of Kentucky. She wanted to find a job that would allow her to work toward a progressive energy future. She knew that there weren’t many opportunities to do that in her home state of Kentucky, but she decided to stick it out because she felt she could do the most good here. MACED has given her an opportunity to make a big difference. She also has her own energy efficiency consulting business called GreenStep.

    Our next two episodes will feature Frank Morris and John Craft, two of MACED’s New Energy Interns.

    Here is a little more detail about Appalshop. It’s a unique organization that's been around for 50 years. It houses an art gallery, a theater, a community radio station, and recording studios. It's really an amazing place that helps people from around the region share their stories. You should check it out at appalshop.org.

  • This is our second conversation with Dave Renné. He has such a wide range of experience in renewable energy that we invited him back for another interview. He has focused much of his career on measuring and analyzing the amount of solar energy that renewable energy developers around the world can expect. That’s important when they are designing solar installations and they need to know how many panels they will need and how much electricity they will generate at different times throughout the year.

    Dr. Renné retired in 2012 from an exciting career at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) where he worked on renewable energy development projects with the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since then he has served as president of the International Solar Energy Society and consulted for the International Renewable Energy Agency, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In this episode he gives us a glimpse into the the state of renewable energy development around the world.

    This episode of Clean Power Planet is brought to you in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. ASES advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy. They bring scientists, policy-makers, business people and citizens together to share knowledge and build community. You can join ASES at https://www.ases.org/.

  • Our guests today are Chris Carter and Jack Martin, also known as Solar Jim and Sustainable Jack. Chris is a performing artist and sculptor with 20 years of experience designing and installing standalone power systems. Jack is a professor in sustainable technologies at Appalachian State University, and together they’re pioneers of DIY wind turbines and co-hosts of their own radio show, The Home Power Hour, where they discuss homemade wind turbines, alternative energy and environmental issues. They also teach Home Brew Wind Turbine workshops at the Handy Village Institute in central North Carolina.

    This episode of Clean Power Planet is brought to you in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. ASES advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy. They bring scientists, policy-makers, business people and citizens together to share knowledge and community. You can join ASES at https://www.ases.org/.

  • Ben Bunker is the CEO of the Global BrightLight Foundation, which provides access to affordable solar-powered lights to people living without access to electricity. Many of the people that they help live in very rural areas. They rely on kerosene, candles or even wood chips for light. BrightLight’s vision is a world with universal access to clean, sustainable, and affordable energy.

    Ben: You know, those of us who have had the power go out before, whether because of a storm or something going wrong with the utilities, we’ve had this experience together but often it’s not one that’s a prolonged experience, maybe one or two days, maybe a week if you’re unlucky without power. And most of us resort to candles, flashlights or batteries. And so for a billion people around the world that’s actually every single day. It moves from being a minor inconvenience to something that significantly impacts their life in a series of different negative ways. I’ll give a couple of examples. One is economics. Some folks are spending up to 25% of their income on candles or kerosene or batteries every single month. When you only make $100 and you’re living in Guatemala or Peru, that $25 represents a significant amount of your income.

    David: So, you said over a billion people?

    Ben: Yes.

    David: And there are what, 7 billion people on the planet?

    Ben: Every day there’s more but that’s a good round number.

    David: So this is one out of every 7 people that doesn’t have electricity.

    Ben: Whether you’re in a waiting room or you’re in traffic or wherever you are just imagine that one out of every seven of those people is going to go home to a house without electricity and is going to have to endure a series of hardships because of that.

    Our work is focused primarily in Guatemala and Peru and we work in rural areas where most folks are day laborers or do some sort of farming often either as an employee of a larger agricultural operation or just to survive on their own. And these folks in the rural areas are usually somewhere between 5 to 10 hours or even a day away from the nearest town that has electricity.

    So, let’s say on an average day someone could get up, go into the fields, work on their harvest, come home and then probably have between 30 minutes to one hour of sunlight left, if they’re lucky. Often they work until sundown because they’re using all the productive light they have. And then when they get home, as I mentioned, they’re using candles and kerosene, so the house is almost completely black. To move around from room to room they actually have to pick up this light source and carry it with them. It’s a very dark way to live, not just in terms of the amount of light but also in the quality of the connections you can build because if you think about the time you spend with your family in the evenings that is all predicated on having light to bring together the community and the family. Not that folks don’t do that but it’s just a little harder when everything’s dark.

    David: I can’t even really imagine what that’s like.

    Please listen to the episode for the full interview.

    To learn more about the Global BrightLight Foundation or make a donation go to https://globalbrightlight.org/. Your gift will light a light.

    This episode of Clean Power Planet is brought to you in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. ASES advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy. They bring scientists, policy-makers, business people and citizens together to share knowledge and community. You can join ASES at https://www.ases.org/.

  • Paul Bony has worked in several areas of the energy industry. At the moment he’s a Senior Program Manager for energy efficiency firm CLEAResult, Board president for Solar Energy International and a board member of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association. He has also worked in the electric and gas utility industries. Maybe that’s why he’s excited about clean electrification. It combines everything that he’s done in his career.

    Clean electrification and the transition away from fossil fuel-based electricity and end use fossil fuel for heat and transportation has the potential to completely disrupt the regulated utility industry and the way we use energy.

    We met Paul at the 2018 American Solar Energy Society conference and had a chance to talk about the energy efficiency movement that started with Jimmy Carter’s sweater speech and the challenges that utilities and regulators are facing now.

    This episode of Clean Power Planet is brought to you in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). ASES advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy. They bring scientists, policymakers, business people and citizens together to share knowledge and community.

  • Sandra Begay grew up in Gallup, New Mexico, near the Navajo reservation. Her grandmother lived on the reservation and her father and grandfather served on the tribal council. Sandra remembers going to her grandmother’s house when it was first hooked up to the grid. The family got to watch as her grandmother turned on the porch light. That was only twenty years ago. Roughly 18,000 households in the Navajo nation are still without power.

    Today Sandra is an engineer which makes her pretty unusual. Only one in every 13,000 engineers in the U.S. are Native American Women. Her job allows her to help bring renewable energy to the reservations and to help young Native American students pursue engineering careers. She is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories where she assists Native American tribes with their renewable energy development. She also runs Sandia's Indian Energy Internship Program for the DOE Office of Indian Energy.

    Interview excerpt

    DB: So talk a little bit about the program that your involved in.

    SB: Sure. The sponsorship for my work at Sandia National Labs is from the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy, and specifically I am given assignments to help tribes across the United States, upon their request to the Federal government. And then I can get an assignment to help them out with a specific energy problem. One of the specific things that I enjoy doing is strategic energy planning. So we’ll take a team of three of us from Sandia and our contractors and we’ll go out to the tribal community and host a three-day strategic energy planning session. So at the end of the day we’ve looked at a vision for ten years in the future all focused in on energy and we wind up on that third day with a two year action plan, and part of that is not only to support the tribes in their efforts but to give them the documentation for the tribe to implement. And then we write a report for the federal government so that they’re ready for what the tribes might be requesting in the two year time frame.

    DB: Do you work with tribes all across the nation?

    SB: I work with tribes all across the nation but it also includes Alaskan natives out in the state of Alaska. It just depends on the tribe and their readiness to ask for this type of strategic planning assistance.

    DB: What’s the state of the grid or electrification for a lot of the tribes?

    SB: The tribes are behind all the way dating back to the 1940s when the rural electrification act was incorporated where many rural communities were connected with lines and poles. For whatever reason tribal lands were skipped over, maybe too complex to deal with from a federal level, and so infrastructure was not actually put in place. Some tribes who might have more money to invest are getting ahead of the curve and having modern infrastructure yet those who do not have a lot of gaming revenue have to go by grants or giving some of their own revenue to put in lines and poles and other infrastructure that they need.

    DB: So there are still homes out there that aren’t wired yet.

    SB: Navajo nation is a tribe that skews the numbers quite a bit when you talk about national populations of American Indians or Alaska Natives. So, I’ve heard numbers from 18,000 households all the way to 30,000 people that do not have electricity yet at this point and this is as of 2018. And so the way to answer those problems is, yes there’s need for lines and poles in certain circumstances but the cost of $30,000 to $35,000 per mile is very expensive and that would be out of that person’s pocket. Most people don’t have that kind of money sitting around. So there may be grant dollars available but my unique piece to this puzzle started about 15 years ago where I helped support the tribal utility on Navajo put in solar energy. So it’s off-grid homes that have energy from solar panels and batteries and many even have a small wind turbine associated with it. (For the full interview please listen to the podcast)

    For more information on the Tribal Internship Program click here.

    This episode of Clean Power Planet is brought to you in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. ASES advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy. They bring scientists, policymakers, business people and citizens together to share knowledge and build community.

  • Andee Chamberlain has been the Sustainability Programs Manager with Texas Parks and Wildlife since 2009 and she’ll be talking with us about her success finding ways to install solar in Texas parks all while fighting tight budgets, climate change and invasive crazy ants.

  • Microgrids have a dirty past. They were once dependent on diesel generation, one of the dirtiest forms of power generation. Even with the addition of solar or wind it was difficult to cut down on diesel consumption since the generators had to be online for backup. Now with the addition of storage it’s becoming possible to cut down on diesel dependence and bring clean and resilient power to isolated communities and critical operations.

    Dr. Peter Lilienthal has been working in renewables, distributed energy and energy efficiency since 1978. He worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory from 1990 to 2007, working on distributed power projects and developing HOMER® (Hybrid Optimization of Multiple Energy Resources). HOMER software is used to design, optimize and research microgrids and the mix of energy sources that can be used to power them.

    In 2009 Lilienthal left NREL to form HOME Energy and take the software commercial. Since then HOMER has been downloaded by over 150,000 people in 193 countries. Lilienthal and the other leaders of HOMER Energy have been working to optimize microgrids for over 25 years with the goal of empowering people around the world and accelerating the adoption of renewable and distributed energy sources.

    In this episode he provides an overview of microgrids and distributed energy resources and tells us how he helped Richard Branson rebuild the microgrid on his island.

  • Mary Marshall studied journalism in college and then jumped right into a career in television news, working on NBC’s Dateline and Nightly News with Lester Holt. But she became disillusioned and wanted to do something more meaningful. So she took a walk to clear her head. Actually she hiked 500 miles of the Appalachian trail by herself. When she got off the trail she signed up for AmeriCorps and discovered Solar Energy International (SEI).

    Mary’s AmeriCorps VISTA project at SEI involved community outreach efforts in Delta County, Colorado where SEI is located. The goal was to bring jobs and clean energy to small towns in the county that were suffering from recent coal mine closures.

    After her AmeriCorps project she stayed on at SEI and is currently developing Solar Forward, a program with the goal of growing solar in rural communities across Colorado. I had the chance to talk with Mary in person at the American Solar Energy Society’s Solar 2018 Conference in Boulder.

  • We’re very excited to announce that we’re partnering with the American Solar Energy Society for a series of interviews from their Solar 2018 conference in Boulder, Colorado. In this episode I’m talking with ASES Chair Lucas Dixon about the organization’s history and vision.

    ASES was created in 1954 by researchers at Bell Labs that had discovered the photovoltaic effect of silicon. They quickly understood the potential impact of photovoltaics in combination with proven technologies like passive solar design and solar thermal. They understood that we could start down a path toward a more peaceful and sustainable energy economy. ASES was founded to allow them to publish their research and build a community of like-minded scientists and educators that would help develop and promote all solar technologies.

    Now the solar industry is growing by leaps and bounds and regularly exceeding projections for capacity and reduced costs. And yet there is still a lot of work to do before we reach that peaceful and sustainable energy economy. Today ASES is focused on the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy and sustainable living for the benefit of all life on Earth. If that sounds like a good idea to you go to ases.org and become a member today.

  • Tim Darst is the Executive Director at Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that’s mobilizing a religious response to climate change. They offer Creation Care Consulting to help churches choose the best options for getting started with conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.

    Tim had a comfortable career in accounting when he had a “lightbulb” moment that took him down a different path.

    I had a big epiphany when my youngest daughter and I were out playing golf, we were actually practicing golf one day, it was in the summer at a city park in Louisville and she made a really long putt, got really excited about it, started jumping up and down but then had trouble breathing. She couldn’t catch her breath and it went on and on where she was just gasping for air so I took her to the local emergency room and they put her on oxygen and I asked the nurse, “what’s going on” and she says, “well, it’s an ozone alert day” and you’re not supposed to be out in this. And it turns out that there are segments of our population that are more vulnerable to this and in the summer when we’re using a lot more air conditioning, we’re burning a lot more coal and natural gas than any other time of the year and when that combines with all the exhaust from our vehicles it creates ground level ozone. And that’s when I started realizing, okay this is a really serious issue and a lot of people are being impacted by this. So that really motivated me to make some changes.

    In this episode of Clean Power Planet we talk to Tim about how Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light helps churches get on board with the growing Creation Care movement.

  • Blake Jones was an Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2010. You could even describe him as a serial-entrepreneur. But it would be more accurate to say that he is a serial cooperative co-founder. He co-founded Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative and certified B-Corp that has installed over 5,000 solar electric systems. He co-founded Amicus Solar Cooperative, a purchasing cooperative and certified B-Corp that’s democratically owned by 48+ solar installation companies. And most recently he co-founded Clean Energy Credit Union, a federally chartered, not-for-profit, and online-only financial services cooperative that provides loans solely to help consumers throughout the USA afford to pursue clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation projects.

    In this episode of Clean Power Planet we talk to Blake about the Clean Energy Credit Union and its potential for helping make renewable energy projects more affordable. We also talk about co-ops and the “revolutionary” idea that capitalism should be democratic.

  • Lane Boldman is not your stereotypical lobbyist. She is Executive Director of the Kentucky Conservation Committee (KCC), an organization that tracks legislation that impacts Kentucky’s environment and natural resources. In the current political climate it’s a tough job. Every year there are a large number of bills designed to roll back or weaken environmental protections. KCC analyzes every piece of legislation that could have a positive or negative impact on the environment. They make recommendations on each of the bills and work to get the word out so people know how they will be affected if the bills pass into law. Even when the legislative session isn’t underway Lane is there in the capital helping organizations and individuals that want to make their voices heard. She provides coaching, sets up meetings with legislators and helps citizen lobbyists navigate the maze of state politics.

    During the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions KCC was at the center of the fight over net metering in Kentucky. The utilities introduced bills that would have dismantled net metering and destroyed the state’s small rooftop solar businesses in the process. In this episode of Clean Power Planet Lane describes Kentucky’s net metering fight and walks us through the tactics that allowed solar proponents to defeat both bills. We also talk about what needs to be done to prepare for another likely attack in 2019.

    Clean Power Planet is your renewable energy podcast. We want to hear your renewable energy stories.

  • Harvard professor and former Washington policymaker Meghan O’Sullivan was named the 2017 “Energy Writer of the Year” by the American Energy Society for her book Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power and for her New York Times commentary “How Trump Can Harness the U.S. Energy Boom.”

    That’s just the most recent line on her incredibly impressive resume. A couple of the highpoints include, her current role at Harvard University as Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project. Before heading to academia she served several roles in government. Between 2004 and 2007, she was special assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Windfall reveals how the transition from energy scarcity to energy abundance has transformed global politics and boosted American power. In this episode of Clean Power Planet we discuss the geopolitics of energy, which are still largely driven by fossil fuels, but we also dive in on the future of renewables, the pros and cons of natural gas as a bridge fuel, climate change and the need for carbon capture.

  • Steve Ricketts is a partner in Solar Energy Solutions, the largest and oldest company in Kentucky’s fledgling solar installation industry. Steve and his partner Matt Partymiller and many other solar installers have been forced to drop everything and fight utility-sponsored anti-net metering bills during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Kentucky is ranked 48th for solar friendly policies by SolarPowerRocks.com. In fact the only policy that keeps Kentucky out of last place is a relatively weak net metering policy. The system size is limited to 30 KW and the total amount of solar that can be installed on any utility’s system is capped at 1% of peak load. Existing systems are a long way from hitting that cap.

    So, why did the utilities feel the need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and PR agencies to try to demolish this policy? Steve provides some insight into the utilities’ tactics and offers advice for future net metering battles in Kentucky and other states.