Panelists share experiences with energy abroad

Tufts students and alumni shared their experiences studying renewable energy abroad at last night’s Energy Abroad Panel hosted by the Institute for Global Leadership’s Tufts Energy Forum (TEF).

The evening featured presentations from four Tufts seniors and one recent alumnus on other countries’ policies concerning green energy sources. Speakers addressed a wide range of issues, including wind power in Denmark, Chile’s development of hydropower, solar power usage and green communities in Germany, the future of nuclear energy in France and renewables in the Middle East.

Tufts Energy Forum is a multidisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students that aims to educate group members and the greater Tufts community about energy issues, according to TEF co?President Carolyn Boudreau, a sophomore.

Last night’s event was designed to appeal to Tufts students interested in a global perspective.

“Tufts has a really international focus with The Fletcher School [of Law and Diplomacy] and all the undergrads studying [international relations], so we were trying to figure out if there was a way that we could combine our interest in foreign affairs with our interest in energy,” TEF Events Coordinator Sara Harari said. “We have a little bit of Europe, and a little bit of the Middle East and a little bit of South America.”

Panelist presentations described a range of the most prominent alternative energy sources used abroad.

Harari discussed the strides Copenhagen has made toward its goal of becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2050. She highlighted the city’s extensive use of wind power and new technologies being developed in Denmark. Harari described her trip to a wind farm where the windmills were completely silent, even up close.

TEF co?President Paige Colton discussed the Chilean dam project, HidroAysen, which aims to construct a series of five hydroelectric powers stations on two Chilean rivers. The project – controversial due to its potentially negative impact on fragile local ecology – is expected to cost $10 billion, but will help ease the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Presenter Seth Rau, a senior, experienced life in Quartier Vauban, a radical, inclusive environmental community in Freiburg, Germany, where private cars are largely banned. He also visited an experimental solar neighborhood where the solar?paneled roofs produce more energy than the residents use. Germany began moving away from its heavy reliance on nuclear energy following this spring’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, Rau said.

Panelist Andrea Stewart, a senior, described her time abroad in Paris, where she learned about the controversial nuclear industry in France. France relies on nuclear power for nearly 80% of its electricity, she said.

Public interest is now leaning away from continued use of nuclear energy due to concerns regarding potential health and environmental risks, though the government maintains its support for deregulating the industry in the interest of economic growth, she said.

The final panelist, Adrian Dahlin (LA ’11), recently returned from a year in the Middle East, during which he spent time in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. During his time abroad, Dahlin worked with multi?national organizations including the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Friends of the Earth Middle East, groups that promote peace and cooperation through environmental initiatives.

While in the Middle East, Dahlin participated in a project designed to provide a rural community with an energy system that converts the waste from their animals into electricity and fertilizer.

The forum also addressed the intersection of sustainability and public policy.

“There’s a lot of debate in the U.S. over sustainable energy and energy issues, and it’s interesting to look at what other countries are doing as well in terms of energy,” Colton said. “I think it’s really important to learn about what other countries are doing, to help inform our own policy in the U.S.”

“A lot of people know about American energy politics, or particular cases, like the Japan nuclear crisis,” Harari added. “What we don’t know about are the positive things about renewables and other forms of electricity that are happening around the world … This stuff really can work, and it does work and it is working.”

Organizers felt the event was an overall success, drawing a large and diverse crowd.

“The event went really well, and I’m really glad we had such a good turnout. People seemed really interested,” TEF Treasurer Rose Eilenberg, a junior, said. “We actually went over our time, which is great that we had that much to talk about.”