How decentralized energy grids support resilience against natural disasters

 
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When you over-centralize systems, to make it work, you have to also centralize power–decision-making power.

This is a conversation on Green Dreamer Podcast with Kaméa Chayne, a show exploring environmental and intersectional sustainability from ideas to life. Subscribe to Green Dreamer oiTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app and let’s learn what it takes to thrive in every sense of the word!

 

J.I. Cruz is the co-founder of ACEPR.org, a nonprofit social enterprise and accelerator program that aims to provide Puerto Rican community leaders with the resources, financing, and know-how needed to establish renewable energy microgrid cooperatives across the island.

After a perspective-altering experience living next to a landfill through his Global Citizen Year gap year program in Senegal, J.I. was determined to help tackle our global waste crisis. However, once Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, he pivoted to first focus on helping rebuild the energy infrastructure in Puerto Rico through the nonprofit he founded, ACEPR.org. 

On this podcast episode, J.I. shares how renewable energy relates to natural disasters like hurricanes, the role of decentralized electric grids in sustainable development, how he deals with ageism as someone who started his social venture at 21 years old, and more.

To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between J.I. Cruz and Green Dreamer Podcast’s host, Kaméa Chayne.

 

On his revelation through his Global Citizen Year program:

 “I went to Senegal for my gap year, and the minute I arrived at my host community and realized I would have to live next to a landfill, a light bulb kind of burst.

 It broke me to realize that I had never really thought about my own solid waste and where it went, and now I was going to live in a community where people had to think about that all the time. The lack of thinking about it was directly affecting the health of their environment and their community. And that changed everything for me.”

 

On the benefits of building a smart energy grid:

 “When you over-centralize systems, to make it work, you have to also centralize power–decision-making power…

 Even if it’s not the most optimal format to build an electro-grid—to build our power generation across small pockets everywhere and to build a smart grid (which might need some extra investment on the front end)—I think you get some social return and also some return on resilience, that, in some ways you can quantify. There are studies that demonstrate that there’s a financial return to that.”

 

On the importance of knowing the source of our energy:

 “I think knowing where energy comes from and having it near and dear to our own communities makes us very conscientious of what has to go into it to make it work. And how we build these systems—whether it’s our food systems or electric grids—says something about what we, as individuals and as a collective, honor in our society.”

 

J.I.’s closing words of wisdom:

“Think global, act local.”

 

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