Speaker Series: Nick Lam on Black Carbon, Climate Change, and Kerosene Lighting

Please join us in welcoming Nicholas Lam of UC Berkeley as the next presenter in the spring 2013 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Nick will speak on Thursday, March 7 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Behavior and Sciences Building room 166 (BSS 166) on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Let There Be (Clean) Light: How Kerosene Lighting in Developing Countries Is Contributing to Climate Warming and the Global Disease Burden.”

Nick’s primary research interests address the relationships among household fuel use, air quality and human health. His current research focuses on measuring and modeling the contribution of household cooking and lighting in developing countries on human exposure, disease risk, and emissions of climate-altering air pollutants. He has conducted and managed numerous evaluations of cookstove performance and program impacts throughout Africa, South Asia and Latin America. This experience has allowed him the opportunity to develop curricula and training programs for local organizations and researchers on techniques for monitoring and evaluating household energy projects. He most recently served as director of the first US CDC Summer Cookstove Research Institute in Antigua, Guatemala. Prior to his efforts in household energy, he investigated the effects of air pollution on lead paint deterioration and its potential contribution to historic lead exposure in children. He is currently a doctoral student in Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

Recent research indicates that black carbon particulate emissions are the second most important contributor to global warming (carbon dioxide emissions are the first). In other words, according to the latest science black carbon’s contributions appear to be larger than methane, nitrous oxide, and a host of other greenhouse gases. Nick was the lead author on two very recent articles. One article outlined the significant global burden of disease associated with the use of kerosene lighting, while the second identified kerosene lighting is a key source of black carbon emissions. Technologies that replace kerosene lighting with cleaner alternatives therefore represent a significant opportunity to help improve health outcomes for low income people in off-grid areas while simultaneously helping to mitigate global climate change. Nick’s talk will provide insights on both the health and climate change dimensions of kerosene lighting. It should be a very interesting one, and I hope you will join us for the talk.

Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards

SERC’s yearlong effort coordinating the Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards culminated in the announcement of the award winners at the 3rd International Off-grid Lighting Conference and Trade Fair in Dakar, Senegal in November. This marks the second time SERC has led the Outstanding Product Awards effort; the first was at its inception in 2010. Lighting Global, which is closely associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, is a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. The Outstanding Product Awards recognize exceptional off-grid lighting products and seek to encourage the development of quality, affordable lights for the estimated 1.6 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity.  Providing access to quality lighting enables people to reduce their use of expensive fuel-based lighting, such as kerosene lamps, which in turn lowers their exposure to air pollutants, minimizes fire hazards and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.

Lighting manufacturers entered 25 different products in this year’s competition.  Products were divided into three price-based categories: ‘Budget’ products under $30; ‘Mid-range’ products between $30-$72; and ‘Premium’ products from $72-$135.

An initial screening based on preliminary tests narrowed the candidates down to 16 finalists.  All award finalists underwent a rigorous assessment process involving detailed laboratory testing, evaluation by people living in off-grid areas of Senegal, Kenya, and India, and final judging by a panel of experts. The entire process took over seven months to complete and not only informed the judges, but also provided valuable feedback in the form of test reports and end-user evaluations to the lighting manufacturers.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

SERC played a substantive role in all phases of the assessment.  SERC’s lighting test lab coordinated with the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (FISE) to test the technical performance of the finalist lamps according to the Lighting Global Quality Test Methods.

Concurrently, SERC team members and SERC alum Jennifer Tracy coordinated the field evaluations in which 18 focus groups of 10-12 people in India, Kenya, and Senegal provided end-user perspectives about the products. Each focus group member was able to try out one of the candidate lamps in their home for 1-2 weeks. Following the in-home trials, each group met for a feedback session in which participants reported on and demonstrated their lamps as part of a group discussion. This field feedback was a key part of the judging process.

Finally, SERC served as part of the expert judging panel, which also included experts from the UN Foundation, the German development agency GIZ, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), and the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs. In making their final selections, the judges considered overall design, technical performance, environmental impacts, truth in advertising, ease of use, special features such as mobile phone charging, end-user perspectives and price.

Several members of SERC’s lighting lab team attended the awards ceremony in Senegal and were thrilled to congratulate the winning manufacturers. All the winning lamps (see photo, below), aside from the winner in the budget category, offer the ability to charge a cell phone in addition to providing high-quality lighting service. The awards ceremony and gala dinner were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy under the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP). Visit the conference website for a list of product award winners and to view photos from the event.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Following the excitement of the Outstanding Product Awards, SERC’s off-grid lighting team continues to work with the Lighting Global program to promote clean off-grid lighting in the developing world. In the coming months, SERC and the Lighting Global team will expand their efforts beyond Africa to support quality assurance activities related to the IFC’s Lighting Asia program, which launched activities in India in May of 2012 and is planning future work in additional countries including Bangladesh.