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CMU's Daniel Schnitzer Honored for
Developing Clean Energy Solutions in Haiti
Ph.D. Student is Bringing Solar Lamps and Energy-Efficient Stoves to Rural Areas
PITTSBURGH—Daniel Schnitzer is helping to bring clean energy to Haiti as it rebuilds from this past January's earthquake.
The second-year Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Engineering and Public Policy,
and co-founder and executive director of EarthSpark International was recently recognized for his efforts by President Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
"We are working with local partners and the Haitian government to build electricity access from the bottom up, starting with direct sale of solar lamps and energy efficient stoves to communities in rural Haiti by establishing clean energy stores," Schnitzer said. "There is acute energy poverty throughout the country, and that problem was only magnified by the January 2010 earthquake."
EarthSpark International (www.earthsparkinternational.org
), which is operating a store in the town of Les Anglais — home to 25,000 people — has been partnering with organizations in Haiti to develop local businesses and clean and efficient energy technologies since 2008.
Jay Apt, executive director of Carnegie Mellon's Electricity Industry Center
and Schnitzer's adviser, praised EarthSpark for its aggressive, innovative style. "We are so fortunate to have students like Daniel Schnitzer who see the connection between savvy business acumen and social responsibility," Apt said. "His work in Haiti is first class."
More than 70 percent of Haitians lacked access to electricity before the earthquake, and they use more than 10 percent of their household incomes on lighting, which is 20 times what the average U.S. household spends.
"The retail model targets underserved markets quickly, while creating jobs and local centers of excellence in clean energy technology," Schnitzer said. "With over a million people left homeless and living in temporary housing, the government of Haiti is developing blueprints for building permanent, sustainable communities around the country. EarthSpark is honored to work with government officials and businesses to develop the country's first renewable microgrids."
Since the earthquake, EarthSpark also has engaged in relief activities in Port-au-Prince. EarthSpark received reports in January of rapes and other violent attacks against women in the crowded, dark tent camps. With nearly $100,000 raised since then, EarthSpark purchased 5,500 solar lamps for distribution to vulnerable women and girls. Partners in the purchases included The Haitian Ministry of Women's Affairs, Partners in Health, U.S.-based Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) and KONPAY, a non-profit in Haiti.
"Upon receiving the lamps, women used them not only for personal safety, but also for public safety; hanging them to light up walkways and washing areas, and even conducting night patrols in groups. The impact of these simple solar lamps is a testament to the social importance of having access to high quality energy technology," Schnitzer said.
Pictured above is CMU Ph.D. student Daniel Schnitzer.