Bringing Solar Power to Africa and the Navajo Nation

Doug Vilsack, Executive Director, Elephant Energy

Presentation Synopsis

Elephant Energy, based in Denver, CO, delivers solar powered lighting to Namibia, Africa and to the Navajo Nation through an innovative model of entrepreneurial development and energy outreach. While more than seventy percent of Namibia’s urban population has access to the electric grid, only fifteen percent of rural households are connected – the resources to construct an effective system of transmission to meet the needs of the rural population are not in place and, therefore, the majority of homes go without lighting. Rural Namibians must either find alternatives to grid-based power or continue to live without electricity for the foreseeable future.

The Navajo Nation, located primarily in Northeastern Arizona, faces similar electricity challenges. Despite its location within the United States, about 38 percent of households in the Navajo Nation lack electricity, and over 50 percent of Navajo live below the poverty line. Despite requests for modern, grid-based power, the remote location of many Navajo households makes electricity extremely expensive, forcing many people to go without electricity or lighting.

Elephant Energy is delivering lighting solutions to Africa and the Navajo Nation through appropriate sustainable energy technologies (ASET’s), such as solar powered lights and efficient cook stoves, and small-scale renewable energy developments.

Speaker Bio

Doug Vilsack is the founder and Executive Director of Elephant Energy.  He is a lawyer from Colorado, working with the law firm of Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver in the practice areas of environmental law, Indian law, and renewable and alternative energy law.  Doug focused on environmental and energy-related issues while attending the University Of Colorado School Of Law and continues to work with students at the University on a variety of energy-related projects.  Doug first traveled to Namibia in 2005 to work for the World Wildlife Fund and has returned on numerous occasions to continue his work with community-based conservation organizations.  Prior to his work in Namibia, Doug attended Colorado College and founded the Paddle for the Presidency, a non-profit venture that organized an expedition that canoed the entire length of the Mississippi River and registered over 2000 young voters during the 2004 Presidential election.

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