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‘Recharged’: Linkin Park’s Efforts on Energy Poverty Get Brighter

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Members of Linkin Park (from left, Joe Hahn, Brad Delson, Mike Shinoda and Rob Bourdon) speak at the Global Leadership Awards dinner hosted by the UN Foundation and United Nations Association-USA, after being presented the Global Leadership Award, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, in New York. (Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for United Nations Foundation)

Two years ago, the band Linkin Park kicked off an initiative called Power the World with the goal of bringing clean energy to one million people. It started in partnership with the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All program, which aims to achieve universal energy access by 2030. (See related post: “Linkin Park’s Bid to Power the World.”)

The Grammy-winning rock-rap sextet, whose appropriately titled album Recharged was released last month, have since promoted a series of initiatives geared toward improving energy access: solar lights in Haiti, solar suitcases in Uganda, energy-generating soccer balls in South Africa. The band has even released a free game, LP Recharge, set in “a not-too-distant future where humans have depleted all natural resources on the planet” and the remaining energy has been seized by an “elite minority.”  Players are challenged to restore clean, sustainable power to the world.

For their latest real-world project, the band is turning to the problem of polluting cookstoves. (See related story: “Biochar Cookstoves Boost Health for Both People and Crops.”) Nearly three billion people worldwide use open fires or traditional stoves for cooking and heat, which results in deadly health effects and often contributes to deforestation. One such region where this symptom of energy poverty has taken a toll: the Terai region of Nepal, where each person uses an average of 2,000 pounds of wood each year for energy. Along with the World Wildlife Fund, Linkin Park and Power the World are trying to provide an alternative means of energy for people in the Himalayan village of Kumrose: biogas systems, which convert human and animal waste to methane for fuel.

The average cost of one biogas system, which includes a cookstove, biodigester and toilet, is $565, and any person who raises that amount by this Friday, November 22, will be entered to win tickets to an exclusive, private Linkin Park show. So far, according to the campaign’s fundraising site, only a handful of people have managed to raise that amount so far, so odds of winning may be good for those who achieve the goal. (See related blog post: “Cookstove Smoke Is ‘Largest Environmental Threat,’ Global Health Study Finds.”)

We were in touch with Linkin Park bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell last year about Power the World’s efforts and checked in with him again recently about this latest project. Farrell answered our questions via email.

Linkin Park had kicked off Power the World two years ago, with a project to bring solar lights to Haiti. What have you seen in terms of results, and was there anything you learned in that first project that you were able to bring to other causes?

The Haiti Solar Light program has been fantastic.  As a result of Power the World’s support, more than 3,000 families have clean energy products, including the solar lights.  Each of these solar lights directly replaces kerosene, candles and charcoal, resulting in household savings of over $5 per month. We learned that Power the World can help on multiple levels, improving lives, livelihoods and protecting the environment.

The stated goal of Power the World, which supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative, is to bring clean energy to 1 million people. How is this goal being tracked, and can you say how many have been helped so far?

Music for Relief and the UN Foundation (UNF) are tracking the number of people impacted by our programs. For example, Power the World has raised funds for almost 100 solar suitcases (portable solar energy systems) to be installed at hospitals and health clinics in Uganda and so far the solar power is benefiting 20,000 mothers and 20,000 babies annually, and the program is still going. We’re also working with UNF to influence corporations and governments to support clean energy through our Power the World pledge, which you can find and sign here.

Power the World’s latest cause is providing clean biogas cookstoves to a village in Nepal. Why and how did this project come about?

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and we want to help in areas where we can make a big impact.  We loved the program with WWF in Nepal because helps wildlife, people and the planet.

This time, Linkin Park is challenging people to run their own cookstove fundraisers, and those who raise at least $565 (the cost of one biogas system) by November 22 will be entered to win tickets to see the band play a small, private show. Have you tried this approach before, in terms of using shows as incentive to get people involved?

We have, actually. We challenged people to raise funds to earn a ticket to see us play in a small venue in Los Angeles to support Japan Earthquake Recovery.  This was incredibly successful. Supporters [of our non-profit organization Music for Relief] and our fans totally exceeded our expectations and went above and beyond to help kids in Japan.  We hope fans will do the same for this program.  Start a fundraiser here.

What have you found, now that you have some experience in trying to get people engaged with the issue of energy poverty, works well or does not work so well? What do people need to know about why this is important?

I think the most important thing for people to know is that energy poverty is impacting people’s lives right now. Clean energy is critical to health, safety, education and livelihoods and it impacts wildlife and our planet.  Get involved in clean energy solutions at powertheworld.org.