Manna Energy, a Houston, Texas-based water technology startup, is seeking to put carbon offsets to an innovative and life-saving use: providing water – sustainably – for Rwandan communities. In addition to addressing the country’s interrelated problems of water shortage, climate change, and non-sustainable development, Manna Energy is making the case for sustainable growth in developing countries.
Manna’s Rwanda Natural Energy Project is still in-progress. When complete, it will provide clean, drinkable water for more than 250,000 teachers, students, and staff at more than 400 secondary schools throughout Rwanda, GreenBiz.com reports. It will do so sustainably, replacing traditional water-purification techniques at those schools (typically, boiling water by burning wood, thus creating carbon emissions) with green water treatment plants, which will purify water using gravity filtration and solar power. In addition, the Project will also employ a workforce in Rwanda and utilize local materials, thereby supporting local economic growth and stability.
The Project began, in part, with a $200,000 award, which it won last December in the Changemakers competition. Perhaps more significantly, future funding for the Project will come from carbon offsets (hopefully). Since the Project replaces traditional non-sustainable water purification methods with sustainable ones, the project may be eligible for carbon offsets under the UN Clean Development Mechanism. (Manna has yet to obtain the UN’s final approval of carbon funding for the Project.) If Manna does obtain the carbon offsets, the funds will allow for maintenance and repairs of the water treatment facilities while funding their ongoing operation. In the Project’s first phase, which will require a $1.5 million investment and deliver potable water for up to 20- to 30,000 people, the Project could earn an approximate $6 million in offsets. In the Project’s second phase, which will require an additional $12 million investment and serve another 236,000 people, the Project could generate another $102 million in carbon offsets. The offsets will cover the Project’s debts, salaries for Rwanda and U.S. staff, and the facilities’ operational costs.
One of my first responses to the Project was speculative: If the UN Climate Change Conference in December is inconclusive, will projects like these suffer? In other words, if it becomes harder for legitimate sustainability projects to obtain carbon offsets, will they scale back their efforts? If they do, will government efforts to establish sustainable development on a global scale be effective?
What do you think Manna Energy’s Rwanda Natural Energy Project says about the bigger picture of global sustainability?