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Show HN: Collective.Energy – Crowdsource climate solutions as a community (collective.energy)
167 points by ericvanular 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

Hi HN!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the global climate crisis. I made this as a response to the problem, ”I don’t know what I can do to help”.

https://collective.energy is a community for crowdsourcing climate solutions & actions. The platform empowers individuals by providing inspiration, feedback, and an audience. Turn climate ideas into plans into reality - all in one place.

Feel free to make an account and post. It's far from perfect but let me know what you think. I'd love helpful feedback.

Thanks, Eric (Collective.Energy maker)

Great initiative! You should have a look at https://www.tmrow.com, they are building tools which allow anyone to understand the climate impact of their decisions. The "pragmatic guide" they wrote about climate change (https://www.tmrow.com/climatechange) is one of the best I've read on the topic, as it is very well documented and provide actionable insights.

This is awesome. The focus on climate pragmatism is exactly what we'd like to channel. I'll post about it on Collective.Energy - if you're involved with tmrow, get in touch!

I'm involved! Feel free to reach out at martin@tmrow.com

Looks great! I love how responsive it is. Did you code it or did you use an existing platform?

Thanks! I leveraged an open source Node.js based discussion platform called NodeBB. It's similar to Discourse but not made in Ruby on Rails. I cloned the base repo but then was quite liberal in customizing it to my own needs and extending the functionality. Any other feedback is very welcome, it's a work in progress!

Nice! I was going to ask the same question. It's great to know about nodeBB. Great work on the platform!

Looks cool. A related project is MIT's ClimateColab:


They run annual contests for climate solutions. For several years they had a conference at MIT for all the winning proposals, with VCs attending. In the first couple years the winners presented their ideas to small groups at Congress and the U.N.

But neither of those entities was interested in the ideas anyone presented. Now they've scaled down to a few tightly focused contests sponsored by people who actually want to implement something.

I think Climate Colab is great. They are coming at it from a slightly different angle, which isn’t necessarily any better or worse. It is very contest oriented, with highly structured judging processes. Our objective is to include as many people in the discussion as possible, opening up the dialogue beyond a judged format (which can feel exclusive and prevent some people who might otherwise contribute their voice). Their approach has more of an academic focus (which is natural being a product of MIT). To me Colab feels more like Kaggle than HN/Reddit. Awesome work though!

An example thing to do that you might be able to replicate in your city: https://www.edinburghsolar.coop/

Co-op and mutual solutions have interesting potential, although this one does rather rely on government subsidies.

Amazing idea! Please post about this on Collective.Energy, I think you could inspire similar projects all over

The solution seems pretty simple based on current technology:

* Nuclear for base load generation

* Wind/Solar for peak times during the day

* Pumped hydroelectric storage to help offset excess capacity

* Maintain existing hydroelectric dams

It's pretty much that simple, but the politic blocks against using nuclear are massively damaging to our ability to put in place any real solutions.

Great suggestions. I think the community we're discussing would really value your input if you'd be okay with sharing these same thoughts on https://collective.energy!

Why is this being downvoted?

Because nuclear takes too long to spin up - we don't have time.

Nuclear takes time but I don't think the solution is going to come through only one approach. It seems like we'll need a mix of technologies to actually solve this problem. Nuclear provides clean base load in many places currently (e.g. more than 60% of the base power in Ontario)

Well then we just keep burning gas/coal for base load. Congrats on wrecking the planet.

We have 10 years to cut 50% of emissions. We literally can't build enough nuclear plants in that time, it's very slow. It's also really expensive. We have to use other renewables.

We should a) build renewable; and b) build nuclear reactors with the idea that you will insert rods, to decrease power output when the winds are blowing strong, and restore power when the winds have dampened. Outcome, lowered nuclear waste from the plant, fewer expensive battery storage (or pumped hydro).

Hey powerbroker, would love to have your opinions over at https://collective.energy

> We have 10 years to cut 50% of emissions.

Do we!? What happens otherwise? Because it's a cast iron certainty that global emissions won't be anywhere near 50% less in ten years time.

I'm against nuclear power because current policy doesn't account for the externalities of fuel mining and waste storage. If it's so safe, then reactors should be built in population centers, and the waste should be stored there too. A recent article suggests that it might be possible to transmute waste with lasers, but I am skeptical that it will achieve net-positive energy. Previous discussion:


Also dams kill fish, to the point of driving salmon nearly to extinction in the pacific northwest:


Aside from that, I think that your sentiment is correct that we have the technology today to get off fossil fuels.

The trend is that electricity will soon become too cheap to meter (literally, at peak production more energy will flow into the grid than what's used). So the new frontier in renewable energy is storage.

If I had a million dollars, I'd invest in displacement tech like this one:


There's also great promise in storing excess grid energy in electric car batteries, and in big dumb sodium-sulfur or nickel-iron batteries.

So I think we should put our R&D efforts into energy storage, not nuclear. Not to mention that nuclear is now the most expensive technology. It goes nuclear, coal, natural gas, solar, then wind in descending order:


How about externalities of batteries and most realistic energy storage solutions?

I don't care what you made was good, I upvoted you one intention alone. More techies should work on this, myself included. It may be interesting to hear my and other people their objections as to why they're not working on it.

I'm already dreading asking the question to myself, but a part of me really believes this should be done.

Thank you! I was facing that dilemma myself for quite some time. The intention here is that you don't need to start huge - writing just one valuable comment on Collective.Energy can have a downstream impact that motivates/inspires others and creates positive effects. The ability to do good from your couch is really empowering I think. It makes it easy to get involved. Have you added your voice yet? There could be others that want to hear what you have to say

Oh boy, I don't feel qualified to give an opinion about this. But I'll do the best I can.

You can take part in ongoing discussions with no judgement or qualification required. If you can help even one person, it will be worth it!

Has anyone looked into mutual corps or coops that allow individual (accredited or not) investors to crowdsource solar or wind production facilities? Does it not work out financially or logistically?

edit: Never mind, it would make a lot more sense for me to post that on this collective.energy. I will do that instead.

I'm part of one based in Kitchener, ON: http://www.lifecoop.ca/

They have done some smaller scale solar projects and bought a 51% stake in an existing wind turbine— I believe there was a government benefit for "local ownership" or something that was the impetus for this particular move.

Hey mikepurvis, some of us on the Collective.Energy community are Toronto based. We would love to learn more about the idea if you're comfortable sharing there!

I've wondered if we could crowdsource synthetic fuel production to compete with fossil fuels.

It would be very attractive to drive the oil companies out of business with a frontal assault.

Of course it would depend on having enough consumers prepared to pay more for their fuel.

It's a bit more indirect, but in the vein of "consumers prepared to pay more", see companies like Bullfrog Power: https://www.bullfrogpower.com

Basically, you don't actually buy power from Bullfrog— you continue to pay your existing utility bill, and then pay a surcharge to Bullfrog, who invest it in green energy projects on your behalf. They're periodically audited to demonstrate that the money is doing what they say it is, but at its core it's a marketing company selling feelings, not an energy company selling energy:


But the point is, they have loads of customers, so there's definitely an appetite out there for paying more to get reduced-guilt energy.

I hate to be the rain on parade guy, but... you are talking about chemical engineering that will involve working with gases like hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane at a large scale. You're simply not going to be allowed to even purchase the raw materials you need in the quantities you need unless you are running a proper chemical company, complete with all the certifications and HSE work. The investment cost is huge, and requires a lot of specialized engineering plus the purchase of a suitable industrial estate that is large and has a wide safety zone against all surrounding neighbours.

If you're serious about this, I'd recommend reading Max Gergel's book "Excuse me sir, would you like to buy a kilo of isopropyl bromide", and then imagine what you would need to go through in order to start an operation 10x to 100x bigger than Gergel's in todays regulatory regime.

I beg to differ. Based on IPs from Columbia Uni, NYC, we are a startup working on technology to produce green hydrogen from sea water and renewable energy. We received a NYSERDA validation grant and are on our way to pilot in the Port of Rotterdam in 2020. We are currently looking into the possibility to crowdfund some of our work.

Cool stuff! Is it different from electrolysis?

The way I see it, you're somewhat in a different ballgame since you're not buying explosive/toxic gases from anyone else. You're producing an explosive gas from seawater. Still, I imagine you need some pretty big safety zones if you're operating at scale, no?

Hey semi-extrinsic, cjbenedikt posted more about this on the platform. If you'd like, you can engage them there and drive the conversation forward!

Love the sound of this. If you'd like to build your audience, we would be happy to follow your journey at Collective.Energy

Ha, yeah, I wasn't meaning to crowdsource a petrochemical company in my back yard. Not my forte, not that of anyone I know.

I'd like to see environmentally aware consumers voluntarily subsidising a synthetic fuel company that would compete with the fossil fuel companies.

If enough people would chip in, perhaps it could be possible to put pressure on the margins of the fossil fuel companies and drive them out of business.

You might be able to rally some support and feedback for this idea on Collective.Energy!

It's understandable that you'd need some oversight to acquire the materials. I wonder if it would be feasible to band together as a unified front to encourage an organization who is able to make this happen push towards reality

These are fantastic discussions. Would love to have both of you posting and discussing on the platform if you're willing. You can extend your positive impact even further!

Like Community Solar?

This looks like really interesting & useful. Couple questions:

What copyright is assigned to the posts from contributors? Creative Commons?

Could there be a way to allow users to accumulate a local copy of the discussion threads? This is something I appreciate about mailing lists and Usenet -- being widely distributed & redundant minimizes the chance of important content getting lost to the sands of time. Also allows for reading offline in situations where internet access might not always be available.

I see there are RSS feeds for individual discussions, but on a quick look through a few of those it wasn't clear to me how well this would capture threaded conversations, if it would require continually adding additional feeds for newly spawning discussions, etc. Maybe db dumps could be utilized similar to how Kiwix creates an offline Wikipedia?

Anyhow, great idea, I hope to be able to contribute.

linguaz these are fantastic questions. It would be super helpful if you could post them in the Meta category on the site so that they can be opened up to the community for discussion. I'd like to obtain community input on these types of decisions. You're thinking about this at an advanced level in any case which I appreciate.

I love this project and have started to participate on the platform, thanks @ericvanular!

If anyone lives in New York and would like a real-life community extension of this idea, you're welcome to join us in getting this meetup group off the ground.


Thank you! In fact, there's a thread going on Collective.Energy to detail local meetups for everyone's reference. You can find it at https://collective.energy/topic/23/add-your-local-meetup-gro...

Great, I like the idea.

Something that you may find useful that I came across recently is Climateaction.tech [0], which may have some overlap that you could take advantage of.

[0] https://climateaction.tech/

Absolutely! The more people that are working together on climate solutions the better as far as we're concerned.

It looks like that initiative is working together through a Google doc for now? Perhaps they might be interested in also leveraging a forum-type environment to foster ongoing discussion in addition to their document! Love what they're doing though. If you're involved with that, get in touch!

It strikes me that we know much of what to do, we just aren't doing it. We also know what we shouldn't be doing, but we refuse to stop doing it.

Hi gaze, founder of Collective.Energy here. We would love to have your voice as part of our community if you're open to it!

Your forum seems overwhelmingly focused on individual action. I would be interested if your focus shifted to organizing collective action. Organized boycotts, for instance.

Nice project. Can't fault your intentions.

The name seems odd to me however, as I read it from the perspective of electrical energy. Most countries already have extensive electrical infrastructure (i.e. collective energy) so the name evoked in me the horrible idea of taking communities off grid to run on their own micro-grid.

This is fine in a few edge cases, but is generally suboptimal from a socio-economic perspective.

Thanks for your feedback. I wanted to evoke the idea of harnessing the energy that we collectively have towards solving the climate crisis.

Also it seems like you have great knowledge about electrical infrastructure. Maybe you could contribute that knowledge on the platform. We've discussed ideas like local micro-grids and many would love to learn more about why you think they are a bad idea. We'd be happy to have you bolstering our ranks!

This looks very cool - I can dig it.

Why can't I register without giving my email address?

Please feel free to put in a placeholder email if you're not comfortable with it. It helps me to recover lost passwords and prevent spam

Do you plan any moderation to combat climate deniers?

Why would we want to “combat” different opinions? Contrarian opinions are healthy. Dogma should always be challenged — if anything, such challenges help people better define and strengthen their own arguments. Most of us “deniers” don’t deny climate change, we just disagree with the causes and the proposed solutions. Science isn’t static, data isn’t always conclusive and outside agendas aren’t always disclosed.

You've eloquently stated my position in better words than I had used. Thank you, please feel free to chip in these thoughts on the platform

Wow, this doesn't instill confidence in your moderation abilities. You need to show people who "disagree on the causes" the door.

Conversely, I think that heavy censorship of opposing ideas shows a lack of confidence in one's own opinion. If we can't debate effectively the merits of climate action in a community designed for it, then we need to work on our messaging

you're going to let a bunch of astroturfing people wreck your platform and it's not going to be useful to anyone. you're being naive.

We have baked-in anti spam moderation to the community. In regards to climate deniers coming on and brigading the community, I felt that it would be better to let moderators & the community treat those on a case by case basis with counter arguments and voting as necessary

What do you think? I'm open to suggestion but I feel like suppressing free speech goes against the ideals of the community

Absolutely agree with that, but the problem might be people not having the time to follow up on long discussions, and source information to disprove climate denier arguments. In fact my experience is that many climate activists are not that familiar with the science & economics themselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qaJKM77j00 (she should have quoted Martin Weitzman's work on the fat tails of the climate sensitivity distribution).

I would suggest having a repository of clear arguments and counter arguments with links to reputable scientific sources, that we can refer any climate deniers to. For example: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2018/06/will-c...

I'm hearing you loud and clear. That's a great idea to keep the conversation focused. If you're willing, we would love to have you put forward this idea on the platform itself!

I am just worried that your platform might turn into a debate forum with endless back and forth arguments instead of being a "community for discussing positive climate actions". Discussing actions assumes you already agree on what the problem is. If you want to be successful, focus is the key. And to enable focus, you need to guard your community. Heck, HN is successful and heavily moderated.

edit: If you are serious about solving climate crisis, there is no time for counter arguments. Arguing with deniers and "sceptics" is a distraction and a waist of time. They are already a minority anyway. The majority of the population, both in US and EU, supports climate policies. The task is not to convert sceptics, the task now is to get the pro climate majority off their butts, away from their keyboards, and to "the streets".

Very valid concern. Thanks for your feedback! I'd suggest that you post that on the community Meta section and we can determine a standard approach for dealing with climate deniers transparently out in the open. What do you think?

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