MOTHER’s Newsworthies: S. David Freeman, John Denver and George E. Brown, Jr.

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Congressman George E. Brown, Jr. partnered with the Solar Energy Research Institute to compile a comprehensive data bank of universities, colleges, and trade schools that offer solar power education.
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John Denver is active in his community to help fight against malnutrition and starvation as well as the protection of wilderness areas.

Brief: S. David Freeman

New Yorkers still remember — with stunned smiles — the result of a power conservation campaign conducted by a local utility a few years ago. The area’s energy consumption went down all right … and an application for a rate hike was immediately filed — by the utility — on the grounds that profits were cut by the lowered usage! Not all power companies subscribe to such crazy logic, though … and the words of the new Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority have the sweet sound of sanity. S. David Freeman, speaking last September — just four months after his appointment as head of the TVA — told his audience that “solar power is on the verge of a fantastic boom in America … we need to demonstrate to the public that a wide range of solar applications can be used here and now, and will save energy, save the environment, and save money as well. What’s needed is an affirmative action policy for the sun.”

Corporate rhetoric, followed by business as usual? Not in this case. Freeman offered action … and a rationale that made economic sense. A TVA pilot project in Memphis will install over 1,000 solar water heaters in private homes, and the program will be financed by 20 year, low-interest loans underwritten by the Authority. Customers of the local utility — whose monthly electric water heating bills now average between $12 and $17 — will pay for the solar installation at the rate of $12 a month … plus $1 for maintenance and an estimated maximum of $3 for off-peak electricity for the backup system.

This means that Memphis residents will have solar water heating for pretty much the same price they now pay for conventional service. But things will get even better in the future, according to Freeman. Since only the rate for the backup system’s electricity will ever increase, those solar customers will — by 1998 be paying an estimated $25 a month … about a third of what folks with electric water heaters will pay. And, in 1999 (when the 20-year loan is paid off), solar costs will actually drop by $12 a month!

As Freeman points out, “Solar energy provides obvious benefits to customers by helping lower their electric bills, and also offers potential savings to the power system (and thus to all consumers). By lowering peak demands, the system can realize millions of dollars in savings because we can avoid the use of expensive oil-fired combustion turbines or the high cost of power purchased from neighboring electric systems.”

Freeman estimates that — due to the reduction in peak demand — savings of several hundred dollars per solar unit would accrue to the TVA … and the eventual goal is to have 50,000 to 100,000 systems installed in the Authority’s service area. According to Freeman, “TVA and other power suppliers may be able to contribute to the cost of each solar unit installed and still achieve savings for all power users.”

As a member of an industry in which attitudes and practices seem fossilized in stone, Freeman appears unique. What other utility executive would say, “I hope and expect that TVA will be a pacesetter in demonstrating solar energy. We will be doing so because it is an inflation proof, pollution-free, renewable source of energy. People want greater control over their lives. Having their own ,solar power plants is one way to achieve that goal. “

Brief: John Denver

John Denver does a good deal more than just sing about country roads … he fights for them, and for many other causes as well. For example, he’s a member of the Board of Advisors of the Glenwood Canyon Citizens for a Scenic Corridor … a Colorado group that’s working to keep one of the state’s finest unspoiled canyons from becoming a four-lane highway. (And the committee’s efforts have been crowned with at least a temporary success … the “freeway” proposal has been tabled!)

John makes other contributions, too, by making films. Alaska, the American Child was part of Denver’s effort to awaken concern for the priceless wilderness areas of ”Seward’s Icebox.” Another movie, I Want to Live, has been donated by the singer to The Hunger Project. And Denver also appeared in (and narrated) a third film, Rocky Mountain Reunion, which describes the attempt to re introduce endangered species into their natural habitats.

Denver is not a person to “give and run,” either. Last fall, John’s ongoing commitment to the fight against malnutrition and starvation was recognized when he was appointed to the 14-member Presidential Commission on World Hunger. And his participation is active, too … in the short time since his appointment, Denver has attended several meetings of the Public Participation, Domestic Policy, and International Policy subcommittees.

Add to all these concerns John’s interest in the antinuclear movement and the campaign for the ERA — as well as his fund-raising activities for UNICEF — and a picture emerges … of a famous entertainer who is also fully involved in the world.

Brief: George E. Brown, Jr.

Solar power is used less than it should be, mainly because not enough people actually know how to use this free energy source. Very few folks have the expertise to construct an economical “sun-driven” heating or cooling system … yet over 700 educational institutions teach practical solar courses!

When Congressman George E. Brown, Jr. discovered that solar knowledge “gap,” the California representative decided he’d make it easy for people who need sunshine technology to find the places that offer such instruction. So — together with the Solar Energy Research Institute — Brown’s Congressional Solar Coalition has compiled a comprehensive data bank of universities, colleges, and trade schools that offer solar education. Now anyone can locate the sun power learning center that’s nearest at hand. The word — and the knowledge — about sun power is out. Congressman Brown and his cohorts are doing their best to help more people “see the light.”