For nearly 4 months, people in Chile powered their homes for free. Here's what happened.

Chile is amazing at producing and implementing solar energy.

The coastal South American country recently breezed past its competition by becoming the first in Latin America to surpass a full gigawatt of installed solar energy, which can power around 750,000 homes.

The country also has plans to use 70% renewable energy by 2050, with solar at the forefront.


A solar plant in Pozo Almonte, Chile. Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

Which is good. Really good. As a matter of fact, it might be ... too good.

Chile's solar industry has expanded so quickly that for 113 days this year, solar energy in many parts of the country was free.

That's right.

Chile is generating so much solar energy, for 113 days they literally had to give it away for free.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

It's a huge win for consumers who, for nearly four months, got to rake in some free clean energy.

However, it's also a potential problem for business owners in Chile who are struggling with the fall of one industry and the blazing-fast rise of another.

If you go way back, the story all starts with copper. Yes, copper.

Chile is a huge exporter of copper, which contributes to the country's 6% annual economic growth. But lately, there's been a worldwide slowdown in the copper trade, and Chilean copper producers have been feeling the impact.

A copper mine in Calama, Chile. Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

Copper mining in Chile has ground to a near-halt, and copper mines everywhere are shutting down. As these mines shut down, the country as a whole requires less power than it did before. But all the solar farms are still producing, resulting in a solar surplus.

Energy companies can't just give away energy forever, though.

If they do, the companies will have to fold, and then Chileans won't have solar energy at all.

“Investors are losing money,” said Rafael Mateo, whose energy firm is investing $343 million in Chilean solar energy projects. "Growth was disordered. You can’t have so many developers in the same place.”

Even when they're not giving it away for free, from a business standpoint, Chile's solar energy is still problematically cheap.

The Atacama region, for example, clocked about $60 per megawatt-hour for most of March, according to Bloomberg. That's $10 less than the minimums set by the companies that won bids to sell their solar energy there.


Photo by Vladimir Rodas/AFP/Getty Images.

So while Chilean energy consumers are probably pretty happy about their tiny and/or nonexistent electric bills, energy companies aren't as thrilled .

Let's look at the bright side here, though. (That's where the sun is, after all.)

Realistically, Chile is demonstrating how successful a clean energy product can be if you truly commit to investing in it.

In fact, we've seen things like this happen before in other countries: Portugal managed to go 107 hours without using fossil fuels by investing serious cash-money into multiple clean energy projects, and Germany managed to bump up clean energy production so much that it had to pay its citizens to use it for seven hours.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.

All over the world, people are investing in renewable energy and finding out just how wildly successful it can be.

We may still need to recalibrate the settings so energy companies can stay alive while consumers get fair energy prices. But we'll get there.

For now, let's keep building.

Heroes

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

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For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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