by Ariel Miller

American Rotarian Aur Beck has won the 2023 Walt Ratterman Award from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners for providing free solar systems to Habitat for Humanity homeowners for whom this technology would otherwise be impossible to afford, and his contribution to forging the Habitat Solar partnership between Rotary and Habitat so families anywhere in the world where both non-profits serve will have the chance to reduce their monthly energy bills.

The Walt Ratterman Award, NABCEP’s top humanitarian honor, is named for the dedicated solar professional who gave up a lucrative business to found and run the nonprofit Sun Energy Power International providing solar power to impoverished regions in countries including Rwanda and Afghanistan, until he died tragically in the 2010 earthquake while volunteering in Haiti.

Aur Beck chairs ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force and is passionate about both sustainability and energy justice. Since joining the board of the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Carbondale, Illinois (USA) in 2013, he has been donating two solar PV systems a year to Habitat and supervising free installation by students in his solar training class at a local college.

“Habitat for Humanity assists responsible people that deserve a helping hand,” wrote Jeff Speis, President of Planet Plan Sets, who nominated Aur.  “The utility bill tends to be a financial make or break, and…using solar power keeps their utility bills manageable and allows them the benefits of home ownership.”  Spies also praised Aur for his contribution to the Habitat Solar Guidebook which is now available free online through the Habitat-Rotary partnership spearheaded by ESRAG. This resource provides invaluable technical assistance which Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Habitat affiliates are using in a growing number of communities to make practical decisions from right-sizing solar systems to finding grants and rebates to help cover the upfront capital cost.

“By providing this support to hard-working valuable members of his community, Aur is helping make a stronger, more compassionate community where people can support and help one another,” wrote Spies in his nomination, in which he also cited Aur’s role in many other vital civic and non-profit groups including the Good Samaritan Homeless Shelter and serving as chair of the City of Carbondale Sustainability Committee.  “Aur has trained hundreds of local residents in how to design and install a solar system, leading many to work in the industry in the local market.”

Aur has lived completely off-grid for almost four decades (including traveling widely with his family by horse-drawn wagon). His book Living Off Grid Really?!?! has recently been accepted for publication.   Congratulations, Aur, on the Walt Ratterman Award, and on using your knowledge so generously to make solar energy affordable for low-income families through the Rotary-Habitat partnership!