Monday, February 05, 2018

Empowering the Powerless:  Here's How to End Energy Poverty

Millions of people die prematurely of indoor pollution and other consequences of energy poverty.  But there is a way to empower the powerless:  with renewable energy microgrids and decentralized technologies.

Solar powered micro-grids provide Maasai of the Moduli district in northern Tanzania with electricity to purify water, run a refrigerator for food and medicines, power a computer and provide lighting for schoolchildren to do their homework. [Credit: (USAID/flickr), CC BY-NC] Click to Enlarge.
Distributed-energy technologies such as micro-grids can provide an electricity-deprived citizen with power — and the ability to create income.  This pathway to power delivery is a disruptive force that will forever change the relationship between electricity user and producer.  It makes it possible for a citizen with little capital to bypass the heavy hand of bureaucracy and authoritarian dictators.

Distributed energy empowers the powerless.  These decentralized energy systems give households the ability to negotiate directly with energy entrepreneurs and access electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Low-cost innovations are critical
Since 2010, we have witnessed dramatic declines in the cost of key energy technologies:  95 per cent for LED lighting, 60 per cent for solar PV, and 75 per cent for battery storage.

In addition these components of distributed energy, when integrated with information and communication technologies (ICTs) — sensors, devices, and wireless data transmission — enable payments to be made with phones over vast distances.

Thanks to the smart integration of energy resources at the local level, it’s now possible to deliver energy services to a home from stand-alone solar systems, or to combine it with mini-hydroelectric systems or battery storage to meet the needs of a small business or farmer.

Traditionally, electrification has occurred by extending the electrical grid.  But this has not been effective for populations that are geographically, economically, or politically isolated.

With the low costs and improved performance of distributed energy technologies, there is an unrealized opportunity for positive social change by drawing the poor into the economic mainstream.

Decentralized energy systems are modular, less complex, and readily transported.  Thus, they can be adapted and scaled to provide different levels of service for unique needs.

Read more at Empowering the Powerless:  Here's How to End Energy Poverty

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