Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bringing green power to the poor

Many in the under-developed world who live in poverty are not linked into an energy grid. Living without a steady source of power means they have to spend a good part of their time gathering energy sources for cooking, light and heat. Firewood takes time to gather, and kerosene and charcoal can be expensive for those who live on less than one dollar a day.

In a new commentary, Hugh Whalan says that bringing green sources of energy to those in poverty can help them climb out of it. Whalan is a part of Energy In Common that specializes in green mcrocredit services. We found Whalan's commentary at the Huffington Post.

Small scale green energy projects, starting with something as simple as a $10 LED lamp, represent an exciting opportunity to quickly make a real difference to energy access for the poor.

Consider the hypothetical story of Ophelia who lives in West Africa on the fringe of a city. She runs a small bakery and earns an average of $4 per day. She buys kerosene for light, charcoal for cooking, and every day she spends a few hours collecting firewood. The purchase of a LED lamp eliminates the need for her to buy kerosene, and because the lamp can provide many hours of light at no cost, she can open her bakery for longer hours - meaning more revenue for her. The LED lamp pays for itself in less than two months. Ophelia then purchases a fuel efficient cook stove for her bakery. The cook stove uses half as much firewood as her older cook stove, and because the stove gets hotter faster, it saves Ophelia 1 hour a day of cooking time and she is able to serve her customers quicker. Ophelia really likes the stove because it doesn't produce smoke, which hurt her eyes and irritated her customers, and it is built well so it does not burn her children's hands when they touch the exterior.

Anecdotal stories of the financial, health, and productivity benefits of small scale energy projects, such as Ophelia's, are supported by the emergence of an industry which focuses exclusively on selling energy to the very poor - people who earn $1 to $6 a day. Companies, such as Barefoot Power and D. Light, focus on manufacturing and selling small scale LED lamps and solar systems to the poor. Both intend to reach tens of millions of people in the coming years. Other organizations, such as StoveTec, are pioneering the introduction of extremely affordable and fuel efficient cook stoves. These efforts not only provide enormous value to the populations buying them, but also bring a climate dividend by reducing reliance on fuels that generate greenhouse gases.

As the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions increases over the next three decades are projected to come from developing countries, green energy represents a way to bring the poor out of poverty in an environmentally friendly way. This is important because climate change is projected to disproportionately affect the poor, and further hinder efforts to eradicate poverty.

1 comment:

Janice said...

What a wonderful post. Such a small thing as an LED lamp can make a big difference in someone's life. With today's economy, there are a lot more "poor" than usual. I think bringing green power to the poor is the way to go. I work with Sharp but I have to say that LED lighting seems like a great way to cut cost as well as do something great for the environment. LED lamps