The Sun Has A Bright Idea For A Bunch Of People Who Are Stuck In The Dark

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Ever have someone tell you that they work better at night than they do during the day? Or maybe you've crammed for a test (or most of them) into the wee hours of the morning? It's pretty great that that's an option, but it's also easy to forget that it's not for more than a billion people out there. They're missing one major thing.

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Energy poverty means having poor quality, limited, or no energy at all, including access to electricity or clean fuels for cooking or heating.

Around the world, there are 1.3 billion who lack access to electricity. About a quarter of them live here in India.

The problem today is that even more than half the population does not have access to energy. It deprives from opportunities to have better education, better livelihoods.

The people are seeking alternatives and solar is, you know, makes sense in many ways.

The history of rural electrification efforts have largely relied on a single approach, which is building large-scale, centralized power plants, usually fossil fuel power plants that are heavily polluting and then extending the grid outwards to rural areas. That has worked very well for some countries and for many other countries, it has been a spectacular failure. And what you find time and time again is that the people who are out here trying to solve the problem of energy poverty, you know the tool that they use is decentralized, clean energy, which is, you know, by and large solar.

Access to energy through solar power is important for them because earlier, they were using kerosene. Kerosene gives them fumes, not bright light. People, they have started, you know, earning more. Children, they have started, you know, studying in the evening.

When I was a student, we don't have any source of light. We don't spend too much time on my study. Today, we have light. They have too much time to study.

In the terms of jobs, in the terms of independence, its helps women very much.

Initially, we only used kerosene, which used to create a lot of soot and smoke. But now, we use the solar lanterns. They stay on for a long time. We can work longer hours and if it goes off, we can make a phone call and get another one.

When the weather is bad, I close early, but otherwise, the solar lanterns let me keep my shop open later. And my costs have gone down as I don't have to spend money on fuel for the generator.

If you come out to these rural areas, everybody has a cellphone. Nobody is prescribing "land lines for all" as the solution to our communications needs. And I think it's very similar when you look at what will happen with energy.

India is rapidly becoming a global, economic power house. As the economy grows, energy demand is going to rise. The country simply cannot fuel its economic growth with fossil fuels alone.

So, India is in a unique and nice position of using decentralized renewable energy to uplift that 500 million people out of energy poverty, where the added benefit being solutions to climate. Where else can you actually get that?

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video comes from the Center for American Progress as part of their video series called "A Brighter Future for India: Harnessing the Sun to Bring Light to the Rural Poor." If you're on Team Yes-Everyone-Should-Have-Access-To-Energy, then sign on to this petition from the Sierra Club.

Jul 31, 2014

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