More Light and Heat: Transforming aspirations, institutions, theory and practice

Vaisakh S Unni

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Category: Diversifying our energy mix
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Access, affordability and the externalities of energy use will certainly factor into dynamic calculus of wellbeing, but so too will a myriad of other dimensions affected by energy choices. Poor access to energy is a huge barrier to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty.

 

To achieve this sustainable development there is a need for a nodal agency as guide.

 

The main objectives of this guide agency are:

1) Identifying areas that would most benefit from investment, considering a wide array of possible benefits. The guide should provide simple metrics investors can use to compare co-benefits in different areas, with emphasis on the expansion of access to sustainable. The co-benefits can be very large like expansion of energy access is tied to gender equality and is well correlated with improvements in education and health outcomes.

2) Identifying the investment-readiness of these areas, including their geographical, environmental, technical and governmental needs, and any significant barriers to successful investment. In many countries the national electricity grids are underserved and smaller projects can make a sustainable contribution to solve power shortage and help economic development of the country. My vision is a system of off-grid rooftop solar projects, social bio gas plants & small hydro power plants and thus transforming communities or houses from consumers to producers.

3) Recruiting different sources of funding to areas with high need, both for direct investment and to   address barriers, and weaving these sources together for coherent progress. Micro financing is one of the promising solutions.

 

Engaging government policy makers in this drive is a challenge. This requires relevant decision makers to engage the dynamic consequences of energy choices made. Each decision maker will frame a mental model of impacts of this policy and sketch the projections of key variables over time and then integrate all these models. The objective of this group exercise is to get participants to discover together instances where the policy impacts may become complicated by factors not immediately evident in their individual mental models. Policies need to be bold such as subsidies for the initial capital investment and ensuring corporate to invest in this sector through CSR (Corporate social responsibility) activities.

 

None of these tasks are easy, but if executed they could draw needed investment to developing nations and help use it well. For some parts of the world to start bridging the gap, let alone catch up, there is a need for massive mobilization of readily available resources and the recruitment of others that are underutilized or not used at all. This will be like nothing the world has ever seen, nor anything that has been fantasized by anybody, from the most ruthless Darwinian capitalist to the most ardent egalitarian.

 

As Al Gore said: “There’s an old African proverb that says if you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far go together. We have to go far, quickly”. And in figuring this riddle out, we will find the answer to our problems.

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