A common metric for a state’s level of development used to be the number of telephones per person. The logic was that landline telephone infrastructure was costly and the more developed it was in a state the more developed the country was overall. Unfortunately, this no longer holds true for the developing world. With the advent of cheap wireless cellular phone technology, people in remote location have gained access to telephone services without relying on traditional landline infrastructure. These states have “skipped” a stage of development previously outlined by sociological scholars thanks to the advent of new technologies. If this developmental leapfrog can occur in telecommunications, the same concept can be used in the energy sector to support sustainable development.
Regions that suffer from energy poverty are perfect candidates for building electrical micro-grids based around renewable technology. The low demand for energy can easily be met by solar panels, and electrification can have huge socio-economic consequences for these communities. Indeed, some NGOs have already begun implementing this strategy by installing solar powered pumps on wells, as well as wind turbines and small solar cells to provide basic lighting to underdeveloped communities. Access to clean water and light sources has been shown to greatly increase the ability of children to learn and participate in education, and also reduces the amount of time that many women in underdeveloped communities have to spend getting water each day.
The concept of smart micro-grids has been discussed as an alternative to the large scale fossil fuel reliant infrastructures in the post-industrial world. But perhaps this concept can most significantly benefit those living in developing/pre-industrialized societies. Small renewable energy stations can electrify communities without the huge overhead costs of a national infrastructure, and can help drastically improve standards of living for those in energy poor areas.
Ackeby, Susanne. “Electricity Supply to Africa and Developing Countries: Challenges and Opportunities.” South African Regional Conference, 14 Nov. 2017, www.iea-isgan.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ISGAN_ConferencePaper_MicrogridsCentralizedGrids_Nov2017.pdf.
Climate Action. “100% Renewable Energy Fuelled Micro-Grid Successfully Operated in 24h Test in Illinois.” Climate Action, 27 Aug. 2017, www.climateaction.org/news/100-renewable-energy-fuelled-micro-grid-successfully-operated-in-24h-test-i.
Nyirenda-Jere, Towela. “Micro-Grids – Empowering Communities and Enabling Transformation in Africa | AUDA.” NEPAD, 2018, www.nepad.org/publication/micro-grids-empowering-communities-and-enabling-transformation-africa.
Silverstein, Ken. “Onsite Power And Microgrids May Be The Key To Global Development.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 June 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2018/06/01/onsite-power-and-microgrids-may-be-the-key-to-global-development/#740315f31d4b.