Renewable energy for the developing world. Clean energy for isolated communities that struggle with heating and cooking. Wood fires and dirty charcoal plants replaced with solar panels and clean-burning stoves. And perhaps a chance to change the way countries develop – making the entire process much cheaper, safer, and easier on the planet than in decades past.
All this might sound idealistic at first, but with some support, these dreams could quickly become reality. DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND RENEWABLE ENERGYThis isn’t pie-in-the-sky dreaming, renewables really work for developing countries. In fact, as of 2015 the green energy revolution was officially turned on its head: the developing world invested more in renewables than rich countries did that year.
The trend has continued every year since. Costa Rica is well on its way to becoming the first developing country to have 100% renewable electricity (currently at 98%). Certain areas of Afghanistan are turning fossil fuel difficulties into renewable strengths, using solar and hydro power which can be managed locally instead of central power plants, which are hard to build without a stable government. And India, with 20% of its population currently without power, is aiming to attack that problem with small-scale localised solar power solutions. SUPPORTING THE RENEWABLE REVOLUTIONThe above examples are places where the renewable revolution is working – but in much of the developing world, this isn’t the case.
The same opportunities exist across the globe, but the majority of third world countries need support and encouragement in order to make this positive change. EXAMPLE: COOKING AND HEATINGTake the simple act of cooking and heating for example. Most people in wealthy countries get energy for cooking and heating from refined fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. But in developing countries, wood and wood-based charcoal accounts for between 50 and 90 percent of the fuel used.
The estimated health, environmental and economic cost of this continued use of solid fuels is a staggering US$123 billion annually. People in communities that depend on wood sometimes have to travel many miles to get it. When they find it, the harvesting can contribute to deforestation. And when they bring it back and cook with it, the wood and charcoal smoke causes health problems. 1. 5 million people die prematurely each year due to indoor air pollution from charcoal stoves.
This is a major problem in developing countries. Clean and renewable energies can combat this massive problem, but it will take some doing. International efforts to supply developing countries with cleaner-burning stoves or cooking methods powered by renewables are underway. But because wood, coal and dung are cheap and easy to access, the demand for clean cooking simply isn’t there.
This ongoing effort must get as much support as possible – the cost of dirty cooking is simply too high. CARRYING THE MOVEMENT FORWARDFor many of the problems developing countries face, there is a renewable solution. If (and when) more third world countries get help and start using renewables, a positive cycle of less waste, less pollution, better health, and lower socio-economic cost will develop. More efficient and available renewables can provide power to communities that didn’t have it or struggled to get it before. Clean energy is replacing the use of fossil fuels and wood-based fuels which take a heavy toll on the environment and public health. And now that renewables are a reasonable – and sometimes much better and cheaper – option for developing countries than fossil fuels are, the very way in which development happens can be rewritten for the better.
This is one truly achievable way we can improve our planet’s future – and quickly. We must support the use of renewable energy in developing countries.