Small and Dumb – but Mine
Sebastian Petrick talks in his article “Big and Clever: Towards a supra-national electricity market” about the creation of a multi-national conglomerate to produce and distribute solar and wind energy across multiple nations. As is often the case, the technical difficulties are huge, but even more challenging are the political obstacles. This scenario would also create a whole new set of interdependencies between “receiving nations” and “producing nations”, but maybe economic pressure leads more quickly to “global governance” than political circumstances do.
Development of “big and clever electricity resources” should go hand in hand with the development of local production of electricity – and by local I mean single households or small cooperatives of houses. Small and dumb – but mine. Controllable, local, independent and sustainable, globally relevant. In an ideal world, most of my electricity needs would be supplied by an in-house infrastructure, and I would be willing to adapt my energy consumption to its availability.
So let’s not underestimate the value of smaller scale or even DIY energy supply, which could give the “super grid” some slack – especially in peak times – and would allow people to live off the grid, maintaining a somewhat self-sufficient life. Small-scale energy supply is especially interesting in today’s quick-changing, interdependent and volatile world, and especially for non-industrial, private and flexible consumers. Good things can come in small packages, and small packages are scalable. Here an example: the “Indian Solar Loan Programme”
Another urgent reason for the development of a local, small scale “electricity production industry” is to provide people, especially in developing countries, with electricity to deal with the onslaught of energy-hungry small personal electronic devices as foreseen in the article here on Future Challenges “Africa’s Mobile Future”. These countries cannot wait for the arrival of an all-encompassing power grid and must leapfrog to other solutions. Maybe we, the developed nations, can learn from them “to do more with less”.
Sasakawa Laureate Nuru Design brings clean, affordable lighting solutions to rural communities in Rwanda, Kenya and India with portable, rechargeable LED lights. The lights can be recharged by solar panel or by human power using the world’s first commercially available pedal generator. The reduction in kerosene expenses saves households up to USD$8 per month per household.
Small steps with local energy projects help local people generate local ventures that in turn lead to innovation and local entrepreneurship.
Links utilized in this article are primarily from United Nations sources.