Energy Poverty

There is indeed such a thing as energy poverty. We all know about lack of food and water, insufficient resources, poor hygiene and health facilities. Energy poverty is up there on the list of world scourges. If you live without electricity, you live without the basic necessities of life: a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, heat and cooling, and more. You are no doubt below the poverty line, not a pleasant place to be.

In third world countries, generators can be used where regional utilities do not reach everyone. This is not the best answer, but it is a viable one. At least some degree of power can be supplied—for a price. Most of the poor, of course, cannot afford these devices, as handy and reliable as they are. They can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars and they eat up fuel. It is incumbent upon world charitable organizations to find them from commercial donors and manufacturers, or at least those that provide significant discounts.

We use generators as mains backup in hospitals, office buildings, and residential homes. They are a luxury. We take portable versions camping and in our RVs. How lucky we are that they are not the primary sources of power in our lives. They have limited capacity at the more affordable prices. As such, they have been relegated to bad climate areas that create frequent outages.

We take lighting for granted. Imagine having to use fossil fuels (like wood), kerosene lamps and candles as in the olden days. With poor quality of light, you can barely see at night (needed for children in school), much less read or perform any kind of task. Plus there are adverse health effects of sitting near pollutants in closed in spaces like tents including respiratory infections. Solar panels that convert the sun’s rays to electricity can replace primitive methods for sure. There must be a way to supply these otherwise costly solutions to those in need. Fire prevention, especially in those wood structures common to poverty areas, is a priority. Money is always an issue and it just isn’t there.

True economic development is correlated with modern sources of power—water, wind, steam, solar, or nuclear. Over a billion people do not have access to any of them (including 25% of India’s population). Progress is not reaching everyone worldwide. Superior methods are not available everywhere. Kerosene, invented in the mid-19th century, is still a staple of many country towns and even urban slums. Cooking fuel is even harder to come by. It is called energy poverty and it is no joke.

Breaking the cycle of poverty means supplying cheap and effective electrical resources where they do not yet exist. The generator stop gap is just that—a temporary plan. Educating the poor is a good start and is already taking place with organizations like Pollinate Energy. Fundraising is ever present. We have a long way to go, but the effort put in now will reap great rewards down the road.