Who needs electricity?
Simple question with a simple answer: Nobody. Though it goes fully against all policies for development, it is true. Just stick your fingers in a wall socket and you know. What people need is what can be done with electric energy. Drive a machine, power a lamp, make a computer work and so on. But electricity just by itself gives no improvement.
Nice to get a street lamppost donated but is that the first need in a remote village. In a remote and isolated village we visited the people know their way, even blindfolded. Safety is neither an issue amongst the villagers. They do not ambush each other. So what is the advantage of such a lamp post?
However governments pride themselves very much by the Electric Power Coverage percentage. The higher the coverage the better they do. But does it really benefit the people in rural areas? They pay the bill for the electricity consumed, but can only do so when they earn an additional income using that electricity. Or have saved money by avoiding inefficient and harmful practices. Just delivering electricity will not add to the benefit of the population. It is preferable to concentrate on what kind of economical improvements can be made. Providing opportunities will create the bases for development. Rural areas are mostly agricultural economies. And many a time inefficient ones, due to lack of modern technology. Water has to be carried from far. But to make it safe drinking water it must be boiled and thus one needs wood. To keep generators running expensive fuel is transported over long distances.
“that will require more action than just connecting a community to an electric grid. Connect it to the Economic Grid.”
When the wide ranging applications of internet for E-health, E-commerce and E-learning are made available for remote locations people can improve their lives and communities can develop. Distributed Renewable Energy can make it happen but that will require more action than just connecting a community to an electric grid. Connect it to the Economic Grid.
A village can produce crops not only for its own need but also sell these products on a market. The modern market is on internet, not on the side of a street. One can buy and sell more efficiently on the internet and thus boost ones income. Therefore electricity is needed. That same electric power also drives computer and internet which supports the village teacher, provides better health services when a specialized doctor can be consulted.
Furthermore the upfront costs can be a barricade. But when an outside supporter brings these barricades down, growth of the local economy will return the initial investment easily.
One such a supporter is LGT Impact*. Their project in East Africa “M-KOPA Solar” leases SHS (Small Household Solar) systems to rural communities. Through this lease plan the villagers save money, the investor profits and the environment is better off. When people are better connected economic conditions improve and they get the chance to develop. A true win-win result.