Envisioning a Future Off the Grid
Imagine a day when communities, cities or entire countries finally take the hint about the strategic importance of renewable energy and entirely bypass the development of 20th Century power grids based on fossil fuels.
And imagine a time when the world’s smallest villages and rural communities take back control of their own energy development in a conscious effort to ensure at least a part of their political and socioeconomic futures.
Thanks to the increasing accessibility of solar, wind and other renewables, that day has come. And both the energy-deprived countries and larger global community are better off for it.
That’s because local power providers now no longer need to construct a costly, time-consuming grid to ensure centralized power control. While some level of electrical infrastructure will always be necessary during times of emergency or reduced-power crisis, the bigger need is to get reliable, everyday power to energy-starved populations now to enable them to build their lives and economic futures. If communication is the lifeblood of progress in the Developing World, electricity in the form of cell service, Internet access and 24/7 wired offices is what fuels that information exchange.
Of course, beyond the economic and political benefits of a renewables-focused power strategy are the more obvious environmental advantages. A power grid based on the need to burn finite supplies of non-renewable fossil fuels is, by definition, polluting. Solar and wind energy is clean and infinitely available, especially in many of the world’s developing regions that need power the most.
Echoing the same conclusion is Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), which published an Internet of Energy model confirming that 100% global renewable energy reliance – focused primarily on solar and wind – is feasible by 2030. The message to developing countries is clear: Skip the antiquated power infrastructure to realize more immediate energy dependence without the costly, time-consuming and polluting side effects of coal and other fossil fuels.
Much like when the need for conventional phone lines all but disappeared in Africa with the advent of cellphones, advanced renewable energy technology will make the 20th Century grid obsolete. Combine this increasing expertise with sovereign nations’ desire for energy independence in the short run and the result is a distinct clean-energy advantage to developing countries over their developed counterparts.
In fact, in the ultimate irony, the developing world could ultimately be considered the more advanced of the two – at least in terms of the creation of power systems based on clean, efficient, economical and 100% renewable energy, as well as the inevitable link between these systems and future prosperity.
Time will tell. And the world watches closely in the meantime.