When it comes to indigenous communities, island nations, developing economies, and even data centers and cities, energy independence is more than an idealistic concept. It can provide immediate and tangible economic and social benefits. To mark our nation’s 241st Independence Day holiday, we have created a photo blog that celebrates what energy freedom means to marginalized communities and booming segments alike and how technology is making it possible to take electricity to remote places to provide energy security and cleaner air.
In December, we wrote a post on energy independence that focused on the 1.2 billion people who are cut off from the global grid and how energy independence really means energy security when it comes to powering life’s basics. In today’s post, we focus on energy security as an opportunity. Specifically, how taking clean energy to remote places, and even to our largest cities, opens a horizon of new possibilities to help people thrive.
Connecting Indigenous Communities to Global Prosperity
Merchant travelers in Rajasthan can expand their markets when energy is available.
Most of the 1.2 billion people without access to electricity live in remote villages that are too far from the grid and too small for utilities to justify the investment. From deserts to rain forests to the tundra, many of these communities have rich traditions and create beautiful goods, from textiles to wood carvings, that they trade with nearby communities.
Energy independence could expand the markets for their goods and resources, generating prosperity in places rich in culture but poor in economic means because of the lack of electricity to produce and to communicate. Energy to innovate, use machinery, and connect with buyers all over the world can free these communities from the darkness of poverty. Things we take for granted, such as sanitation and education, would soon follow the economic opportunity that energy security brings.
Island Nations No Longer Isolated by Darkness
Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands: Islands become less remote when plentiful energy makes island nations independent for friends and foes.
Island nations range in size from having a few dozen people to several million. The biggest challenge for the smaller islands comes from the need to generate their own electricity to free themselves from expensive imports of dirty energy or no energy at all. Greater energy access can help insulate these communities from the interests of nations who supply them with this basic life necessity.
People in remote island nations are not only cut off from the rest of the world by the lack of electricity to power communication devices. They are cut off from life-extending essentials, like powered medical equipment or purified drinking water, that benefit people in connected places.
Moving Developing Economies to a Developed State Faster
Contrast, such as this in the city of Yangon in Myanmar, is the norm in the developing world. Energy insecurity for the poor plays a big role.
For much of the developing world, the “developing” state of being seems to be permanent. Many of the countries in this category are home to huge, well-powered population centers that are surrounded by vast rural expanses where electricity goes from intermittent to non-existent. Sometimes, a natural catastrophe cuts off small towns in the developing world from the grid, and it may take years for their governments to restore energy. In the meantime, old diesel engines provide dirty energy for basic services for just a few hours per day.
In the developing world, the contrast between those with access to energy and those who lack it can happen even within a few city blocks. Many of the world’s most populated cities consist of thriving urban centers surrounded by rings of poverty ignored by the grid. Accessible and affordable clean energy can give the developing world freedom from unreliable and dirty electricity that they need to produce and grow.
Remote Data Centers Need Energy
Energy-independent clean data centers: coming soon to the world’s most barren places.
A few weeks ago, we wrote an article about energy and the Internet of Things (IoT). In this post, we noted that the Internet of Things Global Standard Initiative defines IoT as, “A global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies.” A key component of this infrastructure are the data centers that receive, process, and relay the information that connected devices in remote places generate.
Energy independence to power a truly global IoT could extend the benefits and prosperity that smart, connected devices bring to remote places where they need to operate. Whether it is to gather scientific data from connected sensors in Antarctica, or to provide remote medical services through mobile devices to isolated communities, or to deliver goods to people in tiny villages using drones, data centers that can generate their own reliable clean power can change the game for this nascent industry of smart and connected devices.
The Air in Your City can be Made Clean Again
Energy independence can make big cities cleaner and more prosperous.
We have all seen the images of people in big cities wearing breathing masks when they are out and about. The air quality in some of the world’s largest metropolises reaches levels deemed as toxic several months of the year—including cities in the developed world, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. This is a big problem, especially given the fact that more than half of the world’s population now live in cities.
Energy independence for the world’s urban centers is rapidly becoming a reality through new technologies that allow for a more sustainable energy mix—from hydrogen-powered cars and buses to solar, wind, and hydrogen working together to feed the grid 24/7. This means greater opportunity for cities in the form of a healthier and more productive population, clean industry that doesn’t have to move out of city limits, and transportation that emits zero carbon. The familiar veil of smog may soon be part of the history books for cities all around the world through greater energy independence.
Working Together to Become Energy Independent
For the first time in history, we have a variety of energy sources, from fossil fuels to clean wind, solar, and hydrogen, that can work together to bring opportunity—in the form of available and sustainable energy—to all corners of the world. The technological innovations of the past few decades are making sustainable energies cheap and fossil fuels cleaner. These innovations are also enabling different energy sources to work together to provide the right alternatives to achieve energy independence no matter how remote, isolated, poor, or expansive a place may be.
As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.