AWARENESS OF ENERGY ACCESS IN RURAL AREAS

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Earth at Night (www.nasa.gov)

The clean energy awareness has been keeping the world’s attention to find ways to gradually replace the current dependency on fossil fuel with renewable energy. Meanwhile, there are 1.3 billion people worldwide that continue to live without basic energy access, with 87% of those in rural areas. It is ironic that the disadvantaged populations that are the least responsible for emitting CO2 will be the most impacted.

There are two barriers among many other derivative issues that I would like to highlight. First, the cost of energy is unaffordable due to reliance on the central grid extensions. Even if some communities are connected to the grid, the energy is supplied intermittently. This has caused complicated discussions about the regulation framework between the government and policymakers. The lack of capital and financing structures in emerging markets often prohibits businesses from investing in distributed generation. Second, there is very limited knowledge and awareness on the potential local natural resources available for rural electrification. In fact, given the abundance of natural resources, rural areas have potentially increasing energy access through renewable energy deployment such as biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and wave energy. Given its limitation to connect to the centralized grid infrastructure, renewable energy technology is the most practical and cost-effective energy for the future in most rural areas.

Crowd funding approach can brighten up 1.3 billions of people’s lives with renewable energy. Let the policymakers do their part in adjusting the financial framework to make the energy affordable; on the other side, there are so many people who would contribute, but there is a visual and physical disconnection with these developing rural areas. When we say rural areas, it may sounds very far from where we live. People say if we can’t see, we don’t know, then we don’t care. Crowd funding platform will promote awareness across the globe to the energy poverty issue and act as a bridge to those who want to contribute.

The potential of renewable energy deployment would be varied due to site specificity and the resources available locally. Thus, I propose the establishment of an integrated mapping approach that contains all the necessary information, such as the rural area characteristics, potential natural resources, and current regulation practices. On top of that, one of the most important parts is to tell the success stories of renewable energy deployment in rural areas as part of progress measurement. The measurement tool is very important, not only to track the installed capacity but also to track the quality of life improvements that renewable energy deployments provide.

A proper regulatory framework is necessary in providing training for local communities, peer-to-peer learning through success stories exchange, as well as cooperation with academic institutions to use rural areas as “living laboratories”. The assessment of the net impact will remain challenging due to the current lack of information available. The more transparent and informative it is, the more valuable the crowd funding platform and integrated map could be to educate all stakeholders not to take energy for granted and attract people to get involve.

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