by David Sweet

In Washington, DC, we recently held the inauguration of President Obama for his second and final term as President of the United States. As part of the festivities I was invited to speak at the Global Peace Ball, one of the celebrations held the evening of the inauguration. While most of the events I attend or speak at are focused on energy policy and energy industry developments, the connection between decentralized energy technology and global peace, while perhaps not obvious on its face, is indeed significant.

This black tie inaugural gala brings together a room full of successful and prosperous people. It is this very prosperity and the belief in a better future that can be the difference between conflict and peace. There are numerous studies and academic research papers that highlight the relationship between poverty and increased incidents of war, conflict and terrorism. If we can find a path to reduce global poverty and increase the standard of living, then there is the statistical probability that we can also have a more peaceful world. However, there are 1.3 billion people on the planet who live without access to electricity. There are 2.6 billion people who must prepare their meals without clean cooking facilities. Over 95% of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. This leads to more premature deaths than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, and primarily impacts young children and women. When we can light up people’s lives with access to electricity, it is truly transformational, allowing them to obtain clean water supplies, better education, improved healthcare and a chance for economic betterment.

In recent years we have seen remarkable advancements in renewable technology that has made these on-site power options much more affordable and available. We have also seen a revolution in natural gas production as a result of the refinement of the technology used to produce shale gas. These gas reserves are located around the world and often are in close proximity to high population areas. According to the International Energy Agency, unless action is taken there will still be over a billion people without electricity and 2.6 billion without clean cooking facilities in 2030. It will take over a trillion dollars of cumulative investment by 2030 to bring about universal energy access. This is more than five times the level of current investment. Therefore, a significant focus and commitment to ending energy poverty is required if we are to truly see progress on these issues.

Decentralized energy technology is the means to deliver energy access around the globe. By doing so we can help break the cycle of energy poverty and hopefully produce a more peaceful world.

David Sweet
Executive director, WADE
dsweet@localpower.or
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