Developing countries set the example for ‘energy democracy’

The former chief executive of America’s biggest electricity utility, Duke Energy, says it take distributed energy technologies like solar and storage to bring energy democracy to the world’s developing countries – and should also be the model for established grids in Europe and north America, going forward.

In a new book called Lighting the World, Jim Rogers, who headed up Duke for 25 years, points to a energy future that focuses on local production, small-scale connections and distributed renewable energy sources, like solar.

“We can’t bring electricity to the rural areas of the world using an old-fashioned industrial grid based on building more coal plants and running copper lines from timber pole to timber pole across Sub-Saharan Africa, or running cables underwater to connect the archipelago of Indonesia,” Rogers writes in the book.

“The environment and financial impediments make that impossible. Instead, we’ll do it with modern technology: solar and other clean energy sources, new kinds of batteries, LED lights, efficient cook stoves and TVs, and plenty of innovations that now are surfacing.”

Rogers says developing nation governments need to designate locally owned and operated franchises with exclusive rights to sell solar systems and other energy services within specified areas, a move he says would enable private companies to attract the capital necessary to bring electricity to the people.

And he says this might prove to be the template for electricity grids in developed countries, despite the sunk costs of decades of investment.

“It’s very clear to me that the system of electric power we have in North America and Europe, which is now being instituted in much of China and India and elsewhere, is not sustainable for the future of the planet,” he said in an interview with USA Today. “So we’re going to have to figure out something else, and soon.”

Top image: Lighting the World book cover, via MacMillan USA

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