intro: global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels, threatens people's lives all around the world. While the world's poorest people use only a fraction of the world's oil, coal and gas, they are likely to suffer most from extreme weather events such as floods and storms if no action is taken. Rising sea levels threaten to engulf entire countries in the Indian and Pacific oceans. If we are going to stop the earth's climate spinning out of control, most of the world's reserves of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas cannot be used for energy and must stay underground. We must make the switch to positive energy at home and globally.
Two billion people, one-third of us on the planet, have no access to electricity for basic needs such as lighting or cooking. Getting people the clean and reliable energy necessary for essential needs such as clean water, health care facilities, heating and lighting is one of the most pressing problems facing humanity today.
renewable energy: oil, coal and gas cannot meet the needs of the poorest, but 'positive' or renewable energy can. Renewable energy technologies are the most appropriate, affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly way to get essential energy services (such as refrigeration of medical supplies, sterilisation, lighting and telecommunications, etc.) to the poorer countries where 80% of the world's people live:
high efficiency, low cost:the cost of getting renewable energy to the world's poorest people is estimated to be less than half the US$500+billion to be invested in Third World coal fired power stations and infrastructure over the next decade. This money would include projects supporting local manufacture, local maintenance, training and education.
- wind: in China, a country heavily dependent on dirty coal energy, wind capacity is expected to double this year to almost 300 megawatts. Since the early 1970s, the Danish government has encouraged the development and implementation of a strong wind power industry, particularly through the use of tax credits and public investment. In Mongolia, portable wind generators are already widely used by nomadic herders to run lights, radios and other appliances. Over 50,000 small wind turbines provide electricity in remote rural areas around the world.
- solar power: enough sunlight strikes the earth each hour to meet all human energy needs for a year. There are several ways to harness this energy: solar thermal collectors, which can produce hot water and warm air for homes and industrial applications, and solar photovoltaic (PV) power, which generates electricity directly from sunlight, to name but two. Silent in operation, it generates pollution-free electricity. Developing countries have installed over 1 million solar home systems: India has 300,000 solar lanterns in use. There are around 150,000 solar home power systems in Kenya, more than 100,000 in China and 60,000 in Indonesia.
- biomass: forestry and agricultural residues can be used as fuel to produce electricity and heat without increasing carbon dioxide levels. While bearing in mind questions of land-use, energy crops can be grown specifically for fuel and plant matter can also be composted to produce methane gas useful as a fuel source. However, genetically engineered crops should not be used, and there should be no toxic emissions (e.g. as a result of the use of agrochemicals) from the burning of biomass fuels.
- small-scale hydropower: family hydro units are very small turbines that use small flows of water to generate electricity for individual homes. Over 100,000 families in Vietnam use small water turbines to generate electricity. Over 45,000 small-scale hydro schemes are being used in China, providing power to over 50 million people.
the campaign: in order to secure a commitment from the world leaders at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to get renewable energy to two billion of the world's poorest people within 10 years, Greenpeace and The Body Shop kicked off their “Choose Positive Energy” campaign in that year. Thanks to this initiative, there are now 150,000 solar power home systems already installed in Kenya, more than 100,000 in China and 60,000 in Indonesia. In Vietnam, over 100,000 families use small water turbines to generate electricity.
best practices, Thailand: Greenpeace recently helped the villagers of Bo Nok and Ban Khrut in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan install solar power on two public buildings, to underline that the community is serious in its desire for renewable energy for Thailand. During the past years, people of Prachuap Khiri Khan have opposed plans by the US energy company Edison and the Thai company Gulf Power to build two coal fired power stations in the region.