I was blown away by this article in yesterday’s New York Times:
African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 24, 2010
As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people far from electricity grids and fuel pipelines.
The story touches on and synthesizes a bevy of fascinating topics including, in no specific order: mobile phone technology, off-the-grid renewable energy technology, banking and financial services, cooking technology, heating technology, environmental technologies, transformational technology, home-scale technology, market-based solutions, sustainability, developing economies, Africa and micro-enterprise. But what I find most fascinating about this tale is how a set of simple, market-based technologies like mobile phones, $12 solar panels and $5 cookstoves can combine with financial networks and entrepreneurs to solve people’s problems where large-scale, top-down bureaucracies (e.g., governments, large NGOs like the UN, banks amd banking systems, utilities and energy/telecommunications grids) have difficulty.