Over a billion people are waiting to have electricity in their lives.
If the power comes from renewable sources, preferably locally produced solar power, it comes with an extra bonus:
With electric light, homework becomes easier when darkness falls in the evening, but the light switch is not available for everyone in the world. Local, renewable power solutions - such as solar power - can help provide electricity to areas that do not have the ability to connect to the public power grid.
We will have a more peaceful and democratic world.
Can it really happen? Yes, researchers envision this outcome.
You turn on the light, boil water, charge your mobile phone. Take a train, tram or the underground to work. Enjoy a good cup of hot coffee. We take this totally for granted. But this is not the case for everyone.
Today, more than a billion people around the world are waiting to have the same access to electricity as we in Norway and other industrialised countries take for granted.
Access to electricity – or lack of it – has a major impact on people's lives and work. Maybe bigger than you think.
More renewable, more peace and democracy
Will the world become more peaceful through the green energy shift as countries become more self-sufficient in renewable energy? Will the world become more democratic by making it easier for people to produce their own electricity?
Research is pointing in that direction.
It is obvious and generally accepted that global warming can be counteracted by the transition to renewable power production, and the lower CO2 atmospheric emissions it produces compared to fossil energy sources.
A lesser known positive aspect of the green energy shift is that more renewable energy leads to more peace and democracy!
In rural India, more and more solar panels are being installed to provide renewable energy and electric light in the evening – as here in the village of Turtuk Ladakh in the north of the country near the Pakistan border.
"If electric power is distributed to areas that are off the grid, it has a major positive effect in very many areas."
Executive Director Kjersti Fløgstad at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo believes that the importance of electric power, specifically from renewable energy sources, cannot be exaggerated.
"Electricity means everything to a society. There is so much that depends on it. For example, it's difficult to do homework, go to the store or do business after dark if you don't have light. Imagine hospitals and medical care without electricity and light!"
"There are so incredibly many absolutely critical areas in life where electricity is extremely important. Put simply, it can mean the difference between life and death," she says.
The peace center leader has a long career as secretary general of UNICEF Norway and as board chair of CARE Norway. Throughout her career, she has been concerned with sustainability, social responsibility and diversity.
"In many developing countries, cooking is based on burning wood and lighting on burning kerosene. Both have negative effects on the climate and health – they can lead to lung diseases and fires, among other things, and produce emissions that are bad for the environment."
Fløgstad points out that skewed or no access to energy can have serious political consequences. Conflicts between countries, rising inflation and volatile prices are pushing the poorest out of the energy market. She believes the importance of a reliable, stable energy supply cannot be overstated.
"There is also a clear connection between health and increased living standards, and this is particularly important for developing countries. If electric power is distributed to areas that are off the grid, it has a major positive effect in very many areas."
"It’s similar to access to a telephone, which is also directly linked to access to electricity. In many countries, people travel long distances to charge their mobile phones. If the phone doesn't work, they lose the ability to communicate and get important information."
The development of solar power has helped deliver electricity to more remote areas that are not connected to India's power grid.
"The majority of the countries in the world will benefit from strengthening their energy security with the help of local, renewable energy."
India as an example
Renewable energy not only provides access to electricity where the need is great; it also evens out inequalities and can make countries and communities self-sufficient in electricity.
"Renewable energy, in other words hydropower or wind or solar energy, can be produced almost anywhere in the world. You aren't dependent on importing oil, gas, coal and other fuels, but can produce the power yourself with the natural resources you have," says Jürgen Tzschoppe, Executive Vice President of the International Power business area at Statkraft.
"This helps to even out the differences between countries, and makes countries more independent."
India is a good example. This populous country has previously been dependent on highly polluting forms of power production and associated imports of fossil energy. But that is about to change.
"India is now investing heavily in renewable solar and wind power. As a result, the country has gone from being dependent on coal power and imports to becoming a country that produces some of the cheapest power in the world. And with clean production methods," says Tzschoppe.
India's future is renewable
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 80 percent of India's energy needs today are covered by coal, oil and solid fuels. Fortunately, India also has 300 days of sunshine a year. The fact that the growth in energy production comes from renewable sources is crucial for India to achieve its climate goals.
Read more at Explained by StatkraftOpens in new tab or window
Supported by research
Kjersti Fløgstad and Jürgen Tzschoppe are not alone in seeing the democratising effect of renewable energy when it becomes more accessible to more people and makes countries more independent.
But is it really true that the world will become more democratic if it moves to more renewable energy? More and more researchers are delving into the green energy shift and analysing how the transition from fossil to clean, renewable energy will affect the world community.
Indra Øverland leads the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute's (NUPI) research group for climate and energy and has spearheaded an expert group of researchers from Norway, Germany and the USA. They have reviewed studies carried out on geopolitical spillover effects of the green energy shift.
The NUPI researcher confirms the view that the most positive aspect of a new energy regime is that it leads to a more democratic and peaceful world.
"Most countries will be on a more equal footing. There will be fewer sources of conflict. The world will become fairer. Many countries will benefit greatly from this. The majority of the countries in the world will benefit from strengthening their energy security with the help of local, renewable energy and thus also improve their trade balance and economy," Indra Øverland explains in an article on the website forskning.no.
"It is very motivating to know that renewable energy is so important for the future," says Jürgen Tzschoppe in the renewable energy company Statkraft.
About Statkraft and sustainability
Statkraft provides renewable energy to businesses, communities and homes around the world. The company invests exclusively in renewable energy and behaves in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Read more about Statkraft and sustainability