Mediaplanet: How does access to electricity impact the developing world?

Marco Signorini: It means walking miles and miles to pay someone to charge your cell phone. It means walking miles and miles to buy candles or kerosene so you can have limited light for a few hours at night. It means the money spent on both of these basic energy needs is a very significant portion of your very minimal disposable income. Not to mention the time and calories spent to purchase both of these basic energy needs, because there is no electricity in your home. 

Imagine your life after the sun goes down without electricity. No electricity means no lights to illuminate your home, to read by, refrigerator to keep you food fresh, computer, television or phone. How would your children do their homework? How would you read your favorite magazine or watch the news to know what is going on beyond your home? 

"Solar energy empowers consumers to have the ability to power their basic communication devices and access to basic light anywhere, anytime. The power comes back to the people – it democratizes basic energy consumption."

MP: What is one personal story of how solar power has changed someone’s life in the developing world? Please see the two videos below and there is a third story below the links. 

MS: One of the shoots we did was of a young lady who purchased a lantern with charging and now no longer need to walk 3 kilometers to charge her phone. She also never has to buy candles again, which was costing her about $3-4 per month along with the cost of phone charging. Her charging lantern saves over $5 per month; giving her more disposable income overall. For someone who earns only $1 per day, this amounts to almost one week’s wages saved from one product.

MP: How does it impact the United States?

MS: Most Americans rely on the grid infrastructure for their energy. We are accustomed to the liberties of plugging our phones in our home to charge them, switching on the lights, and the refrigerator running without interruption. But, when the grid goes down or when you are camping with your family, you want to make sure you have basic lighting and the ability to charge your phone from the energy source you do have — sunshine. 

While camping, hiking, biking and exploring, the ability to charge your phone while you are exploring nature can be a very critical enabler to ensure connectivity for communication and direction.  

We have infrastructure that allows us to have power anytime – but it also makes us very dependent on the status quo and leaves us vulnerable if that status quo is compromised. When Hurricane Sandy came through – how many people were stranded without access to their cell phones because their power was out? How many went to bed without light to guide their way through their home?  

MP: What are three ways that renewable energy can positively impact both the developing world as well as the USA?

MS: Solar energy empowers consumers to have the ability to power their basic communication devices and access to basic light anywhere, anytime. The power comes back to the people – it democratizes basic energy consumption. Less dependent and therefore vulnerable to an infrastructure that is out of your control. Solar energy fosters more aware and educated consumption, which is critical to support a sustainable economy and society.