India arrived at the 21st Century with the challenge of providing equity to the 55% of its people who live in isolated poverty and off the electrical grid while at the same time preparing for a sustainable future for its 1.2 billion people who live in the world's most populous democracy.
India came prepared. In 2009 Dr. Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957 and 1962 to be re-elected to a consecutive five-year term. Singh a member of the left leaning United Progressive Alliance and a trained economist understood the challenges. Under his leadership India averaged an economic growth rate of 7.5% for several years prior to 2007, and has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the first decade of the 21st century. Some 431 million Indians have left poverty since 1985; India's middle classes are projected to number around 580 million by 2030.
Aurore, India solar installation
Singh is lifting his people using the economic model of green sustainability. His government has initiated a National Plan For Climate Change(pdf). India being a tropical country; is well situated to make a major shift to sustainable solar. To do so, India invited NGO's from developed countries to peddle their solar wares and cooperated with the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), to facilitate household financing for solar home systems. Approximately 45 percent of people in India are hooked up to a power grid and endure daily power failures. Those without grid access must often walk long distances to buy a few liters of expensive kerosene, which can be scarce because much of it is traded on the black market as an illegal way to dilute fuel and diesel. “Kerosene used by the poor for lighting is often unaffordable, unavailable, unsafe, and unhealthy, while the electricity power grid is unreliable,” explained Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation. Speaking about the new solar project, he noted that, “To provide even this little degree of electricity reliability and independence is to empower the poor in ways that can profoundly alter lives for the better.”
Many of the rural poor have had their lives transformed by the availability of local solar installations. For the rural poor who have had limited access to banks, Solar ATMs are literally putting money into the hands of banking customers and giving them more control over their own funds.
Indian College teaches solar lessons to women
India has gotten to work. In scenes repeated throughout India the populace is being educated for a new solar future. And we have the stunning news that solar has reached parity despite the high cost of capital. The Indians have also transitioned their street lighting to LED and are recognizing substantial savings both monetarily and in reduced carbon emissions
55 percent of India's population has leap-frogged the fossil fueled industrial revolution and is on the early cusp of the global green energy revolution. There are still many challenges including the US trying to throw a wrench into India's solar plans but I'm putting my money on India.