I was absolutely delighted last Thursday to be present at the headquarters of IBM UK in London to witness the launch of a new charity, Energy Aid. The idea behind Energy Aid – that British Industry support the creation of a new initiative to help tackle energy poverty in the developing world – emerged from a suggestion made by Practical Action during an IBM sponsored conference at HRH The Prince of Wales’ START festival last summer. (START was a festival aimed at inspiring people and businesses in the UK to start taking action to make their own lives and activities more environmentally sustainable.)
From our work at Practical Action, we know that access to modern forms of energy – electricity in the home, a clean source of heat for cooking, energy for small enterprises to earn a living- is a prerequisite for development. Without access to basic energy services movement out of poverty simply isn’t possible.
We also know, from our experience in developing countries, that this is not an insoluble problem. Although the vast bulk of people without electricity live in rural areas, out of reach of connections to national grids, affordable electricity can still be provided by simple micro hydroelectricity projects, small wind turbines or solar panels. And clean and efficient cooking stoves can make huge improvements in terms of reducing the time and effort spent collecting fuel and reducing the death toll from smoke pollution in the home.
But we also know that, 132 years after Edison introduced the incandescent light bulb, 1.4 billion people are still in the dark and 2.7 billion still cooking over open fires. This cannot be right and we must find a way of tackling the problem. That is why I was so pleased to be part of the launch event last week.
As one of the founding Trustees of Energy Aid I am tremendously excited by the prospect ahead and look forward to being involved in what I believe is a ground breaking and innovative new charity to tackle one of the most pressing problems of poverty – the lack of access to energy services in the developing world. If you want to find out more about the charity please go to www.energyaid.org