Taking a lead on energy for poverty reduction

February 11th, 2010

I want to talk about the Prince of Wales and how great he is for taking a lead on issues – ones that are often unpopular and sometimes old fashioned.

HRH The Prince of Wales, Practical Action's patron, with Stephen Watson (chair) and Simon Trace (chief executive)In my mind he championed good architecture when badly designed concrete was seen as a modern ideal, he encouraged us to take a wider view of health and to be open minded to the many ways of being healthy when straight science was king, he encouraged sustainability when most people thought that growth and maximising the profit to be made from endlessly exploiting natural resources was the only way forward.

He is a champion who speaks his mind and leads where others are sometimes scared to follow.

Yesterday at a meeting at Clarence House, together with Practical Action, he made people think about another unpopular and much ignored issue – energy for poverty reduction.

But like good architecture, like sustainability, like a holistic view of being healthy, I believe this is a cause ignored at our peril. And even more so at the peril of poor people, a lost opportunity to powerfully deliver change.

Energy is the debate of the 21st Century. Energy and the scourge of climate change, new energy sources, dwindling energy supplies, energy security, energy pricing, and so on. Yet there is little or no discussion of energy for poverty reduction.

If it’s thought about at all, it’s a few projects paid for by carbon credits that help us in rich nations continue polluting.

Energy is vital for poverty reduction and it was great to hear the Prince give his voice in support of the work of Practical Action: our work to build a new vision for renewable energy for poverty reduction. To hear him speak of the need for joined up thinking and an integrated approach, to hear his words of encouragement.

His Royal Highness reflected on his thirty years as Practical Action Patron and spoke of the continued need for a new approach to technology, a new approach to poverty – one which takes poverty seriously.

Renewable energy can be a powerful lever for poverty reduction. Without energy, poverty is pretty always permanent.

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