Bringing Solar Power to Rural India

The Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have launched a new video series, “Harnessing the Sun to Keep the Lights on in India”. The series documents the health, economic, and environmental benefits to local communities living in Uttar Pradesh, India, a rural, low-income, off-the-electric-grid region that is rapidly becoming a hotbed of solar activity. The film provides a first-hand look at the companies seeking to make good on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to provide solar for all citizens by 2019.

“Hundreds of millions of low-income, rural Indians have been suffering from energy poverty for decades. With little access to reliable energy, they’re depending on dirty fossil fuels like kerosene to light their homes and that has serious health effects. Solar power is the key to ending energy poverty,” said Justin Guay, associate director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program.

This past spring, Guay traveled to Uttar Pradesh with Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club, and Andrew Satter, Director of Video at the Center for American Progress. They spent a week visiting innovative companies like Simpa Networks and OMC Power that deliver everything from LED lightbulbs to mobile phone charging with the help of innovative pay-as-you-go solutions. They also visited villages and interviewed people living beyond the grid and benefiting from companies expanding clean energy access.

According to Sierra Club, around the world, 1.4 billion people lack modern, reliable electricity; they are living in energy poverty. In India alone, approximately 400 million Indians are living in energy poverty. Those who do have power suffer from chronic unreliability issues as well as pollution from coal-fired power plants that kill more than 100,000 people every year. But innovative companies and entrepreneurs are creating a booming market for distributed energy beyond the grid in India and providing a clean and affordable energy source that is improving the health and quality of life for many people.

“Energy poverty is a hurdle for economic mobility and improving the livelihoods of billions of people around the world. Energy is necessary for social, economic, and environmental progress. Electricity access allows for lighting into the evening hours, which can be used for studying or running a business. It is required to keep schools open and health centers running,” added Rebecca Lefton, Senior Policy Analyst for CAP.

Leading up to the world premiere of the video, the Sierra Club and CAP released a series of behind-the-scenes video clips of their week in India, filmed using Google Glass. The technology was used for translations from Hindi to English, flight information, navigation, and the filming of parts of the video series.

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