Yet most Westerners still want to focus on putting up more inefficient solar panels in the developing world. But this infatuation inflicts a real cost. A recent analysis from the Centre for Global Development shows that $10 billion invested in such renewables would help lift 20 million people in Africa out of poverty. It sounds impressive, until you learn that if this sum was spent on gas electrification it would lift 90 million people out of poverty. So in choosing to spend that $10 billion on renewables, we deliberately end up choosing to leave more than 70 million people in darkness and poverty.
In the West, we take our supply of electricity for granted. After a century, we’ve forgotten that plentiful, affordable and dependable energy is the lifeblood of modern civilisation and prosperity. Discussions about saving the world seldom acknowledge the 1.3 billion people living without any electricity whatsoever. Their problems seem otherworldly to us — and we neglect the fact that the same sort of access to cheap electricity would substantially improve their lives. When it comes to helping the world’s poor, a topic like climate change seems to interest the West far more than such mundane matters as helping them power their houses.