February 18, 2008
It is an often repeated hope that new technologies should enable at least developing countries to get a jump start into the future. A phenomenon called leap-frogging. Indeed it happens and has happened only recently with the mobile phones. But we should not take it for granted that it happens and there are many exceptions to the rule. The World Bank has in a recent study gone into the details of the matter and The Economist sees, based on the WB report, only one clear case were we could see a new case of leap-frogging. And that is with decentralised generation of electricity from Biofuel and PV.
Today everything is faster, but there are limits.
In the old days technology penetrated their markets rather slowly, but globalisation has changed the rules completely, no doubt.
But still there are some basic requirements to make the market absorption a reality. Basic technological literacy is one. Another quite obvious but very little recognised is the network that is created by people that are in diasporas! A third is Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, which to a surprisingly high extent is not made by huge companies, but by people that live abroad for a while and send money home.
Odd partners connected by what they have and do not have!!
This possibility for the decentralised energy to spread could be a common interest between the industrialised word and the developing countries. The drive for smart grids in industrialised countries is partly fed by the wish to make use of smaller distributed generation resources.
So here we could find an interesting combination? Both those who do not have an access to grid and those who want their grid to provide enhanced functions have a common interest in the access to small scale generation resources! A living evidence could be the “Lighting Africa” project which addresses both the energy efficient LED-development and application the PV-resources. A success here clearly benefits both developed and developing countries.
The UK wish to make use of small-scale CHP and their projections of huge markets (like 540 000 units before 2015) could add to the drive.
Here is the wagon – where is the horse?
Another piece in the puzzle could be in finding out how different parts of the world approach the climate issues. A study of the Global FT 500 companies gives some interesting hints. It should be said that the report primarily is based on what companies report and only few of them have any specific assurance to their claims. In questions on what sort of measures they undertake energy efficiency get a high ranking, but it is well known that companies often see themselves as energy efficient even when independent studies can show that they have potentials in double-digit percentages to reduce their energy use.Hans Nilsson