1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
At once readable and sophisticated, concise yet comprehensive, Let there Be Light is a timely and necessary book.,
This review is from: Let There Be Light: Electrifying the Developing World with Markets and Distributed Energy (Paperback)In Let there be Light, Rachel Kleinfeld and Drew Sloan offer an original take on the quest to bring electricity to the developing world, positing that access to "the most basic foundational technology" can be fulfilled through distributed generation of renewable energy. While clocking in at an economical 150 pages, the book provides a detailed and convincing blueprint for policy makers, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits to achieve the elusive goal of bringing affordable energy to the 1.5 billion people who have never known it. The authors combine their respective experiences in the U.S. military, the business world, and the international development world to offer a multi-disciplinary framing of the challenges facing electrification efforts in the developing world and potential solutions to those challenges.
Sloan and Kleinfeld argue that, while it has long been recognized that access to reliable electricity is essential to development, the strategies for electrifying developing countries have been shortsighted. In the case of centralized generation efforts--which have represented the vast majority of electrification efforts-- programs have fallen victim to political interference, corruption, geographic restrictions, and low-intensity conflict. Sloan and Kleinfeld convincingly argue that the promise of distributed generation for developing world lies in its inherent decentralization (and corresponding democratization), resulting in the ability to avoid those pitfalls of central generation.
To their credit, the authors skip easy platitudes. They acknowledge at the outset that, where development and charitable organizations have sought to bring distributed renewable power to the developing world, those efforts have mostly come up short, at least in the context of broad development goals. Within this historical context, they provide a thoughtful and tightly-argued thesis on the necessary steps to create self-sustaining markets, outlining the case for demand-focused marketing, creative financing, smart regulation, and restraint from an over-reliance on subsidies.
Kleinfeld and Sloan support their arguments with simple, sometimes colorful, and uniformly practical case studies of how developing world markets have emerged for other products such as cell phones and shampoo. They also look to creative ways, such as micro-finance and rental sharing arrangements, to allow diffuse costs so that poor customers can have access to renewable energy. The authors make a convincing case for how existing business models and financing mechanisms behind those success stories can be replicated for distributed generation markets.
Finally, Kleinfeld and Sloan make the case that a smart distributed energy strategy could provide a critical tool for American and NATO forces in winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, blunting radical forces by improving Afghan lives. The authors acknowledge that Afghanistan is not the ideal place to create any type of market, including a one for renewable energy. Yet they make a solid case that the difficult terrain, geographic dispersion, unreliable central government, and pervasive conflict there provides a setting where distributed generation is not just sensible; it's the only real possibility of meaningful electrification.
At once readable and sophisticated, concise yet comprehensive, Let there Be Light is a timely and necessary book. With its fresh perspectives and sharp recommendations, it has the potential to breathe new life into long-stalled efforts to bring an energy revolution to the poorest and most remote places on earth.
(2 customer reviews)