The Poor of Dharnai Want the Cheap Plentiful Electricity From the Coal-Powered Grid

(p. A17) Consider the experience of Dharnai, an Indian village that Greenpeace in 2014 tried to turn into the country’s first solar-powered community.

Greenpeace received glowing global media attention when it declared that Dharnai would refuse “to give into the trap of the fossil fuel industry.” But the day the village’s solar electricity was turned on, the batteries were drained within hours. One boy remembers being unable to do his homework early in the morning because there wasn’t enough power for his family’s one lamp.

Villagers were told not to use refrigerators or televisions because they would exhaust the system. They couldn’t use cookstoves and had to continue burning wood and dung, which creates air pollution as dangerous for a person’s health as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, according to the World Health Organization. Across the developing world, millions die prematurely every year because of this indoor pollution.

In August 2014, Greenpeace invited one of the Indian’s state’s top politicians, who soon after become its chief minister, to admire the organization’s handiwork. He was met by a crowd waving signs and chanting that they wanted “real electricity” to replace this “fake electricity.”

When Dharnai was finally connected to the main power grid, which is overwhelmingly coal-powered, villagers quickly dropped their solar connections. An academic study found a big reason was that the grid’s electricity cost one-third of what the solar energy did. What’s more, it was plentiful enough to actually power such appliances as TV sets and stoves. Today, Dharnai’s disused solar-energy system is covered in thick dust, and the project site is a cattle shelter.

For the full commentary see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, June 21, 2022): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 20, 2022, and has the title “Opinion: The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.”)

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