12 hours. That is the unimaginable length of power cuts developing nations like Nepal experience every day. In the United States, the average electricity outage in a year lasts just over an hour. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Nepal is 835.08 USD. The GDP per capita in the United States is 59,531.66 USD. It seems rather obvious that one of these is a developing country, and the other is not. However, even though Nepal has fewer resources in every way, they are taking bigger steps to shift to renewable energy, in particular, solar energy.
Having lived in Nepal for over ten years, I have made a lot of beautiful memories there. However, one of the best memories is taking a very hot shower every afternoon after coming back from school. This was an experience that all my family members and my friends had as well. It took me years to realize that those afternoon showers were amazing because many houses in the capital had solar panels that helped generate hot water. Not only that, but due to the extensive power cuts, a lot of houses individually started leaning towards solar energy to generate electricity. Although it was slightly expensive to install, its reliability made it profitable in the long run compared to an inverter/generator. It was only years later, after moving away from Nepal, that I realized this was a “renewable source of energy,” something unusual to a lot of Americans.
Even though the idea of solar energy was introduced to already developed countries such as the United States earlier than to developing countries, the latter have been taking big steps to make solar energy more accessible. Fifteen percent of Nepal obtains power through solar grids, according to an article by the The Kathmandu Post. To promote renewables, a government body called the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), offers subsidies and technical assistance to ensure the quality of renewable systems and to monitor their performance. On top of that, the Nepali government has been preparing to make the installation of solar roof-top systems mandatory for government and commercial buildings. This would help generate 20 megawatts of electricity.
There are a lot of reasons why people in developed nations like the United States believe that renewable energy such as solar power is not realistic. Looking at the Green New Deal, many Americans believe that it would take more than $5 trillion just to switch from coal, nuclear and natural gas to 100 percent renewables, making this an unfeasible option.The reduction of jobs and increased unemployment are also major concerns. However, this cost is spread out over many years and will pay itself off over time as renewable energy will not run out. In terms of employment, more job opportunities will be created due to the rising renewable energy market. Aside from the economic benefits, the biggest advantage of renewable energy is that almost no greenhouse gases are emitted, leading to a smaller carbon footprint.
The United States has a population of 327.2 million. With collective efforts to shift to renewable energy, approximately five billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide could be reduced, which would positively impact the whole world, including developing countries like Nepal.
Even though the United States does have a lot of ongoing solar and renewable projects, a large percentage of the population is still not inclined towards switching to renewable energy. This leads to a lack of individual action and also affects major political choices and decisions. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in five years, solar will still be at 1 percent of the total energy production. However, the average American believes that this will go up to 20 percent.This shows a lack of awareness, responsibility and proactiveness of Americans to learn more towards solar energy.
If developing countries with fewer resources can do so much regarding renewable and mostly solar energy, countries like the United States can definitely achieve far more than what they are doing at the moment. This is definitely a part of common but differentiated responsibilities as Nepal and the United States have very different capabilities. It is important for the United States to acknowledge this and work accordingly instead of being in a position where they are compared to a less privileged country.
People like myself who have spent so long in developing nations should not feel like there is a major lack of technological advancement in a country this prosperous. The solar energy that was the norm in Nepal feels like this unimaginable technological advancement that is so hard to access in the United States.
Dear America, stop coming up with excuses and false justifications. Stop convincing your people that this is abnormal. Stop making the unacceptable acceptable!