How Developing Nations Are Harnessing Green Technologies

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Julie Potyraj

Julie Potyraj

Julie Potyraj is an MPH candidate at The George Washington University and Content Editor of Global Health and International Development for 2U
Julie Potyraj

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By: Julie Potyraj

Tamil Nadu is a state on the southern tip of India steeped in history. Its countless fishing villages near the Bay of Bengal and magnificent Hindu temples in the Ghats mountain ranges have endured for centuries. But centuries from now, the region may hold a different historical context. The warm ocean and tall mountains have helped position Tamil Nadu as a global force in green technology. With 300 days per year of ample sunlight and strong winds, the state’s solar and wind energy corridor has created a transformative effect on the entire nation. But India is not alone. Green technology is not only impacting the environment, it’s helping to improve lives in developing nations around the world.

In Tamil Nadu, the Muppandal Wind Farm is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Its output has helped elevate India to the fifth-largest producer of wind power, behind Germany, Spain, the United States, and Denmark. For a nation in which 80 percent of its residents still live in villages with limited, if any, access to electricity, India’s growing wind power program can help bring power to millions of families.

Other developing regions have also seen success. In Africa, SunCulture sells solar-powered irrigation kits to pump water from any source. Mobile and web technologies in Ghana help farmers assess soil and weather patterns. Beninese and Tanzanian technology groups have installed 50 biomass plants that generate electricity for more than 5,000 families. Each project helps countless families mired in poverty by providing basic services driven by green energy.

These are just a few examples. We can expect many more in the years to come. Similar to the telecom industry in developing nations in which mobile technology leapfrogged landlines, green energy is leapfrogging fossil fuels. One reason is cost. In many sun-soaked countries, the cost of electricity supplied to the grid from solar power is now competitive with coal. Perhaps more importantly, in some cases the cost of building new wind and solar plants is dropping below the cost to build new fossil fuel plants. For impoverished areas largely untouched by technology, starting with green technology, rather than converting to it, makes far more sense.

The push toward green technology isn’t just based on need. Let’s not forget about the environmental benefit. For the third consecutive year, carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change have remained stable. This is significant news considering developing nations often face a disproportional impact of climate change. According to a graphic by MPH@GW, the online MPH offered by The Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, these countries emit the least amount of CO2, but are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. A surge in green technologies could make those nations less vulnerable to drought, pestilence and other ravages of climate change.  

Some developing nations are turning to foreign investors for help. Green Resources, a Norwegian-based company, is the largest afforestation company in Africa. Established in 1995, it’s one of the first companies to receive carbon revenue from its plantation forests. Cuba is actively courting foreign investors as it tries to free itself from reliance of Venezuelan oil. Earlier this year, Iran approved $3 billion in foreign investments of renewable energy. Nations traditionally disadvantaged in natural fossil fuels view green technology as an opportunity to grow their economies and gain global relevance. With an abundant supply of sun, wind, water and geothermal energy, the growing trend of green technologies could spark the dawn of a new era.