The Global South Powered By the Sun

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ossi OLLINAHO, Independent Researcher, Brazil
Solar resource is the largest energy source in the planet, larger than all the other combined. This is rarely understood and even less, it seems, is this abundant form of energy considered as a principal energy source for nations. There seems to be a northern as well as an establishment bias in the research; sunlight is a much more evident solution for the southern countries. Countries of the Global North are typically situated in higher latitudes with less sunlight and much more seasonal variance in sun's radiation. Fossil fuel sector is one of the largest and most established in the current era and they have much power in setting the agenda for energy research in addition to directing government subsidies. The answer for solar future is to be found in the realm of politics rather than economics and technology, even though the latter have to be analyzed and got right as well.

Regardless of the manifold reasons why the Global South has not embraced solar energy as a major form of energy, sunlight offers unique possibilities for alternative political economy of energy. The ubiquitousness of sunlight allows for a genuinely decentralized energy production in technical terms. Harnessing the solar resource through millions of households would radically increase the economic autonomy and hence political power of these masses. This promise of democratization is desperately needed in various southern countries. Yet, an alternative political economy of energy is not an easy feat in technological or organizational terms and is likely to face resistance by the hegemony of the Global North and the dominant energy forms through collusive governments. Therefore the emergence of a solar energy in the Global South is likely to require massive mobilizations and social struggles. This paper studies possible sociopolitical pathways for solar futures in the Global South.