There will be no magic bullet to meet the world's growing energy needs. A cleaner energy future is possible but it will require the biggest energy companies to collaborate with visionaries from small-start ups who offer something new. And whether large enterprises or small, nations or cities, families or individuals, all must find new ways to conserve. The example of Dipal Barua helps to illustrate both these points, which should be remembered as The World Future Energy Summit begins today in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Barua's idea was modest but his feat, providing clean energy to empower citizens who need it most, instructive. No, Mr Barua did not solve the energy crisis, but for many Bangladeshi families, his innovation allowed them to harness the power of the sun.
Mr Barua trained Bangladeshi women as solar engineers and entrepreneurs, teaching them how to assemble, install and maintain solar panels for home use. And through providing the women a solar panel of their own to power their homes, they saw immediate rewards for their efforts. In Bangladesh, where 60 per cent of the population lacks electricity and those who have it experience frequent power outages, Mr Barua's idea caught on quickly. Thousands of women jumped at the chance of being able to sell and maintain a variety of solar accessories.
For this project, Mr Barua won the inaugural Zayed Future Energy Prize at the World Future Energy Summit in 2009. Two years later, Mr Barua's innovation should serve as a reminder for this year's summit. Firstly, while the solar panels that the Bangladeshi women maintained only provided enough energy for one light bulb to burn through the night or for a black-and-white television or cellular phone to operate, that amount of power made a measurable improvement in people's lives. It is a measure of how much consumers in the wealthier parts of the world take energy for granted that this small level of power can be discounted. Especially here in the UAE, a nation that still wastes a considerable amount of energy each day, this should remind us of conservation's importance. For much of the world, a little power goes a long way to improve lives.
Secondly, Mr Barua's story should teach us something greater about how bright ideas can become reality. While heads of state and CEOs from Fortune 500 companies will be in Abu Dhabi this week to discuss energy solutions from a macro perspective, many small entrepreneurs will also be in attendance, people who believe they have the brightest idea to change how energy is produced or delivered. At its best, the World Future Energy Summit creates a space for these minds to mingle. Through creating this forum, hopefully this year's summit will inspire the next Dipal Barua.