Supply Your Own

When we moved into our house here in Spain this past August, one of the first things we did was install solar panels on our roof.

It was a no-brainer in terms of trying to make the house eco-friendly, but also made sense from a financial perspective. In Spain, along with Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy and some parts of the United States, small-scale rooftop solar generates electricity more cheaply than it can be brought from the grid. In Australia, one in every five households relies on solar energy to bring down their electricity bills.

Indeed, as Drawdown calculates, rooftop solar energy could save $3.4 trillion in home energy costs by 2050, even if rooftop solar only grows from generating 0.4% of global electricity to 7% over that time. On the environmental side, this predicted growth in rooftop solar energy production would save 24.6 gigatons of emissions over those three decades.

Aside from the obvious environmental and financial benefits of rooftop solar, another rather wonderful advantage of this method of generating electricity is how democratic it is.

Just as mobile phones leapfrogged installation of landlines and made communication far more accessible to everyone, rooftop solar eliminates the need for large-scale, centralised power grids. Rooftop solar is accelerating access to affordable, clean electricity, becoming a powerful tool for battling poverty as it does so.

One of the most vivid examples is in Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. There are 42 floating islands made of totora reeds on this lake, inhabited by the Uru People. They have recently made the switch from kerosene to solar energy, and are now able to enjoy electricity for the first time.

It's a lovely coincidence that these people know themselves as Lupihaques, Sons of the Sun.

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