Energy

Indian Villagers Protest ‘Fake’ Solar Energy From Greenpeace-Built Microgrid

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Residents of Dharnai in India’s Bihar state have been without electricity for three decades, so it seems reasonable to think locals would be thrilled to get power from Greenpeace solar panels. Well, that’s not what happened, according to E&E News.

Instead of embracing solar, locals protested the solar farm Greenpeace activists set up in July 2014. When the former chief minister of Bihar came to inaugurate the solar project, villagers lined up to protest, screaming, “We want real electricity, not fake electricity!”

Greenpeace once touted Dharnai as a development model for poor countries to skip using fossil fuels to fuel economic growth, but the town’s solar power grid didn’t work the way activists had planned. In fact, Greenpeace’s solar microgrid has only fueled locals’ appetites for more coal-fired electricity.

With 300 million Indians without access to electricity, the Narendra Modi government has made a big push to electrify the country — especially in rural villages that have no connection to the grid at all. Environmentalists argue that solar is a cheap solution for India’s electrification efforts, but solar is only a temporary solution that fuel appetites for connection to a fossil-fueled electrical grid.

“The microgrids do not displace coal use because the target villages were never hooked to the central grid in the first place,” E&E News reported. “In fact, in parts of India, microgrids have become a stopgap solution for the energy-poor while they wait for the central grid.”

Indeed, Dharnai’s experience with solar should be seen as a warning to environmentalists looking to get poor countries to not use coal, gas or oil.

“Today after a successful one year, I wish there would be more success stories like Dharnai where people and energy are connected and governments envision a more sustainable pathway to our future,” Pujarini Sen, a campaigner with Greenpeace India, wrote in July.

“Like the roads of Dharnai that are lit up through solar based lighting, I would like to see the dark corners in Delhi and the 100 proposed ‘smart cities’ to be lit up by solar street lights for safer and smarter cities,” Sen added.

But Greenpeace’s more recent portrayal of a village being helped by solar power is a bit misleading, according to E&E News. Villagers say their lives improved after Greenpeace came, but not because of the solar panels.

“Rather, they said, they appreciate that the group brought the chief minister, who brought in the grid,” E&E News reported, adding that even though “the villagers prefer [the central grid] to solar, they acknowledge the government’s supply is unreliable.”

Greenpeace did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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