Perspectives: Getting a Reality Check

By Marla J. Barnes

In the U.S. and Canada, we are guilty of taking for granted our never-ending access to electricity.

  • When we flip the light switch in our bathrooms each morning, we expect the lights to come on.
  • When we turn on the coffee pot, we expect the brewing to instantly begin.
  • The rare electricity outage, due to a storm or a problem with a transmission line, creates havoc in our daily routines.

In North America, we could be described as “electricity snobs.” We expect … often demand … instant access to electricity, all times of the day and night. And, we rarely, if ever, stop to consider where this electricity comes from and what’s required to create it.

We could use a reality check.

As thousands of hydro professionals from all over the world gather in Portland, Ore., in July, for HydroVision International — the world’s largest hydro event — the opportunity for such a reality check is front and center.

Hydro professionals from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe will join North Americans for a week of sharing problems, perspectives, lessons learned and solutions. (Non-North American countries represented by speakers in the conference program are listed below.) Each of these participants comes from their own paradigms and their own realities.

One of the most compelling messages the hydro professionals from around the world bring to North America is the following:

Hydropower can make significant contributions toward changing the lives of millions of the poorest individuals in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

Take sub-saharan Africa, for example. Only one in every three people has access to electricity. Electricity in most African countries is definitely a privilege … not an expectation. Hydropower plays an important role in changing this situation. According to Hydro Review‘s sister publication, HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide, Africa’s strategic “Energy Vision” aims to develop infrastructure to enhance access to modern energy services for the majority of the African population. Specifically, the plan is intended to stimulate the addition of 10,000 MW of new hydropower plants by 2020.

Part of the need in developing countries is gaining knowledge about and access to the state-of-the-art technologies and equipment to aid in development of countries’ hydro resources in a sustainable manner. HydroVision International offers the perfect venue for this exchange.

This year for the first time, PennWell’s Hydro Group is working with the U.S. Department of Commerce to bring official delegations to the HydroVision event from Brazil, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. These delegations are looking for service and product suppliers to participate in their respective countries’ hydro growth efforts. Delegation members also are at the event to share their insights and perspectives on the challenges of gaining universal access to electricity in their respective countries and how hydro can meet those challenges … in essence, the reality check I called for at the beginning of this note!

Marla J. Barnes
Publisher and Chief Editor

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