It was a clear case of bashing. Rina Saeed Khan (RSK), an acitvitist for clean and renewable energy has always written commendable pieces about integrating economic development with environment but never before her piece invited such scathing comments as now. While news of coal fired power plants have been in the headlines recently portraying a healthy approach to solve the energy crisis, Rina’s article put that truth to test. She says it loud and clear that “There’s nothing clean about coal.” asking the government and the policy makers to “support clean energy before its too late.” What follows in the comments sections is the voice of a society whose priorities are hugely displaced.
Rina in her article tries to create what Henrik Lund, a professor at Alborg University in Denmark has explained as “choice awareness theses” i.e we have a “true” and “false” choice. The theses tells us how to be aware of such choices so we debate our common future and make a better decision. But the comments from the readers in RSK article depict a society, which wants to select a “false choice”. They want to illustrate that implementing objectives implying radical technological changes and making alternative arrangements for energy supply is no option , thus “eliminating the choice perception.” When Rina supports the case of renewable energy as the main sources of power plants, she is basically asking the energy planners to make what Herik Lund says a “true choice.” The writer in his book, raises a very interesting point that when major societal discussions on energy planning are discussed in a status quo manner, i.e to say “We have no choice but to build coal fired power stations”. the collective perception of “false choice” is often constructed. This results in giving impetus to the organizational and institutional level setup who are more than happy to keep any renewable energy proposals out of the agenda.
There were many analogies that I could draw from Henrik Lund’s book covering European in particular Denmark’s energy systems to the present day energy crisis in Pakistan. In many case studies it seemed that Denmark’s own energy crisis about 40 years ago is a reflection of Pakistan present day energy crisis. The case studies e.g., the Nordjyllandsvaerk, the IDA Energy Plan 2030 showed how the political barriers ,macroeconomics models and organizations like Dong Energy, Denmark’s largest energy company, had been adopting myopic strategies instead of exploring alternatives based on radical technological change and renewable energy. It was the strong democratic infrastructure, societal awareness that applied Choice Awareness theses to decision making processes. Once the Danish society decided to promote the renewable energy sources, the economics and institutional frameworks were developed to enable the true choice as well. The people, organizations, institutions and the political objectives all focused on a collective process of making the true choice. Rina or for that matter all of us want to have an affordable and surplus electricity supply, but when voices like Rina offer a true choice by suggesting clean alternatives to dirty and soon to be expensive coal, the focus of the discussion should change from “Yes, it is bad, but so what?” to “Which of the alternatives is the best solution?”. We sincerely hope it goes that way.
For more inspiration about the Denmark’s story of becoming the leader in clean energy, please go through my blog “Green Pearls of Wisdom.”