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Home Solar Power Helping (Some) North Koreans

Most North Koreans don’t have access to reliable electricity. According to the World Bank, it is only about 26% of the population that does. (Can you imagine how difficult life would be without electric appliances like a phone charger or a computer to access the Internet?)

north korea village

A fascinating thing is happening, though, that is allowing some North Koreans to use electricity. Some are putting solar panels on their own homes to generate electricity for lighting and charging their phones. (Solar panels can also be used to run electric heaters during winter when there are sub-zero temperatures there.)

“There must be at least a threefold increase in solar panels compared to last year. Some are domestically made, so that may have driven prices down,” explained  Simon Cockerell, a general manager at Koryo Tours.

Of course, it only makes sense that, when people encounter barriers to vital resources, they figure out workarounds. So, solar power makes perfect sense in this case — especially because it has dropped in cost so much recently and solar panels can also be manufactured locally.

There are about 2.5 million mobile users in North Korea, but not much regular access to electricity. What would you do? Solar panels are one answer and, interestingly, they are a practical solution in this situation, not a choice related to environmentalism.

One of the oddities of living in a country where citizens don’t seem to have that much freedom must be navigating the system. However, private solar panels are not illegal there. One might imagine that they would be because they are at least pointed in the direction of energy independence, or one might say “freedom.” But apparently they are not.

Lack of electricity access for the majority of a nation’s population is clearly indicative of economic issues, but why then would a central government not immediately set about addressing and fixing this glaring problem? Solar power might begin to fill in the gaps and provide much-needed electricity to people living in poverty, so they can improve their economic futures.

Image: North Korea village, via Shutterstock

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