Largest energy and sustainability network says universal access to electricity at risk

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9 December 2014

LONDON: Universal access to electricity will not be reached by 2030 – the target set by the UN – if governments and industry will not take immediate action with clear and consistent policies, a new international report states.

The report is based on a survey which covers countries accounting for 80% of the global installed electricity generation capacity.

The Global Electricity Initiative (GEI) produced the study, a global project that includes the three largest energy and sustainability networks: the World Energy Council, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership. The aim of this super-network is to develop successful initiatives that increase energy reliability, adapt to climate change and improve energy access for all.

SUSTAINABLE POWER

A reliable, sustainable energy access is at the core of the UN’s initiative ‘Sustainable energy for all’, which set the targets of ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix – all by 2030.

But these goals are not possible if the world follows the ‘business as usual’ trajectory, highlights GEI’s report. As last year’s World Energy Scenarios study points out, between 319 million and 530 million people in the world will still not have access to electricity by 2050, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Today, this number is calculated at 1.2 billion people around the world, which is about a fifth of the global population. Some regions are worse off than others; in sub-Saharan Africa for example, only 31.8% of the population can rely on electricity. To provide this fundamental service, global investments in energy must more than double compared to 2009.

Philippe Joubert, Executive Chair, GEI, declares that the world’s fast-growing population will radically change the way we produce and consume electricity: “The findings of this report provide fact-based information as a basis for leaders in politics, industry and civil society to take meaningful decisions. They also highlight the areas in which further action and commitment are needed to achieve the appropriate goals. In addition, the findings showcase the way forward to increase electricity access in a sustainable and affordable manner. The GEI will be spearheading and facilitating the electricity sector’s change to a new business model that is already on its way.”

Aside from lack of investment, one of the main concerns highlighted in the report is unreliable, often insufficient power grids – one of the reasons The Climate Group launched its Bijli - Clean Energy for All program, aimed at providing clean and cheap off-grid renewable and solar-powered energy in India. The project, principally funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, has already improved the life of more than 27,000 people.

CLEAN ENERGY POLICY

However, one of the biggest difficulties in achieving a clean and sustainable energy future lies in inadequate policy and regulatory frameworks. This is particularly important because the vast majority of the respondents in the GEI report believe renewables will grow their share in the fuel mix in the future, but coal and natural gas will still have the lion’s share between 2015 and 2035. To spur a shift toward a low carbon economy, clear and consistent policies are crucial, the report authors warn.

Carbon markets are another major issue for the respondents to the survey, who point out the current uncertainty of its mechanisms and low prices. In response, GEI’s report calls for long-term thinking, stable and clear regulation, strong collective commitment and a meaningful carbon price.

GEI concludes that we already have the technology to achieve these bold targets, but governments have the ultimate responsibility to assure “transparent legal and regulatory frameworks and sustained and effective policies and regulations to facilitate long-term planning and investment, including development and demonstration of new technologies”, as well as “policies promoting price signals to reflect real costs and, when necessary, time-limited and strictly targeted subsidies”.

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