A new analysis from the International Energy Agency has found that the most cost-effective strategy for bringing universal energy access to developing countries is also compatible with meeting global climate goals.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its new Energy Access Outlook: from Poverty to Prosperity report this week, part of the World Energy Outlook-2017 series of reports, providing what IEA describes as “a first-of-its-kind historical analysis” of 140 countries showing that the number of people without access to electricity fell to 1.1 billion in 2016, down from 1.6 billion in 2000, and is on track to decline to only 674 million by 2030.
Developing countries across Asia are all making significant progress, with many countries currently well on track to reach universal energy access by 2030 — while India, with a 1.34 billion population, is on track to reach universal access by the early 2020s.
However, the 674 million left without universal energy access — relying instead on fossil fuels like diesel for electricity generation and harmful cooking fuels like wood, charcoal, and kerosene — are primarily centred, to the tune of 90%, in sub-Saharan Africa, visibly noticeable in the two images below.
“The good news is that a convergence of political will and cost reductions is accelerating progress,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “Just look at India, which has provided electricity access to half a billion people since 2000. The government’s tremendous efforts over the last several years have put it on track to achieve one of the biggest success stories ever in electrification.”
The new report outlines a new strategy for achieving universal energy access — one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 by 193 countries. The increase in renewable electricity has been growing steadily since 2000, with renewables now accounting for a third of all new connections in the last five years. However, improving access to clean cooking facilities for those in developing countries is a much more elusive issue. Despite the fact that many are aware now of the health, human, and environmental impacts associated with cooking fuels like biomass, coal, and kerosene, 2.3 billion people will nevertheless remain without access to clean cooking in 2030, with 2.5 million people dying prematurely each year as a direct result of household air pollution.
The “Energy for All” case put forward by the IEA would provide universal energy access by 2030 and require $31 billion worth of investments, equivalent to less than 2% of global energy investment. Unsurprisingly, the majority of this extra investment needs to be directed towards sub-Saharan Africa, and most of that towards renewables.
“The goals of meeting energy access for all, reducing air pollution and meeting global climate targets go hand in hand,” said Dr Birol. “Energy for all is achievable and our ambitious strategy shows how countries can build on existing policy and technology success stories to accelerate access at the lowest cost.”
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