World Bank Bets on Universal Energy Access by 2030

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The World Bank and the International Energy Agency are leading a push to bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people who are living with out it around the world. They estimate it will cost $50 billion to achieve universal access to electricity and clean and modern cooking by 2030.

The fuel sources for 2.8 billion people will need to change in that period. That represents the number of people who still rely on traditional solid fuels including wood, charcoal and animal/crop waste for cooking and heating. Twenty countries in Asia and Africa account for 2/3 of people without electricity and 3/4 of people using solid fuels. Those nations will serve as the area of greatest focus for the initiative.

Progress from 1990 to 2010 is promising. In two decades 1.7 billion people gained access to electricity and 1.6 billion made the switch to modern fuels for household cooking. An impressive number, but only slightly ahead of population growth during the same period of time. To reach the goal of universal access, the World Bank estimates that the pace will have to double between now and 2030.

Indoor smoke is a serious problem. It is responsible for an estimated 4 million premature deaths each year with the majority of deaths women and children.

“Expanding access to sustainable energy for the poorest and most marginalized people in this world will be a key driver to helping the world meet the goal of ending extreme poverty,” said World Bank President Jim Kim to Humanosphere in April.

Kim made it clear in the conversation that the goal of the World Bank was to prioritize access to energy as a way to accelerate the pace of development. He discussed renewable energy, carefully pointing out its long term importance and need in more developed economies, but was clear to point out that access had to sit at the forefront of the drive.

“The goal in Africa has to be rapid scale up of access to energy. There’s just going to be no way that Africa is going to be able to lift its people out of poverty without access to energy,” he said.

The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative sets out three goals. The first is the previously mentioned target to achieve universal access. Target number 2 calls for the doubling of the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency. And the final target wants to double the share of the world’s mix of renewable energy.

SE4ALL’s goals touch on all countries. It pushes Western nations to establish a price for carbon, adopt stricter policies for energy efficiency and incentivize renewable energy sources. The $400 billion spent by governments on energy needs to reach as much as $1.2 trillion in order to achieve the three goals.

“The report shows that there has been progress but it is also clear that much more will need to be done if we are to meet the UN Secretary General’s ambitious goals,” said Dr. Christoph Frei Secretary General of the World Energy Council. “The global energy system is undergoing arguably the biggest transformation in modern history and bold policy measures will be required to enable the energy sector to deliver on this challenge.”

As is the case with achieving universal access, the current pace towards greater energy efficiency and renewable energy is off the mark to meet the 2030 targets. The speed with which renewables are adopted must more than double to achieve a share of 36% of the world’s energy by 2030. The same goes for efficiency.

Effectively doubling the current rate of energy progress on the three targets will require a doubling in funds. It also requires a tracking framework to ensure that the goals are in fact met and interventions target the right countries and communities.It is no mistake that the targets align with other poverty-related goals. Frei agrees with Kim that progress must be made on energy in order to ensure global development goals like ending extreme poverty by 2030 occurs.

“Access to secure, clean, and affordable energy is fundamental to improving the lives of people across the world. The goals of SE4ALL are important and we must seize this opportunity to make a better future,” says Frei

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.