The year 2012 has been declared the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All by the UN, and is part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This is an attempt to raise energy poverty on the international political agenda and to provide opportunities for business, government and civil society to partner for achieving the target of sustainable energy for all by 2030. Three objectives have been highlighted under this initiative, which are to be achieved by 2030: ensuring universal access to energy; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix.
Although the demand for energy services in developing countries is projected to rise rapidly in the coming decades (mainly due to economic and population growth), there is sufficient evidence that universal access to electricity and modern cooking facilities is possible.
The experience of several countries shows that strong government commitment can increase electrification rates substantially over a relatively short period of time. Figure 3 shows the development of electrification rates in 10 countries. Some examples are particularly striking. Thailand achieved full electrification in just over a decade (in the 1980s). Brazil also made considerable progress in the 1980s. Not part of this graph but equally successful are Morocco and Tunisia, who with the help of public funds managed to increase electrification rates from below 30% in 1996 to more than 96% in 2009 (Practical Action, 2012). China has provided 500 million people in rural areas with access to electricity since the beginning of the 1990s and is expected to achieve universal electricity access by 2015 (IEA, 2011).
However, taking the countries represented in Figure 1 into account, it seems that many countries need at least three decades to move to full electrification and others much longer (see also Bazilian et al., 2010).
To achieve universal energy access by 2030, electricity output needs to increase by 840 TWH and power generation capacity by some 220 GW (IEA, 2011). According to the Energy for All Case of the IEA (2011), around 45% of the additional electricity needed in 2030 would need to be generated and delivered through the extension of national grids (i.e. on-grid generation), another 36% through mini-grid generation and 20% by isolated off-grid generation. All urban areas and around 30% of rural areas are expected to be connected through grid extension.
However, on-grid electricity access is not cost effective in more remote and sparsely populated rural areas. Therefore, about 46% of rural areas will need to be connected with mini-grids and the rest (25%) with small, stand-alone off-grid solutions (IEA, 2011).
Fossil fuels are projected to dominate additional on-grid generation, with more than 50% being coal-based and another 13% on other fossil fuels. Renewables, on the other hand, are expected to dominate additional mini-grid and off-grid generation, with 36% to be provided by solar, 28% by wind and 21% by biomass (see Figure 2).
In terms of clean cooking facilities, efforts are likely to concentrate on advanced biogas cook stoves, on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and on biogas systems. In total, some 560 million households will require additional access to clean cooking facilities. The IEA (2011) estimates that biogas cook stoves will need to be supplied to 250 million households, LPG stoves to nearly 240 million households and biogas systems to another 70 million households.
Providing universal energy access by 2030 is estimated to increase global energy demand by 179 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) or by 1.1% compared to the New Policies Scenario. 54% of this increase will be based on fossil fuels, raising the question of the impact of universal energy access on global GHG emissions. However, according to the IEA (2011), the provision of universal energy access would increase global energy-related CO2 emissions by a modest 0.7%, compared with the emissions levels calculated in the New Policies Scenario. IIASA (2011) presents similar findings. Also taking into account other climate forcing emissions (e.g. methane, Black Carbon etc.) it concludes that the climate impacts are negligible or even beneficial, also at high levels of LPG use. This is mainly due to the fact that new technologies and fuels displace large quantities of traditional biomass use, which are inefficient and associated with significant emissions, also (and in some cases particularly) of non- CO2 Kyoto gases such as methane.
It should be noted, however, that current GHG emissions of the poorest countries, notably in SSA and in rural areas of many developing countries, are negligible due to the low levels of industrialisation. Therefore, even if fossil fuel consumption in these countries grew at a high annual rate until 2030, the per capita level of CO2 emissions would still remain at low levels compared to those in high-income countries (World Bank/UNDP, 2005).
Dr. Arno Behrens, Head of Energy & Research Fellow, CEPS – Centre for European Policy Studies
P.S This post is an excerpt from a CEPS Working document: Escaping the Vicious Cycle of Poverty: Towards Universal Access to Energy