Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

To Scale or Not to Scale? Lessons from India’s Off-Grid Solar Technology Sector

Businesses working at the intersection of development and increasing shared value constantly find themselves navigating the question of whether or not they are having an impact. Impact, in this scenario, is defined by scale in number of customers (or beneficiaries) reached. Though the language may be fuzzy and the impact hard to measure, the question for any business working with those at the bottom of (or near the bottom of) the pyramid remains: to scale or not to scale?

Why the New White House Should Love Power Africa

We know very little about what a Trump administration will do about longstanding US efforts to combat global hunger, disease, and poverty. But here are five reasons Power Africa should appeal to a new White House team presumably focused on cutting waste and promoting business.

Oxfam America: Poor Countries Should Get to Sell the Remaining Fossil Fuels

Reducing fossil fuel emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less means that a huge amount of proven fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground.  A new Oxfam America Research Backgrounder by Professor Simon Caney of Oxford rightly proposes that, in considering which assets will be “stranded” (left in the ground), priority for extracting these fossil fuels should somehow be given to the poorest countries/people. But while poor countries should get priority when it comes to selling fossil fuels, when it comes to using them, they should be viewed as an energy source of last resort, after alternatives have been seriously explored.

My Top Three Videos about Energy and Development: Rosling, Gates, and Pritzker

Energy is a colossal development issue, touching on virtually every aspect of human progress from health and education to job and wealth creation. Modern energy access got its own Sustainable Development Goal (#7). Here are my three all-time favorite videos about the power unleashed by delivering energy to people—and what we can do about it.

US Holiday Lights Use More Electricity Than El Salvador Does In a Year

At this time of the year, sparkling trees and decorated lawns have taken over. A 2008 study from the US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that decorative seasonal lights accounted for 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumption every year in the United States. That’s just 0.2% of the country’s total electricity usage, but it could run 14 million refrigerators. It’s also more than the national electricity consumption of many developing countries, such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, or Cambodia.

Three Energy Hopes for the G-20

“Energy Sustainability” is high on the agenda for the G-20 meeting in Antalya, Turkey, next week. In practice, this means the governments of the world’s leading economies will pledge to continue the laudable goals of phasing out inefficient subsides and boosting energy efficiency. But the meatier agenda is two wonkier research items. According to the Turkish presidency priorities communiqué (PDF), the G-20 will “study the reasons behind the high cost of renewable energy investment and examine the deployment of public and private resources to fulfill the need for energy investment.”

Why Is DfID Pushing Solar-Only When Africans Say They Want On-Grid Electricity?

Yesterday the UK government formally launched its much-awaited Energy Africa campaign, which aims to accelerate electricity access for rural Africans. In a surprise move, DfID’s new plans include only support for small-scale solar power solutions. Typically these systems provide just enough power for a LED light bulb or two and a cellphone charger (see here and here for a few DfID favorites).

Here’s a Better Way the SDGs Can #LightTheWay to End Poverty

A campaign to rally public support for the Sustainable Development Goals is calling upon people to #LightTheWay to fight poverty. It’s a lovely image: millions of people holding “candles, lanterns, and torches!” to urge world leaders as they meet in New York to make commitments to make the world a better place. Light is a symbol rich in religious connotations and evocative of human progress.

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