As late as 1930, only 1 in 10 rural Americans had access to electricity. In subsequent years, rapidly increasing power generation and growing the electrical grid across the country became major pillars of the American battle against domestic poverty and a foundation for decades of economic growth and wealth creation. Today, energy access is universal in the United States. Reliable and affordable electricity is considered a basic necessity of life, an indispensable input to almost every aspect of modern living.
That same transformation is possible today in large parts of the developing world, where lack of access to modern energy harms quality of life and constrains economic growth. A concerted policy effort by the United States could help unleash tremendous human and market potential around the world. Pushing to promote electricity generation and access could significantly contribute to doing good in developing countries — and doing well for the United States.
Balancing Energy Access and Environmental Goals in Development Finance: The Case of the OPIC Carbon Cap
The international community has ambitious goals for responding to climate change and increasing global access to energy services. To date, these agendas have been viewed to be largely complementary. However, policy makers are now facing more explicit interactions between environment, energy, and economic and social development objectives and associated trade-offs.
Maximizing Access to Energy: Estimates of Access and Generation for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s Portfolio
We conservatively estimate that more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.
A strengthened OPIC—more efficiently deploying existing tools at no additional budget cost—would (1) increase US commercial access in emerging economies, (2) reflect economic, social, and political priorities in developing countries, (3) promote flagship US initiatives during austere budget conditions, and (4) support stability in fragile or frontline states.