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To become prosperous and globally competitive, emerging economies require reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for industry and households
Energy is essential for economic growth and the basis of modern lifestyles, yet more than a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. For millions who may have some access, power is too unreliable or expensive to achieve real prosperity. Boosting generation and expanding access are top priorities for African governments and their partners, including through the US Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD research seeks to redefine what the world means by “modern energy” and to suggest ways to provide energy at scale for development to flourish.
The Obama Administration has left an indelible impact on domestic energy policy and global climate policy. Policies driving technological innovation—in what critics have dubbed the “war on coal”—are helping the United States transition its energy system to one that is cleaner and more efficient. While the administration touts the growth of clean energy deployment in the United States at international fora, it should not limit its engagement with foreign countries on fossil energy—especially when the climate gains could be large.
Most people accept that we will only achieve sustainable energy patterns with a substantial investment in research and development, but where the research will take place and where energy will be consumed doesn’t necessarily match up. Within 25 years, non-OECD countries will account for two-thirds of global energy consumption. To that end, the climate and energy challenge is primarily about finding ways to bring clean energy to Rio and Lagos, not to San Francisco or Berlin.
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.
Visit the report page for a full interactive version and video.
“Modern energy access” is finally on the international agenda, but the current common definition of 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per capita per year is far too low.
To reflect likely demand and historical trends would require measuring energy usage at higher levels, such as 300 and 1,500 kWh per capita per year.