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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.
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.
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.
We conducted phone-based surveys on energy access and demand in twelve African countries. From these findings, we draw several potential policy implications. First, both grid electricity and off-grid solutions currently are inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. Second, grid and off-grid electricity are viewed by consumers as complementary, rather than competing, solutions to meet energy demand. Third, a market exists for off-grid solutions even among connected, urban Africans.
This is one of a series of CGD blogs on tweaks to the SDG targets.
I love the proposed Sustainable Development Goal Seven. It says “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Target 7.1 is even better: “By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.” Who could be against that?
In an era of tight budgets, the US government needs to maximize development programs that deliver bang for the buck and services that people want. To do this, it must lean heavily on programs that leverage private capital in support of core development objectives.
A New York Times piece alleging a “sputtering” Power Africa in advance of President Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia took us by surprise. To those of us who have been avidly following Power Africa and the continent’s long march toward universal electrification, it’s far too early to draw such negative conclusions on the initiative’s success—much less its future impact. Instead, the early signs are actually quite positive.
In June 2013, President Obama announced a major new development initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa. The first phase of the Power Africa Initiative focuses on adding more than 10,000 megawatts of “cleaner, more efficient generation capacity” in six partner countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania). This should increase electricity access for at least 20 million households and commercial entities through on-grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions. The US government will commit up to $7 billion over five years to this effort, while helping to mobilize more than $9 billion in private investment. My colleague Todd Moss and I have warmly welcomed this new initiative while also flagging a few things to watch for and think about (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples).