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With at least a billion people worldwide living without electricity, and many millions more held back by blackouts and high costs, improving energy access is increasingly a top priority for governments, business leaders, and citizens across the developing world. With Power Africa, SE4All, and the inclusion of a universal energy access target in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the international community is responding to these growing demands. It is thus imperative that modern energy targets and indicators are set in a meaningful and practical way.
Energy access is necessary for improved cooking, heating, lighting, refrigeration, communications, and more that are all directly related to important health, education, and income goals. However, success for any broad goal requires setting the right specific target with which to measure progress. Unlike standardized measures with a 0-1 answer like infant mortality or primary school enrollment, energy access is not as simple as having a power line connected to a household. Modern energy access entails less a physical connection to a grid than the availability of reliable and affordable energy services necessary to sustain a dignified life. Current definitions of access, such as the IEA’s 100kWh/person/year threshold, would only provide enough electricity to power a single 60W lightbulb. This far understates the amount of electricity and energy services that a growing class of the world’s poor expect and demand.
Any meaningful energy access goals, in the SDGs and elsewhere, must reflect both this latent demand for modern energy and an allowance for future growth to that level. And because the push for energy access involves long-term infrastructure investments, aiming too low has potentially harmful consequences. This working group brings together the latest research and policy expertise to recommend a set of improved targets, indicators, and policies to ensure this moment for universal energy access is not wasted.
The first working group meeting was convened on March 17, 2015, in Washington, DC.
Working Group Members (affiliations listed for identification purposes only)
Mimi Alemayehou, Black Rhino Group
Todd Moss, CGD
Nicolina Angelou, ESMAP, World Bank Yaw Ansu, Africa Center for Economic Transformation Morgan Bazilian, World Bank Yael Borofsky, MIT Steve Brick, Clean Air Task Force Jonah Busch, CGD Afua Djimi, Black Rhino Group Emily Huie, ONE Campaign Ben Leo , CGD Vijay Modi, Columbia University Scott Morris, CGD Philippe Niyongabo, African Union Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute Queen Nworisara-Quinn, Kupanda Capital Alex Rugamba, African Development Bank Kathryn Russell, ONE Campaign Bill Savedoff, CGD Kartikeya Singh, Fletcher School, Tufts University Peter Teague, Breakthrough Institute Johannes Urpelainen, Columbia University Catherine Wolfram, Energy Institute at Haas, UC Berkeley Davida Wood, World Resources Institute
Todd Moss, chief operating officer and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development
I think Bill Gates is on to a really important issue. Energy is the foundation of modern life: the way we work, live, travel, communicate all requires huge amounts of energy. And energy is critical to job growth and wealth creation. People can't work in a factory if it's 100 degrees. If we don't want countries to burn a lot more fossil fuels in the future, we're going to need better technology to create the volume of modern energy that people in aspiring economies require. And wealthy, educated, healthy societies consume large amounts of energy. There are no rich countries that consume a little bit of energy.
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