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Guest Blog: Global Energy Access by 2030?

By Mathias Aarre Maehlum,

Electrical power is probably the most important factor for development and growth. According to International Energy Agency (IEA), there are almost 1.5 billion people in the world that lack access to electricity.

The IEA has stated that half of those will never be grid-tied. 400 million Indians lack the access to electricity. The government of India has estimated that two thirds of the non-electrified households need distributed power.

Building out the electrical grid by extending expensive copper-based power lines might not be our best choice. Could off-grid distribution of renewable energy systems such as solar panels offer a better solution?

The costs of solar photovoltaics are falling

The costs of solar photovoltaics have dropped significantly since the technology first was introduced to the market. In less than 30 years, prices have gone from almost $7 to less than $2 per watt. Meanwhile, the energy price of coal has doubled since 2009.

Kerosene often costs ¼ of a family`s income

Even without access to electricity, the poor pays a lot for basic lighting. Kerosene and candles, both incredibly dirty forms of fuel, are expensive. In fact, the poorest fifth of the world population pays a fifth of the world`s lighting bill. At the same time they still have less than one percent of the same lighting benefits.

Kerosene is a multi-billion dollar industry. Every year, the costs of kerosene accounts for $36 billion. It is not unusual for a household with no access to electricity to spend one fourth of their income on kerosene.

An investment in a solar panel system today will still generate clean electricity 20 years down the line. However, the poor cannot afford the heavy upfront costs. If these households paid for the electricity they spent on a monthly basis, the costs would far less than for kerosene. Enough capital and smart business models are therefore needed.

Sustainable Energy for All

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proclaimed 2012 the Year of Universal Energy Access. He leads the global initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative has set three key objectives to be achieved by 2030:

“Providing universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.”

If business goes on as usual, the majority of those 1.5 billion people still won`t have access to electricity by the end of 2030. However, technological and financial advancements in distributed renewable power will not reach its end any time soon. Supplying power to rural areas is within grasp. Providing energy access to those people should be among our highest priorities.

Mathias Aarre Maehlum is from


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Posted 12/11/2012 by Gail Rajgor

Tagged under: renewable energy , electricity , solar , photovoltaics , PV , off-grid , rural electrification , india , IEA , Blog , renewables , energy

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