Since the UN declared the ‘International Year of Sustainable Energy’ in 2012, there has been an undeniable growth in favour of more sustainable sources of power across the world. From 2012-2014 however, the number of people living without electricity fell by a marginal amount, and in Sub-Saharan Africa this number actually rose due to population growth. As a result, there are still over 1 billion people in the world without access to electricity and a further 3 billion relying on traditional polluting and expensive fuels.
These are just some of the findings which Practical Action – a UK based charity which uses appropriate technologies to fight against poverty in the developing world – is set to release.
Launched in 2010, the annual report has come to be heavily influential in the energy access debate thanks to its comprehensive methodology which focuses on the needs and perspectives of the energy poor as its starting point.
Last year’s edition focused on the planning and policy framework for delivering energy, and using PA’s Total Energy Access approach they developed a least-cost energy access plan with 12 communities on the ground in three countries: Kenya, Togo and Bangladesh.
Building on these findings, the PPEO 2017 sees the same approach scaled up to the national level to build a detailed snapshot of the energy situation in each country to deliver universal access at the lowest cost. Finance having fast become a central tenet of the debate on energy access – a top priority on the COP23 agenda this year – Practical Action’s report could not have come at a better time.
Eponymously arguing for a bottom-up approach to energy financing, the report examines some of the challenges faced by actors and stakeholders in delivering energy access to last-mile communities and generates a national finance estimate. This figure in turn is measured against the willingness of local communities to pay for electricity and gives an idea of the financing gap for each country project.
Whilst investments for national energy systems have generally been on the rise in recent years, it is widely acknowledged that this new financing is not nearly sufficient – nor is it flowing in the right direction to meet the goal of universal clean energy access by 2030.
The International Energy Agency estimates that $49bn/year is needed over a 20-year period to achieve universal energy coverage (2012) – a variable figure depending on a range of metrics including the efficiency of appliances and the level (tier) of energy provided. Variables aside however, the finance gap is undeniable: in 2013, a total of $13.1bn was invested in energy access, much of it confined to a select few countries.
There is also a clear division in favour of electricity, which attracted 97% of the cash flow, over clean cooking which received a meagre 3%. The report argues for a more holistic approach to energy provision which would take both aspects as two sides of the same sustainable energy coin.