The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP) today publishes its 2020 Report: Electricity Access, calling for urgent action on increasing energy access for the unconnected and the underserved as part of an inclusive economic recovery.
The report argues that the coronavirus crisis presents new imperatives to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable and equitable energy future as governments invest in economic stimulus and recovery. It also highlights the need for substantial private sector participation, due to the sizable investments needed to achieve full electrification.
The Commission calls for the adoption of an Integrated Distribution Framework (IDF) in which the right blend of grid-based and distributed renewable technologies are advanced in a coordinated manner to achieve universal, productive-use electrification more quickly and more cost-effectively.
Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, GCEEP Co-Chair and President of The Rockefeller Foundation, said: “COVID-19 has underscored the human consequences of energy poverty, showing the impact that a lack of electricity has on health, food, and jobs. It has also put many more vulnerable communities at risk of losing access to reliable power and falling back into extreme poverty. While over $12 trillion has been committed to economic recovery from COVID-19, with more to surely follow, increasing energy access must be prioritized in this global effort. The Commission will be working to catalyze investments to support a green and inclusive recovery from this crisis.”
Prior to the pandemic, half the world’s population lacked access to essential health services and more than 800 million people worldwide lacked access to electricity. Billions more were being held back, unable to reach their potential due to unreliable or insufficient energy access. The energy accessibility gap has further widened because of the pandemic, with the toll falling disproportionately on the poor and most vulnerable.
Professor Ernest J. Moniz, GCEEP Co-Chair and Former US Secretary of Energy, said: “Addressing the urgent challenges of climate change can go hand-in-hand with helping communities attain the universal energy access that provides a path out of poverty. Affordable electricity access is particularly important. The key elements are integration of on- and off-grid approaches, a focus on development, and creation of financially viable firms to provide electricity for the long term. All must come together, and today’s impressive clean energy technology development is a critical enabler.”
The report charts the progress made by the Commission in its first year towards advancing a set of principles and a framework to guide the design and implementation of electrification programs with the aim of mobilizing capital and expertise at the right scale to achieve universal electricity access. The IDF approach shifts most of the economic burden of maintaining, improving, and expanding distribution systems from governments to defined entities (whether public, private, or a public-private partnership) that are empowered to enter long-term contracts and are guided by cost-of-service regulations.
The GCEEP research team is actively engaged in efforts to apply the IDF approach in several first action countries including Colombia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda. In addition, it has been engaged in Odisha, India, where the largest distribution zone has transitioned to a private concessionaire.
Akinwumi Adesina, GCEEP Co-Chair and President of African Development Bank, said: “Aligned with medium and long-term climate and sustainability goals, electrification will yield substantial socio-economic and environmental benefits, particularly in the developing economies of Sub-Sahara Africa. Energy must therefore be prioritized in the recovery strategies currently being developed by governments, international institutions and businesses.”
The report also lays out the Commission’s strategic priority for the year ahead. It is to further develop the IDF implementation toolkit so that it provides the additional detail needed to address practical challenges arising from IDF adoption at the national level and to evaluate and prioritize additional countries that could be candidates for the IDF in the near term. The Commission will continue interaction with relevant stakeholders – development finance institutions, governments, large energy companies and influential institutions – in efforts to mobilize resources for implementation.
Regulation also stands out as a future area of focus for the Commission as it is viewed as essential to helping developing countries plan and implement the transition to a more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous energy future. To support capacity building in power sector regulation, several GCEEP Commission members, in collaboration with other institutions, are spearheading an initiative to launch an African School of Regulation (ASR). It envisages a center of excellence, headquartered at an African academic institution, that supports independent discussion and knowledge exchange in support of higher-quality energy regulation and policy formulation.
With bold measures to adopt and invest in the IDF, the Commission seeks to structure new public-private partnerships that crowd investment into electrification, ending energy poverty and unlocking more inclusive economic growth.