How can simple innovations and 'non-traditional' development approaches unlock seemingly inextricable problems?
Each of the three goals - universal access, doubling the share of renewable energy and global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 – is formidable given the past performance of many countries. But new technologies are breaking ground and together making the above challenges seem achievable. Off-grid and distributed energy resources are now feasible at even smaller scales than previously, due to technological developments in micropower and super-efficient appliances, mini- and micro-grid designs for grid-parity functionality, and advances in storage solutions that are allowing networks to operate in both an independent and integrated manner. Despite this, 3.04 billion people are cooking with non-solid fuels; 1.3 billion people live without electricity; 30% of health centers and over a third of primary schools in Africa function with no electricity; more than 4 million people die prematurely each year from indoor air pollution, attributable to cooking with solid fuels.
Massive investments in technology, finance, policy, human capacity are required to achieve scale and go further, faster. Cross-sector linkages with food security, water, education and health must be implemented, and are potentially fraught with complexities and siloed thinking. While not a new development challenge, the issue of energy access is now clearly positioned on the globally agreed agendas of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. And we need to think about it differently. This isn’t going to be “business as usual” solutions. Outside of the box thinking is beginning to happen, but more needs to be done.