Off-grid renewable energy is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to get electricity to the 1.3 billion people around the world who lack it, the Sierra Club argues in a new report.
The report looked at how energy access can be delivered more cost-effectively to the people around the world that need it. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the world must invest $640 billion over 20 years to ensure global energy access, which is 300 to 500 percent higher than current energy access investments. But the Sierra Club argues that many essential energy services can be delivered more cheaply than the IEA estimates. According to the report, a $500 million investment in energy access will be needed over the next two to three years, and that investment will spur a clean energy services market for the poor valued at $12 billion annually.
“Our findings underscore just how large an influence this fast-growing clean energy market can have on global energy poverty,” Justin Guay, Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program, said in a statement. “More importantly, our report emphasizes the need for international institutions, like the World Bank, to put their money where their mouth is by providing the investments required to spur this solar energy revolution.”
The report states that increasing the use of energy efficiency measures can bring down the cost of energy, allowing it to be delivered more cheaply to people around the world. According to the report, measures such as “skinny grids,” which use advances in LED and cheaper, thinner wiring to deliver electricity to people more cheaply, bring down the cost of energy delivery.
For countries with large populations of people who lack electricity access, getting electricity to populations cheaply is crucial. But for many of these countries, bringing down their carbon emissions is also important — India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for instance, is banking on solar to bring electricity to homes in his country while cutting carbon pollution. In May, India’s government announced that it would work to harness enough solar energy to be able to power at least one light bulb in every home in India by 2019 — an ambitious goal, given that 400 million Indians lack electricity.
“We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,” Narendra Taneja, convener of the energy division at Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, said.