Sat, May 05, 2018 - Page 9 News List

East Africa a bright spot as world crawls toward energy goals

By Megan Rowling  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, LISBON

The world is moving too slowly to meet targets to provide electric power and clean cooking to everyone on the planet by 2030, with progress on using less-polluting fuels in the kitchen especially poor, international agencies said on Wednesday.

The number of people living without access to electricity in 2016 was 1 billion, or 13 percent of the global population, with the vast majority in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, new data released by the World Bank, the UN and other organizations showed.

Unless efforts to get power to hard-to-reach areas are ramped up, an estimated 674 million people — about 8 percent of the world’s population — will still live without electricity in 2030, they said in a report.

In 2016, 3 billion people, more than 40 percent of the global population, did not have access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking.

Indoor air pollution from burning wood, dung, kerosene and other dirty fuels causes more than 4 million deaths a year, with women and children at highest risk, the report said.

“We must be more ambitious in harnessing the power of renewable energy to meet sustainable development and climate goals, and take more deliberate action to achieve a sustainable energy future,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, which worked on the report.

Among the global development goals now being pursued are universal access to electricity and clean cooking, as well as a doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and a substantial increase in the share of renewables in the world’s energy mix.

The Energy Progress Report released at a two-day forum in Lisbon tackling how to meet the targets, highlighted that some countries — particularly in east Africa — have made big strides in getting electric power to their people in recent years.

Vivien Foster, global lead for energy economics with the World Bank, said that in sub-Saharan Africa the number of people living without electricity had begun to fall for the first time in history, which could be “a turning point for electrification on the continent.”

Previously, efforts to add power capacity were unable to keep up with population growth.

“The battle for universal [electricity] access will be won or lost in sub-Saharan Africa,” Foster told the forum.

Progress in east Africa has been fueled by a jump in small-scale solar power, driven by a rise in “pay-as-you-go” systems in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, where users can make payments via mobile phones.

SOLAR POWER

Rwandan Minister of State for Energy, Water and Sanitation Germaine Kamayirese said her country was pushing off-grid solar power hard as a way of hitting its goal of providing electricity to all its people by 2024.

Today, 42 percent have access compared with just 6 percent in 2009. At least 30 million people around the world are benefiting from solar home systems, yet only about “a dozen” countries are embracing this revolution, World Bank experts said.

“If more countries would turn to this resource, we think electrification could accelerate even more rapidly,” Foster said, adding that the need for governments to develop clean energy markets and ensure good-quality products.

A shift toward cleaner cooking is lagging partly because it lacks policymakers to champion the cause in many places, she added.

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