According to a new global commission, advances in micro energy grids and renewable energy technologies could “dramatically accelerate change” and transform lives in rural areas of sub-Saharan African and south Asia.
Electricity could be delivered to more than a billion people currently living without it within a decade by linking up small-scale projects into a giant, environmentally-friendly network.
The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty met for the first time this week to set out plans to accelerate the UN’s sustainable development goal to ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all people by 2030.
The commission, established by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative and the Rockefeller Foundation, plans to bring together leading investors, utilities and policymakers to tackle energy poverty.
Under the initiative, the distributed networks would help connect homes, businesses and schools to small-scale solar power projects to deliver cheap, sustainable electricity that can help power local economic growth.
The commission includes government leaders, energy industry chief executives and representatives from major development organisations, including Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency.
Dr Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and formerly of the US agency for international development, said “a whole new way of thinking” about energy distribution was required.
“We cannot end poverty without successfully ending energy poverty,” said Shah.
“For 140 years we’ve had this mindset that energy access means building big power plants and connecting them to grids, and that’s how you provide electricity.
“Today, new technology frontiers, business models, and our knowledge of alternatives is so strong that this commission will be able to set out a new roadmap to end the energy access problem for 1 billion people across the globe.”