Asia and Africa: The Path to Energy Access Depends on Renewables

Published on Monday, 23 October 2017

“The good news is that the convergence between political efforts and the lowering of technological costs is speeding up progress.”

– Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency

The special focus on sub-Saharan Africa in the report highlights the development potential that access to modern forms of energy can bring to the continent and emphasises the benefits of energy access as regards issues of gender, social health and climate change.

One of the speakers at the panel discussion about the IEA study was Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of Enel Green Power, who participated alongside Zied Ladhari, Minister of Development, Investments and International Cooperation of Tunisia, Amani Abu-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy for the African Union, and Pierre Guislain, Vice President of the African Bank of Development.

A Momentous Achievement “at our Fingertips”

The IEA report is part of the series World Energy Outlook 2017 and gives an overview of the status of the so-called energy divide in 140 countries, including it in a detailed analysis of the phenomenon’s historical evolution.

The study reveals that the number of people living without the possibility of stable use of electrical energy has decreased significantly since the start of the millennium: from 1.6 billion in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2016.

“In the world today, there are still over a billion people without access to energy. According to the Agency, the goal of bringing them energy is «at our fingertips».”

Worldwide, Asian countries have undertaken the most significant actions for the reduction of the energy divide. According to the IEA, many nations in the region could ensure their entire populations with complete access to energy by 2030.

India could reach the goal already in the first years of the next decade, since it has managed to provide grid access to half a billion people since 2000.

Sub-Saharan Africa, however, faces a longer road. Recent progress – of which there has been plenty – will lead to substantial improvements only in the medium- and long-term.

The Key Role of Renewables

The data show that soon the economic development of the seven main emerging economies will surpass that of G7 countries, presenting a clear discontinuity compared to trends of growth and equilibrium in global markets.

As shown by the inclusion of clean energy access as one of the the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the reduction of the energy divide plays a key role in building a future of economic growth, employment and well-being for communities who are still today excluded from essential services like healthcare, education and work.

The IEA study shows the process completed so far. In the recent past, the reduction of the energy divide in less-developed countries has been pursued with the use of fossil fuels and thus with clear negative effects on the climate and CO2 emissions.

Starting in 2000, the race to ensure energy access to all of the Earth’s population passed the baton to clean sources: today it’s renewables that are pushing the entire process.

In his presentation, Antonio Cammisecra emphasised the importance of renewable sources to face the challenges of demographic growth and the emergence of so-called mega-cities.

The competitiveness of renewables is now a fact. According to the CEO of EGP, a clear regulatory framework is needed in emerging countries like in Africa to be able to attract investments.

“In the last five years, more than a third of new connections have been “green”. By 2030, renewables will provide new energy access to three out of five people.”

The “Energy for All” point included in the report demonstrates that universal access to energy by 2030 would require an investment of 31 billion dollars a year, less than 2% of global energy investments. And most of these resources should be reserved for green energy and aimed toward sub-Saharan Africa.