Over 20% of the world’s population still lives without electric lighting, and about 40% do not own a television. Despite increasing rhetoric on the need to improve access to clean-burning fuels and electricity globally, the number of households depending on solid fuels is increasing and the number of new electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa is outpaced by population growth.
A new paper in Environmental Research Letters looks at achieving universal energy access.
I had propose to accelerate universal energy access by focusing on using solar power and low energy light and devices. I was looking at providing basic services using about 100 kWh per year and doing a lot in 10 years.
By 2017-2020, the $20 per person could provide lighting and electrical charging and basic electrical needs for every person in the world. 50 watts of solar that generates for 6 hours of daylight. About 100 kWh per year. They will need a battery or cheap energy storage for the home or for the community. For the community they will need a cheap microgrid. Cheap storage at $100 per kWh seems likely to become available.
$30 billion to provide $20 of LED lighting and solar power to the 1.5 billion who would not have basic electrification through other means.
Fairly full featured smartphones cost under $100 in China now. By 2017, a $20 smartphone will be more capable that that $100 phone now.
It would be about $60 billion would provide LED lighting, 50 watts of solar power, and smartphones for the people in world without electricity now. Those people are spending about $36 billion per year on kerosene.
Having light, solar power and smartphones will accelerate the rise out of poverty for these people.
Increasing the electricity to 100 watts (about 200 kWh per year)then it would be very easy to have boiled and safe water. Increasing to 200 watts (about 400 kWh per year) would cost $400 or less now and in five years would cost about $200 for a fairly robust and durable solar power generation system.
The clean cooking system cost about $100 now.
Just focusing on cheap solar generation ($40 for a 100 watts system in 3 years), cheap batteries ($100 per kWh, spend $50 for a 0.5 kWh system), LED lights ($20) and a smoke free cooker ($100). $170 for each person. For 1 billion people it would be a one time cost of $170 billion.
My approach would cost at least 5 times less than the plan in the Environmental Research Letters.
They propose spending more money
Without policies to accelerate electrification, between 480 and 810 million additional people are estimated to gain access to electricity by 2030, but 600–850 million people in rural South and Pacific Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could remain without electricity. The policy costs to help ease the transition to clean cooking for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population. The policies would include subsidies supporting the costs of new fuels, new stoves, and improved biomass stoves. The researchers estimate the costs to be in the region of 750 to 1000 billion dollars over the next 20 years.
Once connected to a grid, electricity is the preferred energy choice for lighting and running appliances. We estimate expansions needed to transmission and distribution networks to connect all rural populations to a grid and related costs for meeting household electricity needs in a scenario with no additional policies, compared to a scenario with a minimum demand threshold of 420 kWh per year (enough for lighting and running some small appliances as specified) per household for the universal access case. For the rural electrification scenarios, we estimate demand based on changes in population, income and access over time.
A lack of access to modern energy impacts health and welfare and impedes development for billions of people. Growing concern about these impacts has mobilized the international community to set new targets for universal modern energy access. However, analyses exploring pathways to achieve these targets and quantifying the potential costs and benefits are limited. Here, we use two modelling frameworks to analyse investments and consequences of achieving total rural electrification and universal access to clean-combusting cooking fuels and stoves by 2030. Our analysis indicates that these targets can be achieved with additional investment of (2005 basis US$] 65–86 billion per year until 2030 combined with dedicated policies. Only a combination of policies that lowers costs for modern cooking fuels and stoves, along with more rapid electrification, can enable the realization of these goals. Our results demonstrate the critical importance of accounting for varying demands and affordability across heterogeneous household groups in both analysis and policy setting. While the investments required are significant, improved access to modern cooking fuels alone can avert between 0.6 and 1.8 million premature deaths annually in 2030 and enhance wellbeing substantially.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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