Despite many decades of global efforts directed at mass electrification, we have failed to deliver modern electricity services to approximately one-third of the people on Earth. 1.1 billion people continue to live without access to electricity. A further billion have unreliable access. According to the International Energy Agency’s most optimistic scenario for future energy access, the number of people worldwide without electricity in the year 2030 is projected to remain above 1 billion. In Sub-Saharan Africa the problem is projected to get worse, not better. The fact that population growth is outstripping electrification means that by 2030 the number of people without electricity will have risen by 10% (16% in rural areas) from 2009 levels. Clearly, our approach to opening up energy access has to change.
There is good reason for making a renewed effort. Access to electricity can open up economic and educational opportunities, eliminate the drudgery of hard manual labour and bring vast improvements in health care. These are only some of the reasons the UN has made ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 one of its Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 7). Unfortunately, we are not on track to meet this goal. Although governments, NGOs, communities and researchers all over the world are trying to solve the problem of access to energy, the scale of the problem is far bigger than the pace and scale of current solutions.
This sobering scenario provides the rationale behind the Waterloo Global Science Initiative’s OpenAccess Energy Summit.
Co-authored by a science journalist and an energy researcher, WGSI’s OpenAccess Energy Brief is an engaging overview of energy access issues that identifies challenges, knowledge gaps and opportunities. This version incorporates feedback collected by our advisory group who met in October 2015 to evaluate version 1 of the Brief and Summit goals. This version of the Brief serves as a framing document for the upcoming OpenAccess Energy Summit (April 24-27, 2016).