How Do We Achieve Clean Energy Access For All?

clean energy for all

We hope, pray, and protest for a clean energy future, but is it really possible? And how can we ensure that it’s clean energy for all, and not just the wealthy few?

When’s the last time you made dinner by candle light or used a kerosene lamp to help your kids with their homework? Probably never, unless a freak storm knocked your power out. While flipping a switch is something we take for granted, more than one billion people lack access to reliable electricity, according to the International Energy Agency and the World Bank.

Although the U.S. consumes a disproportional amount of energy, slowly but surely more of it is coming from renewable sources. The same can’t be said for other nations, where population growth vastly outstrips grid capacity. In China, India, and many African nations, coal-fired power plants are popping up faster than developed countries are closing them down. Although it’s been said that renewable energy could power the world, energy inequality stands in the way of true global freedom from fossil fuels.

The United Nations’ “Sustainable Energy for All” campaign combines the efforts of international organizations in hopes of encouraging developing nations to adopt cleaner, more efficient technology from the start. To meet the ambitious goal of giving every human access to electricity by 2030, the UN has set out 3 objectives. Read more about them below, then scroll through the striking infographic to see how far we still have to go.

Universal Access 

With so much abundant electricity, it’s hard for us to realize all of the ways it impacts and enhances our lives. In countries where light and power comes from open fires or kerosene generators, however, the difference is palpable. “Electricity enables children to study after dark. It enables water to be pumped for crops, and foods and medicines to be refrigerated,” states the UN website. “Modern fuels for cooking and heating relieve women from the time-consuming drudgery and danger of traveling long distances to gather wood.” According to the campaign, private sector investment is key to opening up access in remote and underserved areas.

Energy Efficiency

In areas that have access to electricity, a key to a clean energy future is ensuring that none of it goes to waste. When each watt does more, it frees up valuable resources for those who have typically gone without. “Investing in efficiency is critical to meeting future energy demand and mitigating climate change,” states the UN. “It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves productivity. By reducing energy demand, efficiency also makes renewable energy more affordable – shrinking the size of the solar panel needed to power a lamp, for example. Moving to sustainable energy and using it efficiently makes sense in a resource constrained global economy.”

Renewable Energy

All the energy conservation in the world won’t help us if fossil fuels remain our main source of producing electricity. In order to truly attain a cleaner, more equitable world for all, developing nations must have the same access to renewable energy technologies as those in the developed world. “Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution; insulate countries from fuel price volatility; and improve those countries’ balance of payments,” states the UN. “Achieving the Secretary-General’s objective of doubling that percentage by 2030 requires support from all sectors of society, including individuals.”

World Bank Clean Energy For All Infographic

Image: nrdcpix