Achieving Universal Access To Energy And A Low Carbon, High Well-Being Economy

Viki Johnson, Head of Climate Change and Energy, nef (the new economics foundation); Niclas Hälström, Founder, What Next Forum


Three key issues frame this challenge paper: the deep and persistent poverty that characterises large parts of the developing world, the imperative associated with climate change (both mitigation and adaptation) and, rising and volatile energy prices.

The wide development benefits imply that increasing access to modern energy services, specifically electricity, is a vital social investment. As such increase access to modern energy services should not be assessed on just the financial costs and benefits alone, but rather a framework that takes into account the multiple additional benefits and/or costs of different energy sources. Here we argue that it is not just access to energy services that matters, but how that access is delivered from the planning, installation and operation stage.

Further, we propose a bold, transformative approach to set up a global programme of national feed-in tariffs formulated by UN-DESA and supported by an increasing number of organisations. We argue that:

  • Public policies can help produce a decline in global price of renewable energy that will make it affordable within a decade;
  • A “big push” in investment to scale up renewable energy will lead to rapid cost reduction, technology improvement, and learning by doing. This will generate a “virtuous cycle” of additional investment, economic growth, employment generation etc.;
  • In the first decade, investments will have to be subsidised through globally funded guarantees or price supports (e.g. feed-in tariffs). The “virtuous cycle” will then make renewable energy the default option for new energy investment worldwide;
  • Price supports will be complemented by a global extension programme: research, technical, and policy support designed to accelerate the process.

Energy and the kind of solution we outline here must be at the centre of the Earth Summit 2012 process, and that, as a minimum, it provides an impetus to move along the lines we sketch out here.

Click the image below to download the paper as a PDF.



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