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SE4ALL

Three breakthroughs that can help bring power to over a billion people

Charles Feinstein's picture
Solar panels in Mali (© Curt Carnemark / World Bank).This blog post was originally published on Ideas Lab.

Breakthroughs in energy technology are happening all over the world, improving access to power for people and making a real difference in their quality of life. While technological innovation tends to come predominantly from developed economies, we see incredible entrepreneurialism in developing countries when it comes to adopting and adapting new technology for local markets and needs. The challenge for poorer countries is getting timely access to the best and cleanest technologies.

When I was approached by Ideas Lab to share my energy innovation predictions, I decided to crowdsource ideas from my team in the World Bank’s Energy Global Practice. These are people in regular — almost daily — contact with the government and private sector in the world’s key emerging markets and low-income countries.

Their workdays are occupied by the challenge of improving energy services for millions of people in developing countries while also reaching the 1.2 billion people in the world still waiting for any electricity connection. And the challenge is to do this in ways that are sustainable for economies, people and the environment.

1. In terms of technology breakthroughs, at the top of everyone’s list: energy storage.

Thirsty Energy: Making the Energy-Water Nexus Work For Us

Diego Juan Rodriguez's picture

Energy-Water NexusIn July, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released reports (see U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather and Water-Smart Power: Strengthening the U.S. Electricity System in a Warming World) highlighting the energy sector’s vulnerability to future water constraints.  The reports’ findings paint a worrisome picture: currently, 60% of coal power plants in the U.S. are experiencing water stress; hydropower is threatened due to more frequent and severe droughts; and energy infrastructure is endangered by water variability due to climate change.

Water is critical for producing power, and vice versa. Almost all energy generation processes require significant amounts of water, and the treatment and transport of water requires energy, mainly in the form of electricity. Even though the interdependency between water and energy is gaining wider recognition worldwide, water and energy planning often remain distinct. The tradeoffs involved in balancing one need against the other in this “energy-water nexus,” as it is called, are often not clearly identified or taken into account, complicating possible solutions.

Energy Efficiency: Scaling Up to Cut Costs And Emissions

S. Vijay Iyer's picture

Energy Efficiency
Energy is essential to heat homes and cook meals. It is needed to deliver proper health care in hospitals and to teach children. It is essential for economic growth and development and for powering industries, farms and businesses. It is at the heart of any effort to make a better life possible for people all over the world, in particular for the world’s poorest.

Why Finance Ministers Care About Climate Change & Sustainable Development

Rachel Kyte's picture

If you want to fundamentally change how countries use energy, value their natural environments, or combat climate change, you have to talk to the people who hold the purse strings.

That’s what we’re doing this week. Finance ministers from countries around the world are in Washington for the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. We’re talking with them about these issues and more as we help countries shift to more sustainable development.

Underlying everything: climate change. This isn’t just an environmental challenge – it’s a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty. I can’t repeat that often enough. If the world does not take bold action now, a disastrously warming planet threatens to put prosperity out of reach for millions and roll back decades of development.

IRENA puts renewable energy on the map

Vivien Foster's picture

Global Wind Map - Screenshot from Global Atlas of Renewable Energy PotentialIt’s been clear here at the World Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, is fast emerging as a leader in forging a more sustainable energy future. With 159 countries—plus the EU— having joined it, a staff of 70 and a $28-million annual budget, IRENA held its third Executive Assembly here, making an impressive show on the sidelines of the summit. One example is its Renewable Energy Roadmap, which attracted lively interest among delegates.

A Sustainable Development Goal on Energy Would Help Replicate Germany’s Solar Example

Christopher Neal's picture

Even if most news media dismissed last month’s Rio+20 summit as a failure, the conference did produce an agreement that may well wind up being its most positive legacy.

It was approval to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Another initiative that was launched at Rio+20 – the UN Secretary General’s  Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative – is sometimes cited as an illustration of what SDGs would look like for the energy sector.

More broadly, these SDGs transfer the methodology of the poverty-focused Millennium Development Goals, largely seen as a successful work-in-progress, to address the sustainability challenge.

Meeting sustainable energy challenges by seizing private sector opportunities

Vivien Foster's picture

Photo Credit: David Waldorf for the Rural Solar Project in BangladeshA successful inclusive green growth strategy has to address the question of how we generate and consume energy. Indeed, the energy question is where poverty and climate pressures meet. One in five people worldwide lives without electricity. Two in five use wood, charcoal, dung or coal to cook and heat their homes, usually at risk to their health.