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.
She and leaders of governments, companies and organizations like the World Bank Group were gathered to pledge record amounts of finance and country-level actions to tackle the insidious health and environmental challenges posed by the simple act of cooking.
Growing up in India, I have always been conscious of the daily grind that women and girls in remote, rural areas go through just to prepare one meal. There’s the long, arduous and sometimes dangerous walk to get firewood, sticks or charcoal – whatever one can afford to find or buy. There’s the walk home, loaded down with that fuel. This can take up to five hours in rural areas – time that could be spent at school, work or building a small enterprise. And then of course, there’s the time spent breathing in smoke as they cook an often simple meal of bread, rice, lentils or vegetables. In India alone, more than one million deaths a year are attributed to traditional cooking practices - a shocking figure by any reckoning.
As an economist dealing with energy efficiency on a daily basis, I have studied and written about its benefits for several countries. But it was not until recently that I got around to looking into it at home.
It all started with my work with the World Bank’s energy efficiency agenda, particularly after the G8 Forum asked the Bank in 2006 to prepare a “Clean Energy Investment Framework”. Soon thereafter, we supported a series of low carbon country case studies in India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and China. A number of clear messages were delivered to us, including: “our priority is economic growth and poverty reduction”.
So how were we to get the best of both worlds – a reduction in the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions (like carbon dioxide) and continued economic growth?
Can emerging markets make economic growth compatible with climate action? Can the trade-off between growth and rising emissions be influenced by policy?
For a country like Turkey – with the lowest carbon footprint in the OECD (around 5 tons per person in 2008), but also one of the highest rates of growth of carbon emissions over the past two decades – these are not idle questions. A recent talk with a senior Turkish policy maker about how Turkey is adjusting its policies to meet the challenge of growing green left me feeling optimistic about the role Turkey can play in this discussion. I believe that for Turkey, growing green is an opportunity. Let me explain why I think so: