How To Ensure that Everyone Has Access to Affordable, Clean Energy

July 27, 2016 by Shanna Edberg

clean cookstovesAlthough it might sound contradictory, it is possible to both reduce carbon emissions and improve access to affordable energy. Below is a collection of resources to help us multisolve and accomplish both goals.

Billions of people in the developing world are energy poor - they lack access to electricity and clean cooking facilities. In the developed world, energy poverty is more often a problem of affordability; low-income households tend to live in inefficient homes and spend a greater portion of their income on energy bills. Eliminating energy poverty by providing access to renewable, affordable energy for all would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost the global economy, and improve the health and well-being of billions of people around the world.

As you will see in the resource section below,** most proposals for ending energy poverty while helping the climate center around improving energy efficiency or expanding renewable energy. **Energy efficiency is typically proposed as a solution for cities and developed countries, while expanding access to renewable energy is seen as a solution in rural areas and in developing countries.

The goals of eliminating energy poverty and mitigating climate change must be combined, or else run the risk that acting on one goal will harm the other. For example, a carbon tax that is implemented without also bolstering energy efficiency may have the unintended consequence of pushing the energy poor deeper into poverty, since they will face higher energy prices. Similarly, subsidies that make energy more affordable can increase dependence on fossil fuels that cause climate change. (Energy Efficiency)

Gender is an important factor in alleviating energy poverty. Men and women in different communities may use energy differently, and different solutions are needed to reach both groups. For example, cooking takes up a significant amount of energy as well as a very large portion of women’s time and effort in developing countries. Therefore, any intervention that aims to create positive impacts on the environment and in women’s well-being must address their cooking needs. (General)

When building access to renewable energy in rural areas, offering other low-carbon products along with the energy can raise the impact of the energy investment, increase the co-benefits, and help secure financing. For example, when people are connected to solar power, they become more interested in solar lighting and cookstoves, which can aid health and safety and provide economic opportunities. So offering the energy along with household products to use that energy can open up opportunities to create additional impacts and secure financing for the energy provider. (Renewable Energy)

Resources on reducing energy poverty and expanding access to clean and affordable energy:

Improving Energy Efficiency
  1. Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Improve Low-Income and Underserved Communities from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  2. Building synergies between climate change mitigation and energy poverty alleviation from the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy
  3. Fuel poverty alleviation as a co-benefit of climate investments: evidence from Hungary from the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy
  4. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all from the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy
  5. Win-win scenarios at the climate–development interface: Challenges and opportunities for stove replacement programs through carbon finance by Simon et al
  6. See how one US company is financing energy efficiency improvements in underserved communities
Expanding Renewable Energy
  1. Energy for Sustainable Development: The Energy–Poverty–Climate Nexus by Melanie L. Sattler
  2. The role for low carbon electrification technologies in poverty reduction and climate change strategies: A focus on renewable energy mini-grids with case studies in Nepal, Peru and Kenya from the Centre for Sustainable Development
  3. Policies for accelerating access to clean energy, improving health, advancing development, and mitigating climate change by Haines et al
  4. Energy poverty and the environment by Carmen G Gonzalez
  5. Energy poverty, climate change & renewable energy: A global convergence programme slideshow from the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE)
  6. Unlocking climate finance for decentralised energy access from the International Institute for Environment and Development
  7. Policy: Bring sustainable energy to the developing world by Detchon & Van Leeuwen
  8. Decentralized renewable energy and the climate change mitigation-adaptation nexus by Venema and Rehman
  9. Investors’ neglect of small-scale renewables threatens universal energy access in The Guardian
  1. Enabling equitable access to rural electrification: Current thinking and major activities in energy, poverty and gender by the World Bank
  2. Energy Poverty: How to Make Modern Energy Access Universal? from the International Energy Agency
  3. Alleviating energy poverty for the world’s poor by Ambuj D. Sagar
  4. A collection of resources on energy poverty in the European Union from the European Parliamentary Research Service

Note that this is not an exhaustive list of publications, nor is it in any particular order. If you would like to add your publication or resource to this list, please contact us at multisolving(at)climateinteractive(dot)org.