The global energy challenge
Without targeted global action, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2035 there will still be one billion people without access to electricity and 2.7 billion without access to clean cooking fuels.
Without a commitment to achieve universal energy access it has been estimated that by 2030, there will be an additional 1.5 million premature deaths per year caused by household pollution from burning wood and dung and through a lack of basic sanitation and healthcare. Modern energy sources are essential to meeting these challenges.
Beyond households and individuals, energy access is also critical to the broader economy and society.
Businesses and industries are major consumers of electricity. Globally, industrial use of electricity accounted for around 42% of consumption in 2008. Business and industry needs reliable base load electricity in order to expand. In the developing world, economic expansion will provide secure employment. Without this, hundreds of millions of people will remain in poverty, particularly in urban areas.
This is why improving access to modern energy in the developing world is so important. The world needs to adopt targets for energy access that will support residential, industrial and social access to electrical services.
Achieving Energy Access
Significant investment in electricity grids is required in many of the least developed countries. Strong grid structures are essential to even out peaks and troughs in the generation of renewable electricity and they can very effectively distribute centralised base load electricity. All energy sources have some role to play in feeding those grids, including nuclear, hydro and the
provision of renewable energy.
Along with the ambition to achieve real energy access in the developing world, three elements are necessary to help realise this vision:
- The right policy frameworks must be put in place, both on a national and international basis, to support effective energy institutions and business models that support the deployment of a comprehensive energy infrastructure where it is needed most.
- These frameworks will encourage access to finance from all sources, public and private, domestic and international. This will provide the right level of investment to build the energy infrastructure that is so badly needed.
- It must be recognised that all sources of energy are necessary to meet the vast potential demand for electricity. It is important to understand that different sources of energy will suit different countries and different environments. To ensure that energy reaches those who need it most, there cannot be a political preference for one technology over another. The decision must be based on what is most effective in meeting the energy need.
Coal resources exist in many developing countries, including those with significant energy challenges. Coal will therefore play a major role in supporting the development of base-load electricity where it is most needed. Coal-fired electricity will be fed into national grids and it will bring energy access to millions and support economic growth in the developing world.
The World Energy Outlook 2011 highlights that "coal alone accounts for more than 50% of the total on-grid additions" required to achieve the IEA's Energy for All case. This clearly demonstrates coal's fundamental role in supporting modern base load electricity. Many countries with electricity challenges are also able to accesscoal resources in an affordable and secure way to fuel the growth in their electricity supply.
The latest World Energy Outlook highlights that "coal alone accounts for more than 50% of the total on-grid additions" required to achieve the IEA's Energy for All case.