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Eliminating energy poverty among millions in sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide

Smart-grid expansion can enable universal energy access. (Image source: lebone/Pixabay)

The Rockefeller Foundation has launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP) to address one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: the lack of access to electricity for almost a billion people across the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa

The GCEEP is an acceleration of The Rockefeller Foundation’s work on energy poverty and will fast-track sustainable power solutions, investments and partnerships that will deploy globally over the next decade.

The launch announcement follows the first full convening of Commissioners at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy on 10 September. The commission will operate under the joint chairmanship of The Rockefeller Foundation president Dr Rajiv J. Shah, former US secretary of energy Ernest J Moniz and African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina.

Around 840 million people live without energy access today and according to The World Bank, 650 million people will still lack access to energy in 2030, falling far short of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Around 90 per cent of these 650 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the launch of the commission, Shah said, “Despite recent progress, the world is not on track to solve this problem by 2030. Now is the time to unleash the full potential of distributed energy by integrating the strengths of the grid and off-grid systems in order to enable large-scale public-private partnerships.”

Ernest Moniz commented, “Access to electricity has increased dramatically in the past two decades, due to massive public and private investment in grid infrastructure.”

Moniz added, “To reach those who remain beyond the reach of the grid will require not only redoubled investment, but also innovative thinking and cooperative action on the part of a host of individuals and institutions. Our Commission brings together an extraordinary group of leaders with unique talents and knowledge and a determination to finish the job.”

The Commission intends to forge a robust, actionable consensus that lays out viable pathways for accelerating energy access quickly and cost-efficiently. It is comprised of heads of development banks, utilities, and off-grid firms, along with senior academics, industry leaders, and investors.

According to Adesina, “Grid expansion alone will not be enough to electrify these populations, but with a combination of distributed energy solutions and smart-grid expansion, we can achieve universal, economically impactful electrification.”

The Commission will be supported by the work of a research team led by GCEEP Secretary and MIT Energy Initiative Deputy Director Robert Stoner and MIT visiting professor Ignacio Perez-Arriaga. The research team is focused on identifying and addressing the barriers to achieving universal, economically impactful electrification.