State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Shedding Light on Rural Africa: A New Partnership

By Nathalie Zapletal

Energy access is essential for achieving sustainable development.  According to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, every objective in the fight against poverty depends on energy, including food security, increasing incomes, access to safe water, disease control, maternal and child health, and universal schooling. Lack of energy access therefore represents a major barrier to eradicating poverty, and to social and economic development. The need for energy access is especially strong in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, where barriers to energy access include lack of energy resources, lack of access to available energy and the prohibitive cost of energy from some sources. Developing energy resources and electricity infrastructure is essential for ensuring energy access.

Solar panels being installed in a school in Uganda. Photo: M. Basinger.
Solar panels being installed in a school in Uganda. Photo: M. Basinger.

Under an initiative led by the CEO of Eni, the Italian international energy company, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network  will evaluate potential pathways for increasing access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, furthering its goals of promoting sustainable development solutions globally. Eni will provide initial funding of $700,000 and cooperate with the researchers, with a view to then invest in the identified pathways.

Phase 1 of the project will consist of an initial study to investigate the cause and effect relationship between energy and development, identify the make-up of basic energy services and infrastructure, and develop key metrics for estimating development impact. In addition, this phase will identify and develop innovative technologies and business models that can improve energy access and thereby enhance energy-led development in low-income settings to help households overcome poverty, businesses thrive, and community services run. Finally, this first phase will identify corridors and regions of growth where energy infrastructure could have a high benefit to cost.

Subsequent project phases will demonstrate, deploy and scale up innovative technologies and business models, such as modular electricity micro-grids (flared gas and solar), smart meters, and prepay and mobile technologies. The project will coordinate closely with the UN system and its new Sustainable Energy for All  initiative. Once such projects are identified, it is envisaged for the study to be made publicly available in order for private sector companies, donors, countries and investors to take the lead in implementation.

These projects will also connect to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s focus on promising technologies, business models, institutional mechanisms and policies that can have a transformative impact on sustainable development.

The grant further reinforces the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Earth Institute’s shared commitment to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in Africa through initiatives that help local communities gain access to basic energy services while assuring sustainable resource management.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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