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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Post-2015 Consensus: Energy Viewpoint, Innovation Africa

Viewpoint Paper

While Ishofsky (Innovation: Africa) commends the authors of the assessment paper for their exploration of social, environmental and financial issues relating to universal energy access, she also suggests an alternative conclusion. While Galiana and Sopinka’s analysis demonstrates great potential growth in GDP through universal energy, they conclude that the costs are too high and benefits marginal. Ishofsky counters this with data from the field, suggesting the reverse is true. 

Ishofsky argues the case for universal energy access is much stronger when social benefits are taken into account. Half of developing world students go to schools without electricity, and 255 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone are served by medical clinics without electricity. Providing electricity to the 1.3 billion people without it would lead to benefits including pumped clean water, light for evening study and medical care, proper storage for medicines and vaccines, clean indoor cooking, connectivity access, and economic opportunities. But this doesn’t need to come with the cost of grid expansion: standalone solar systems, microgrids, solar home solutions and more, provide financially viable opportunities to help reach the goal of universal energy access. Experience with solar installations to provide off-grid power shows that many of these benefits can be provided for less than $5 per person. The social impact for the one in six of us that still lack electricity is far from marginal.  Furthermore, there are practitioners in the field ready, willing, and able to implement such solutions. Ishofsky argues that  the global community should be able to capitalise on such work, and provide universal access to clean energy.