An Endless Wait with Uncertain Future: Unpacking the Energy Crisis
Pathways to Promote a Paradigm Shift in Energy Policy and Direction that can Eradicate Energy Poverty and Contribute to Gender Equality
The urgent need to address climate change, the concerns about depleting fossil fuel reserves, volatile global oil prices and continued global economic instability amongst other reasons have put energy issues at the centre of public policy debates in the past few years. While the discussions are centered around addressing energy security, the more immediate crisis that most developing countries face, namely a lack of access to energy for many people and strategies to eradicate energy poverty, is marginalized in the global public discourse on energy policies.
While the initiative by the UN Secretary General for “Sustainable Energy Access for all" by 2030 is timely and important, even this effort in its current form seems to focus more on the provision of electricity to more people rather than addressing the crucial issue of ensuring access to clean energy services beyond electricity for all. Such a single-minded focus on the commercial energy sector, which is primarily concerned with the infrastructure for electricity generation, too frequently ignores the issue of energy poverty.
The facts of energy poverty are striking: 1.3 billion people remain without access to electricity, but more than double the number, which is 40% of the world’s population, continue to rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating. As billions of the world’s poorest people struggle to meet their energy needs, over-consumption of energy in the North is driving dangerous climate change. Only 11 percent of the world’s population produce half of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Broadly, access to energy services should address the key issues of: (a) universal access (b) equity (in terms of bridging the gap between urban and rural users; availability of energy supply and access to services as well as addressing gender differences in access to and usage of energy) (c) reliability (d) affordability (pricing and subsidies) and (e) appropriate and adequate supply.
This would require addressing many flaws in the current energy policy framework and embrace new pathways that promote sustainable development and gender equity, which governments all over the world have been reluctant to adopt and implement. A bottoms up-approach to energy planning which aims to mainstreaming gender considerations into energy policies, will address the huge disconnect between the continued calls for more inclusive development and the growth in energy consumption that leaves too many poor people behind.
This collection of articles looks at the situation of energy access in South Africa, India, Thailand, China and Korea and suggests some key strategies and approaches for making energy access in these countries more inclusive and equitable.
Click here to read An Endless Wait with an Uncertain Future. Unpacking the Energy Crisis (24 pages, pdf, 676KB)