As electricity companies in low- and middle-income countries move deeper into rural regions, the cost of new connections generally increases while the electricity demanded by these new customers remains lower than urban and peri-urban customers. This is a challenging dynamic for utilities looking to sustain their financial health as well as for governments tasked with engineering viable strategies for achieving universal electrification.
On February 21, 2019, Duke University’s Energy Access Project and Oxfam cohosted a meeting of approximately 60 energy practitioners and researchers to discuss the role of electricity access in spurring productive use. A motivation for this convening was a paper, produced by Oxfam, which had been confounded by the mixed findings on the impact of electrification on productive use.
Over a billion people around the world continue to lack access to basic electricity, many of them unlikely to be connected to the grid for years or decades. Pay-as-you-go solar home systems (SHS)—kits that consumers can frequently purchase on credit that include a small solar panel, battery, light bulbs and wires, phone charging equipment, and sometimes televisions and other appliances—have quickly become a viable, private sector-driven solution that empowers consumers to take control of their energy future.
Energy developers, utilities, planners, and policy makers are often not equipped with the necessary tools to understand the changing landscape of energy delivery options and customer preferences. Researchers and grid operators are often restricted by outdated, unavailable, or biased data in the field. Through innovative methods and analytical tools, such as remote sensing, satellite imagery, and machine learning, data analytics are improving our understanding of energy demand in rural areas, customer needs and expectations, the local availability of energy resources, and the realities of providing electricity to underserved communities. These proceedings from the 2018 annual conference of the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative present takeaways related to the conference's core theme of energy data analytics.
Government-sponsored development finance institutions (DFIs) have become key delivery mechanisms for poverty alleviation and the exercise of soft power. A reformed and fully equipped U.S. DFI would directly provide billions of dollars in additional energy sector investment and would catalyze many billions more in private investment. With earnest and bipartisan consensus building around U.S. development finance reform, this policy brief seeks to summarize the importance of energy sector finance in the context of development and foreign policy, to outline the energy financing gaps in emerging markets, and to analyze how the new tools and authorities proposed under the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act) legislation would equip the U.S. DFI to respond to those financing needs.