Universally Accessible Energy Will Be Worth The CostS

Millions of people live without access to electricity or modern fuel for cooking and heating, but the problem can seem too daunting to tackle. How much would it cost to bring rural communities or countries with limited infrastructure onto the grid?

According to new research it would cost at least $65 billion a year from now until 2030, which is sort of a lot, but not really given that this amount totals only three to four percent of international energy investments right now. The study factors in the cost of implementing "green" or clean-combusting cooking fuels, but notes that the environmental impact of this expansion would be negligible even if everyone adopted fossil fuels for cooking.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, includes costs like power generation, grid expansion and infrastructure maintenance, but also factors in policy costs like subsidies on new stoves. More than 40 percent of the world population could benefit from clean burning stoves, and the researchers estimate that improved stoves would reduce accidental deaths by between 0.6 and 1.8 million, while improving quality of life for millions more. Shonali Pachauri, the lead author on the paper from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said:

Our analysis indicates that without new policies and efforts, universal access to modern energy will not be achieved by 2030. Actually, for cooking, the situation may even worsen . . . [But] the scale of investment required is small from a global perspective.

If China adds as much power to its electric grids every year as the developing world, broadly defined, would require in total for basic needs (21 to 28 gigawatts), than this is definitely something that should be happening. [PhysOrg]

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