23 October 2017

Renewables will allow access to electricity to more people than coal

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its new “Energy Access Outlook: From Poverty to Prosperity” report stating that the role of coal in the pathway to universal electricity access is declining “dramatically” in comparison to the past.

According to the report, coal has contributed to nearly 50 percent of the progress from 2000 to date, but its role is projected to decline significantly.

One of the main reasons is the fact that not only renewables are becoming more affordable, but mainly due to the flexibility that they allow.

As IEA stresses, the people who are the hardest to reach live in remote, rural areas where off-grid solutions are more suitable and offer access to electricity at a lower cost.

The role of renewable energy, especially decentralised off-grid technologies, has been gaining increased momentum as between 2000-2012 they provided 28 percent of new access to electricity, with the figure rising to 34 percent between 2012 and 2016.

The number of people without access to electricity is expected to decline more than 30 percent by 2030, with 60 percent of this increase attributed to renewable energy.

The number of people without access to electricity has decreased by 1.7 billion to 1.1 billion in 2016, with most of this progress having taken place in India, followed by Southeast Asia and then the rest of developing countries in Asia in general.

Unfortunately, in Sub-Saharan Africa the number of people without electricity has increased in the last 16 years, reaching 600 million people contrary to approximately 500 million people in 2000.

Despite that, Sub-Saharan has seen the most rapid recent improvement in providing electricity access, rising from 9 million new connections per year during 2000-2012, to 26 million per year during 2012-2016.

Since 2012, 70 percent of this acceleration is due to renewable energy sources, whereas, according to IEA, coal hasn’t supplied any new connections in this period.

Regarding future projections, the number of people without access to electricity will decrease to 700 million by 2030.

As stated in its central scenario, most of these people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, as Asia and India will have reached 100 percent accessibility.

The share of new electricity access supplied by renewables will reach 60 percent.

Coal’s role will “decline dramatically”, and is projected to account for 16 percent of people gaining electricity for the first time in the next 14 years, comparing to 45 percent between 2000-2016. 

                                                   Source IEA


If the Sustainable Development Goal of providing universal energy access for all by 2030 is to be met, then 90 percent of the additional electricity connections will come from renewables.

The report has calculated that the cost of universal electricity access by 2030 will be $391 billion.

You can access the full new “Energy Access Outlook: From Poverty to Prosperity” report here. 

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