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Ensuring universal access to energy is a moral imperative. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015, helped make energy access a global priority. While efforts to expand access have historically been via centralized systems, this is changing as the use of decentralized solar home systems, solar irrigation systems, and microgrids expands. It is now clear that access can be provided using a combination of such systems with grid extensions and minigrids. All of these methods are being incorporated into national policies and strategies; related progress has been made in countries including India, Bangladesh, and Kenya, resulting in a decrease in the global population without access to electricity from 1.2 billion in 2017 to 860 million in 2018 (this marked the first time in history that access spread faster than population growth). However, roughly three billion people still lack access to clean, safe cooking fuels. Dirty cooking fuels contributed to more than four million premature deaths in 2017 alone, and there is a significant urban-rural divide in terms of access to energy for cooking and electricity; nearly 87% of the people in the world without electricity live in rural areas, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Mini- and micro-grid companies have raised large amounts of private funding, and companies with business models that rely in part on expanding power access - like Facebook and Microsoft - are investing in related initiatives. In 2021, 112 countries installed at least 1MW of solar capacity, which was an 11% increase from the prior year and marked a new high, according to Bloomberg NEF’s Climatescope report. Enabling access to clean energy is imperative; global carbon emissions must peak before 2030, despite a dramatic increase in energy demand in the developing world. Some progress has been made in these regions - wind and solar accounted for more than half of all capacity additions in emerging markets for the first time ever in 2018. The expansion of access needs to be accompanied by institutional reform, however, and by more productive use of energy. Reforming utility governance is critical for enabling the long term financial stability of the industry, and drawing larger capital flows to industrial and other productive uses that can create a positive feedback loop of development and investment.

Accelerating Energy Access

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Accelerating Energy Access