Sustainable energy for developing countries

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


S . A . P . I . E N . S, Volume 2, Number 1, p.1–16 (2009)



developing, economies, electricity, emerging, Energy, low-carbon, Policies, services, sustainable development


Overall, at least 1.6 billion people?one-fourth of the world?s population?currently live without electricity and this number has hardly changed in absolute terms since 1970. And yet, the electricity required for people to read at night, pump a minimal amount of drinking water and listen to radio broadcasts would amount to less than 1 percent of overall global energy demand. Developing and emerging economies face thus a two-fold energy challenge in the 21st century: Meeting the needs of billions of people who still lack access to basic, modern energy services while simultaneously participating in a global transition to clean, low-carbon energy systems. And historic rates of progress toward increased efficiency, de-carbonization, greater fuel diversity and lower pollutant emissions need to be greatly accelerated in order to do so. To a significant extent, fortunately, the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions may be aligned with the pursuit of other energy-related objectives, such as developing indigenous renewable resources and reducing local forms of pollution. In the near term, however, there will be tensions. Sustainable energy policies are more likely to succeed if they also contribute toward other societal and economic development objectives. Governments should look across policies to maximize positive synergies where they exist and avoid creating cost-cutting incentives.