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Sustainable Energy for All

Recently, the World Bank completed its first global energy-use and energy projection survey, entitled The Global Tracking Framework: Sustainable Energy for All. Energy experts from fifteen international agencies evaluated the status of energy access, efficiency, consumption and sustainability in over 170 countries. The Report focused on the twenty-plus nations that account for 80% of global energy consumption; the twenty developing “high-impact” countries that require intensive intervention to assist them on the path to energy access and sustainability using renewables; and on the developing nations that require basic infrastructure for access to electricity.

Three global objectives were declared at that time: to ensure universal access to modern energy sources; to double the current rate of energy efficiency; and to double the rate of renewable energy in the global mix, all to be accomplished by the distant year of 2030. The I.A.E. (International Energy Agency), the U.N. and the World Bank consider solar, geothermal, hydro, bioenergy, ocean/tidal, wind and waste-recycled derivative energy as renewable sources of energy

The Report states that in the past twenty years, over 1.7 billion people have gained initial access to electricity; over 1.6 billion globally have secured access to less-polluting sources of solid fuels, and due to energy conservation measures and new sources of energy, the stabilization or decrease of energy prices. Nevertheless, the Report also soberly points out that due to overall global population growth and rapid economic expansion in previously under-developed areas such as Brazil, China and India, relative global improvements in energy access and use of renewables were minimal.
As a regional solar energy and energy efficiency services provider, Lionshead Energy, is particularly interested in the Report’s findings relative to renewable and solar energy projections, and energy efficiency / conservation policy. Although studies in the Report indicated that about 77% of the global population now has access to electricity, only about 56% have access to non-solid, less polluting fuels, with the vast majority of these being in highly developed nations. According to the Report, Renewable Energies now account for 25.7% contribution toward overall global electricity, heating and transport, and toward 18% of total “final” electrical energy generation, with solar delivering 0.2% of that total. However, since 1990, solar energy has consistently grown by over 200% each decade, and consistently delivers more overall energy than either geothermal, biogas or waste-recycling renewable technologies.

In the United States, according to the Report, total Renewable Energy use growth rate since 1990 has been about 5.6% annually, today supplying about 7.6% of our electricity, heating and transport in 2010, with solar 0.1% of that total. The upside to these numbers is the growing acceptance of solar PV as a viable, competitive source of electricity for homes and commercial facilities, the realization that conservation and energy efficiency measures have made a great difference domestically, and that solar prices continue to head downward, while systems continue to become even more efficient. Additionally, renewable energy, especially solar, continues to be recognized as a financial winner with investors and facility managers, a job creator for state and local governments, and a great source of clean, quiet energy at home and in the workplace. As we at Lionshead Energy have seen, the “educational” phase for solar energy has ended, and the implementation stage for our vision of right-priced, reliable renewables and energy efficiency has begun.

Overall, our take on the World Bank’s exhaustive study is positive. On the economic side, we know that before any projections or predictions can be made, one needs a baseline, and this Report offers hard, objective baseline data on many elements of global energy consumption, access and generation. The energy goals set for 2030 seem realistic, but too far away to create any immediate urgency, as is needed. It’s clear that the world has seen improved numerical access to universal electricity, but every traveler knows that electricity is an intermittent luxury to many, although technically the locals may count as “having access”. Most positive is my realization that the thrust toward renewables, the implementation of energy conservation measures, the promotion of energy education, and the creation of national policies everywhere incentivizing sustainable energy is a global phenomenon, not just a new-age dream.

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