Date: April 13, 2015 5pm
Location: Oriental Institute Museum Breasted Hall 1155 E 58th St Chicago IL, 60637
Renewable energy expert Daniel Kammen discusses prospects for energy sustainability and equality
With 1.4 billion people lacking electricity to light their homes and provide other basic services, or to conduct business, and all of humanity (and particularly the poor) are in need of a decarbonized energy system can close the energy access gap and protect the global climate system. With particular focus on addressing the energy needs of the underserved, we present an analytical framework informed by historical trends and contemporary technological, social, and institutional conditions that clarifies the heterogeneous continuum of centralized on-grid electricity, autonomous mini- or community grids, and distributed, individual energy services. We find that the current day is a unique moment of innovation in decentralized energy networks based on super-efficient end-use technology and low-cost photovoltaics, supported by rapidly spreading information technology, particularly mobile phones. Collectively these disruptive technology systems could rapidly increase energy access, contributing to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for quality of life, while simultaneously driving action towards low-carbon, Earth-sustaining, energy systems.
In collaboration with the Areces Foundation and the AEEE, Economics for Energy organizes an academic workshop devoted to the state-of-the-art analysis and debate on topics of interest for the center with a small number of presentations provided by leading researchers in the field. The workshop will take place on February 15th (from 10.00 to 13.30) and targets researchers in the fields of energy and environmental economics. Those interested in participating in the workshop should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
19:00: Seminar by Daniel Kammen in Madrid: "Open Session: The Science and Policy of Sustainable Energy"
J.W. Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Refreshments will be served
Efforts to address the energy challenges in sub-Saharan Africa have been animated by two main debates. First, what is the role for renewable energy sources versus fossil fuels in addressing the Region’s generation shortfall? Second, what is the role for centralized versus distributed generation capacity in addressing energy poverty? The U.S. is an established partner in many African countries and has played an important role in helping to shape the Region’s energy systems. Under the new Administration, energy issues will remain central to development efforts, and these same debates will continue to influence the Region’s energy future.
Please join Oxfam and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California Berkeley for thelaunch of two reports, each focusing on one of these debates. The launch will include a discussion with the authors of the reports who will share their expert perspectives and answer questions from the audience.
Daniel M. Kammen,Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley; Founding Director of the
Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL); Science Envoy, U. S. State Department;
Nkiruka Avila, Research Scholar, RAEL, Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley
James Morrissey,Researcher, Oxfam America
Respondent: Katherine Steel, Energy Director, Power Africa
This Viewpoint examines data on international trends in energy research and
development (R&D) funding, patterns of U.S. energy technology patents and
R&D funding, and U.S. R&D intensities across selected sectors. The data
present a disturbing picture: (i) Energy technology funding levels have declined
signiÞcantly during the past two decades throughout the industrial
world; (ii) U.S. R&D spending and patents, both overall and in the energy
sector, have been highly correlated during the past two decades; and (iii) the
R&D intensity of the U.S. energy sector is extremely low. It is argued that
recent cutbacks in energy R&D are likely to reduce the capacity of the energy
sector to innovate. The trends are particularly troubling given the need for
increased international capacity to respond to emerging risks such as global
Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, will present, "An Energy Plan the Earth Can Live With," at 4 p.m. Monday, May 7, in Guyot Hall, Room 10.
Kammen is the eighth and final speaker in the Challenges in Environmental Sciences Seminar (CHESS) Series organized by PEI in cooperation with campus partners.
Kammen will look in overview at clean-energy projects at scales from off-grid solar-energy systems to mini-grids and decarbonization efforts in the United States, China, Nicaragua, Kenya and Southeast Asia. He will review a number of specific areas of energy-system innovation, including in energy storage and information management systems for mini-grid operation. He will examine how analytic and practical field-based efforts both decarbonize communities across scales and establish frameworks to meet the Paris climate accord.
Kammen was appointed the first Environment and Climate Partnership for the Americas Fellow by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in April 2010.
Kammen has served as a contributing or coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1999. Th IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
From 2010-2011, he was the World Bank Group's chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency, in which he helped enhance renewable-energy and energy-efficiency activities and expand the institution's role in promoting cleaner, more sustainable energy.
Before joining UC-Berkeley, Kammen was an assistant professor of public and international affairs at Princeton, as well as director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) and PEI associated faculty. He received his doctorate in physics from Harvard University in 1988.
For the original piece, click here.
by Dr. Rebekah Shirley is Research Director at Power for All and Visiting Research Scholar, at the Strathmore Energy Research Center (SERC) at Strathmore University and both alumni and Post-doctoral Fellow at RAEL.
At least 110 million of the 600 million people still living without access to electricity in Africa live in urban areas. Most are within a stone throw from existing power grid infrastructure.
In Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Liberia alone there are up to 95 million people living in urban areas. All in close proximity to the grid. In Kenya about 70% of off-grid homes are located within 1.2km of a power line. And estimates for “under-the-grid” populations across sub-Saharan Africa range from 61% to 78%.
Besides energy access being crucial for many basic human needs, these underserved populations represent a massive commercial opportunity for cash-strapped sub-Saharan African utilities. Electricity providers could reach tens of millions of densely packed customers without the cost of a last-mile rural grid extension.
So, why aren’t these potential consumers connected to the formal grid?
Urban communities often face many challenges in obtaining electricity access. These range from the prohibitively high cost of a connection, to the challenges of informal housing, the impact of power theft on services and socio-political marginalisation. In many cases, these obstacles are difficult to address successfully.
However, recent advances in distributed renewable energy technologies mean a more affordable, faster to deploy, cleaner alternative is at hand in Africa. One that can step in where policy and utility reforms are wanting.
Barriers to grid connections
One of the major barriers to electrification is the cost of a grid connection. A grid connection in Kenya, for instance, is estimated at USD $ 400 per household. This is nearly one-third of the average per capita income of a Kenyan.
Beyond pure cost barriers, urban communities often can’t access energy services for other socio-economic reasons. For instance, not being metered because they don’t have a formal address. Or living in in an area that is difficult to service – such as near flood plains or in informal housing settlements.
Corruption among electricity service providers, power theft by customers and the establishment of electricity cartels also complicates and limits electricity access.
Finally, the utilities themselves face many challenges in implementing reforms to get more people connected. Take the example of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, which owns and operates most of the electricity transmission and distribution system. In 2015 it introduced a subsidised connection fee of US $150. This was done through the Last Mile Connectivity Project. In one year, this installment-based payment plan led to a 30-fold increase in legal electricity connections in impoverished neighbourhoods.
But the project was marred by cost overruns and inflated and misreported new connection numbers. On top of this, newly connected households often have very low consumption levels and low-income customers were often unable to make payments, even at subsidised rates.
Without the necessary infrastructural development, experts argue that the program puts a strain on the technical, commercial and financial resources of the utility. This means that the programme may find it difficult to generate revenue, recover costs or provide the service intended to new customers.
Decentralised renewable energy technologies offer an important solutionfor “under-the-grid” electrification. They are simple, fast and agile. They have short installation times, and offer a reliable electricity service for informal settlements.
Pay-as-you-go solar systems and appliances, for example, can provide a much lower barrier to entry. Compared to the high upfront connection costs noted earlier in Kenya, a 15-watt solar home system costs on average USD $9 per month for 36 months after which point the household owns its system.
The renewable energy sector recognises this under-the-grid market. In fact, about 35% of solar lighting product sales in Kenya are made in peri-urban areas. And it’s a good bet. Evidence shows that the willingness to pay for decentralised renewables is much higher than a grid connection because they are seen as more reliable.
Policies to support decentralised technologies include: integrated energy planning that incorporates these solutions, adopting and enforcing product quality control standards and providing financial incentives – like reduced import duties for products or local loan and grant programs.
These solutions show that with the right approach, and simple innovations, Africa’s prospective urban customers can finally get access to electricity.
Ben Attia, a Research Consultant with Greentech Media, contributed to the writing of this article