PublicationJournal Article Decentralized energy systems for clean electricity access

March 25, 2015
Publication Type:
Journal Article

Inno­v­a­tive approaches are needed to address the needs of the 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple lack­ing elec­tric­ity, while simul­ta­ne­ously tran­si­tion­ing to a decar­bonized energy sys­tem. With par­tic­u­lar focus on the energy needs of the under­served, we present an ana­lytic and con­cep­tual frame­work that clar­i­fies the het­ero­ge­neous con­tin­uum of cen­tral­ized on-​​grid elec­tric­ity, autonomous mini– or com­mu­nity grids, and dis­trib­uted, indi­vid­ual energy ser­vices. A his­tor­i­cal analy­sis shows that the present day is a unique moment in the his­tory of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion where decen­tral­ized energy net­works are rapidly spread­ing, based on super-​​efficient end-​​use appli­ances and low-​​cost pho­to­voltaics. We doc­u­ment how this evo­lu­tion is sup­ported by crit­i­cal and widely avail­able infor­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, par­tic­u­larly mobile phones and vir­tual finan­cial ser­vices. These dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy sys­tems can rapidly increase access to basic elec­tric­ity ser­vices and directly inform the emerg­ing Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals for qual­ity of life, while simul­ta­ne­ously dri­ving action towards low-​​carbon, Earth-​​sustaining, inclu­sive energy systems.

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