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Decentralised renewable energy is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals

12 Apr 2018

Hundreds of millions of people will still be without electricity in 2030, unless governments and development banks, like the World Bank, shift more investments from fossil fuels to off-grid renewable energy like solar, a new report warns.

The report, from the international development charity Tearfund, based on research by the Overseas Development Institute, warns that continued high investment in grid electricity, powered by fossil fuels, in developing nations, means the world will miss the UN Global Goal of universal access to affordable and clean energy by 2030 and opportunities for meeting other global goals.

Pioneering Power: Transforming lives through off-grid renewable electricity in Africa and Asia is published ahead of the Spring meetings of the World Bank. It calls for "three-quarters of spending on energy access to go to off-grid renewables like solar."

"Faster progress is needed," the report stresses. "Under a business as usual scenario, almost 700 million people will still be without access to electricity in 2030, mostly in sub- Saharan Africa. That is equivalent to double the population of the UK and USA combined.

"Off-grid renewable electricity, especially solar, provides the most viable way to ensure that everyone has access to electricity in rural areas."

The report highlights case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal, Nigeria, Myanmar and Tanzania, where off-grid renewables are being used to bring energy to people in remote areas, who would have otherwise waited years for access to the grid.

Other benefits from using off-grid renewables, like those to health, are also outlined in the report. In Nigeria almost a third of hospital burn patients have been injured by kerosene lamps, while their toxic fumes contribute to indoor air pollution, which leads to conditions such as respiratory illnesses, strokes, cancer, kidney damage and blood clots. Research shows 60 percent of people who switched to solar found an improvement in their health.

Grace Khatib, 66, an entrepreneur from Tanzania said: "Before I bought a solar panel I used to use a kerosene lamp. I used to have a lot of health problems, the smoke affected my chest and I felt chest pains. My eyes didn't work properly, even the atmosphere was not good."

Education and literacy rates would also be boosted. For example in a part of Tanzania, after providing solar electricity, primary and secondary school completion rates increased from less than 50% to nearly 100% with access to modern lighting increasing a child's study time in the evening.

Tearfund's Head of Advocacy Paul Cook said: "People need electricity to get out of poverty. Solar energy gives people new options and improves their health. We need to change the current path and see a shift from fossil fuels to ensure that everyone living beyond the grid has power.

"For vulnerable remote communities to have clean, affordable and safe electricity, we need to see governments and the World Bank scale up spending on energy access, with three-quarters going to off-grid renewables like solar."

ODI researcher, Leah Worrall said: "The evidence for the impact of off-grid solar suggests if universal access to electricity is not achieved, there will be implications for achieving affordable and clean energy for all, as well as the other Sustainable Development Goals."

Notes to Editors:

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