Energy Access: From Walk... To Talk... To Run

At the World Bank Spring Meetings this month Power for All launched a Call to Action for Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to End Energy Poverty before 2030: #endenergypovertyfaster. Directors, Kristina Skierka, Christine Eibs Singer and William Brent conducted multiple meetings to advocate for decentralized renewable energy and showcase the “need for speed” in addressing energy poverty.

The amount of new connections to modern energy per year needs to increase by nine times or more if we are to meet universal electrification goals by 2030. Power for All urged MDBs to prioritize solutions that address the urgency of the issue, pushing the bank leadership and staff to develop programs that:

  • Utilize energy access opportunity cost assessments in funding decisions;
  • Catalyze a dedicated energy access superfund to accelerate the sector; and,
  • Mobilize national decentralized renewable energy accelerators (based on successful models like IDCOL) in key countries suffering from energy poverty.

The Call to Action is stimulating serious discussion with representatives of the MDBs, as well as within civil society and the private sector.

The energy access opportunity cost assessment concept has gained particular interest. This assessment would put a value on the time it takes to deliver access.  As the median time to connection for a traditional World Bank power plant projects is 9 years—rather than the 4-6 months it takes to provide basic energy services to a household using decentralized renewables—many of the projects MDBs invest in may actually be limiting the ability to meet the agreed-to global goals to deliver universal energy access by 2030.

Introducing an energy access opportunity cost assessment would identify and include in decision making the value of what could be happening in the lives of the energy poor during the years it takes to achieve electrification—making time a levelized element in an energy investment decision.  

Other important insights on accelerating energy access were shared by Power for All partners and allies. During a panel session organized in collaboration with the UN Foundation and ACCESS, the Alliance of Civil Society Organizations for Clean Energy Access, a range of perspectives and initiatives were profiled that have the potential to radically alter the energy access timeline, including the World Bank’s Access Investment Model (AIM), the Sustainable Energy Access Forum for stakeholder collaboration and the $1 Billion Energy Access Investment Directory.

The collective voice of 24 organisations who joined the campaign by signing a letter to World Bank President Jim Kim on the filling of a key executive staff position, was also present in Washington. The Power for All team was invited to meet with Laura Tuck, VP for Sustainable Development, and Charles Feinstein, Acting Director, Energy and Extractives Global Practice, to discuss the positioning of energy access within the World Bank programs and share the sector’s concerns. This meeting allowed Power for All to identify avenues for future collaboration to elevate decentralized renewables within the World Bank Group’s engagement with its clients, national governments.

Our thanks to all of the organizations who lent their voice, experience and expertise to this Call to Action, and who joined us in showcasing initiatives that will accelerate energy access.

Please stay tuned for more to come—the African Development Bank Annual Meeting will be held between May 23-27 in Lusaka, Zambia, and Power for All will be there.

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