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Towards universal electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa

Report | 21-05-2017

With the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has committed to achieving universal electricity access by 2030. This study analyses the technology and investment requirements for achieving this target in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, it discusses the role of climate change mitigation policy, as well as key issues for driving the transition.

Decentralised electrification systems are key

Achieving the target of universal electricity access requires significant expansion of generation capacity and transmission and distribution networks. Grid-based electrification is only attractive for densely populated areas with an expected high demand for electricity, and/or for locations within reasonable distance from the existing grid. For the many households in poor and sparsely populated rural areas far from the existing grid, mini-grids and stand-alone systems play a vital role in the provision of electricity.

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In the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP2), middle-of-the-road, scenario, 500 million people are projected to not have access to electricity in 2030, 90% of whom live in rural areas. The preferred electrification system for connecting those people depends highly on their level of electricity consumption.

Not in conflict with the 2 °C climate target

Universal electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa will have only a small impact on global CO2 emissions, compared to a situation in which this target is not achieved. Furthermore, global coordinated climate policy and international climate finance can stimulate Sub-Saharan African countries to follow a renewable energy pathway when pursuing universal electricity access.

A clear role for Dutch development cooperation

With its target to provide access to renewable energy for 50 million people by 2030, the Dutch Government significantly contributes to achieving the SDG target on electricity access. Dutch development cooperation policies could be targeted at capacity building, financing and training, supporting market development for off-grid systems, targeting international climate finance to decentralised electricity projects, and helping to strengthen the national enabling environment to incentivise decentralised energy access.

Author(s)Paul L. Lucas, Anteneh G. Dagnachew and Andries F. Hof
Report no.1952
Publication date22-05-2017