Friday, July 16, 2010

Where is Energy Poverty's REN21?

There is quite a bit of work going into monitoring and evaluation in developing countries today. This is mainly due to the international donor’s need to document that their projects either work or do not work. However, the effort to track international energy demand--as opposed to energy production--has lagged behind these efforts.
Rural Electrification, Peru:  Photo Laura Berman

For energy at least, there are several sources for international energy statistics such as rural electrification, renewable energy, and other forms of energy. But I can attest from doing two recent blogs on improved biomass stoves and rural electrification, it is not easy to gain access to these figures. The problems are that some classifications of statistics are not updated frequently, you have to pay a premium price to obtain them, or they are mostly based on production and not demand statistics.

That is why I want to congratulate the team at REN21 for publishing a yearly report on the status of renewable energy, with a recently released report for 2010. I got an inside glimpse of this work this year as the author of the chapter on rural renewable energy. So I can tell you the process of assembling all this information every year is not easy. Here is a quote from Eric Martinot who is one of the lead coauthors (along with Janet Sawin) of the report.

“I am pleased to announce publication of the REN21 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report. The report is a unique global synthesis of markets, investment, industry, policy, and rural energy, produced annually since 2005. This year the report is the best ever!This year's edition highlights many trends and milestones. One thing that stands out is how renewables are achieving parity with fossil fuels in several respects, including total investment in new power capacity and total amount of capacity added. And most growth rates in 2009 kept to 5-year and even decade-long averages. …You can download the full report from the REN21 website (including press release and other materials).”

The question that I have is why is there not an equivalent effort to map energy access and energy poverty? Even though there are periodic reports and International Energy Agency statistics, there is no yearly status report for new statistics, programs, or accomplishments for energy access and energy poverty. Those of us writing on these issues tend to parrot the same numbers over and over again because such figures are updated only periodically. Also, new programs that are started or maturing are not reviewed in any systematic way so except for sporadic donor efforts there is little “learning from experience.” We have seen the same mistakes made over and over again in some energy projects.

Anyway I thought about what an outline what a status report on energy access or energy poverty would look like? Perhaps it would be similar to the table of contents in the recently released report from WHO and the UNDP. For discussion, I have included a significantly modified version of that outline below.
Status Report on Energy Access and Poverty in Developing Countries
Global Overview
Energy access situation in LDCs
  • Grid electricity
  • Offgrid electricity
  • Renewable household energy
Fuels and improved stoves used for cooking in developing countries
  • Fuels used for cooking
  • Improved cooking stoves
  • Access to other modern fuels for cooking such as LPG and kerosene

 Update benefits of improving household energy use including health
  • Benefits for household energy
  • Research on health problems linked to solid fuel use
  • Research on global warming and household energy
Financing progress and energy access targets
Update on New programs and policies
What do you think?  Is this worthwhile, too expensive, too complicated, too much work or too repetitive with other existing efforts such as HEDON and Energia (on Gender and Energy). Do any issues need to be deleted or added?  Is it a long overdue or not worth the effort?   Any additional thoughts welcomed.

Take the poll.  Comment below.


Doug said...

Wow 100% and counting. This is a blog first.

Unknown said...

Hi Doug

I've been talking about something like this for quite a while, so I'm definitely a fan of the idea. My preference would be to make it an online dynamic energy poverty mapping system, and the HEDON website would be the perfect place to do that.

The new HEDON website will have mapping integrated, so we'd just need a mechanism to get regular reliable reports from the field, and funding to make it work. To date we haven't been able to find any funder who would like to take this idea forward - if you have any ideas, do let us know.

Thanks for the great blog.