Not long ago, I wrote a piece for MNN about how charities, private companies and micro-entrepreneurs were collaborating to eradicate kerosene lamps from Africa before the end of the decade with the use of solar lanterns.
Given the awful health and socioeconomic impacts of kerosene, not to mention the significant carbon pollution, this is an exciting and ambitious goal in and of itself. But what if we could do more?
What if we could actually achieve global, universal energy access through distributed renewables? And what if we could do so faster, at less cost, than the $700 billion that the IEA says it will take to achieve universal energy access by 2035?
That's the idea behind a new campaign, launching today, called Power For All, which claims that access to distributed, democratized and renewable energy is not just feasible, but can be delivered twice as fast, and at 10% of the cost, of the top-down, centralized model. Perhaps even more importantly, all this can be achieved using market-based approaches, allowing the world's 1.2 billion citizens who currently lack access to reliable electricity to invest in, influence and have ownership of their own energy future.
Here's how Andrew Webb, CEO of Solar Aid (one of the charities supporting the campaign), describes the opportunity:
"The Power for All campaign is a powerful way to profile the extraordinary potential of distributed renewables. Off-grid energy solutions are not only cost effective but as SolarAid's work shows, they can be rapidly deployed. Already solar lights across Africa will save families an estimated $500 million in 2015. With greater support for the sector, that figure could skyrocket. People across the continent are demanding the chance for cleaner energy, better health and greater opportunity. We do not have to wait. Indeed, we must not."
Among its activities, Power for All will urge world leaders to institute policies in support of renewable, decentralized solutions. It will also be encouraging investors, multilateral agencies and banks to mobilize capital specifically for decentralized, renewable solutions and push development agencies, foundations and nongovernmental organizations to direct grants toward sustainable market-building initiatives that promote decentralized energy solutions to universal energy access.