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To become prosperous and globally competitive, emerging economies require reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for industry and households
Energy is essential for economic growth and the basis of modern lifestyles, yet more than a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. For millions who may have some access, power is too unreliable or expensive to achieve real prosperity. Boosting generation and expanding access are top priorities for African governments and their partners, including through the US Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD research seeks to redefine what the world means by “modern energy” and to suggest ways to provide energy at scale for development to flourish.
Power Africa has the potential to be a game changer for US foreign assistance and for how the United States works with Sub-Saharan Africa. Congressional authorization is needed to solidify Power Africa beyond President Obama's tenure. That’s why we were thrilled to see Electrify Africa pass the House last year (297-117) with bipartisan support and see nearly identical texts introduced this year in both the House andSenate (S. 1933 and H.R. 2847). Yet it was a disappointment to see that the bill dropped the key language related to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) as introduced earlier this year.
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) dropped its long awaited Electrify Africa Act of 2015. It's good news for US development, foreign, and commercial policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas the last Congress was unable to get similar legislation over the finish line, we are hoping that this one will get the job done. There are three key reasons for why this is so important.
On Monday, Grant Shapps, the UK's Minister of State at the Department for International Development, kicked off DFID’s Energy Africa campaign at an event hosted by the Shell Foundation designed to help his team figure out how the UK government can invest its political clout and an initial £30 million ($46 million) to tackle rural energy poverty in Africa. Given solar’s limitations and these risks, how can we make sure that Energy Africa fulfils Minister Shapps’s ambitious brief?
A New York Times piece alleging a “sputtering” Power Africa in advance of President Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia took us by surprise. To those of us who have been avidly following Power Africa and the continent’s long march toward universal electrification, it’s far too early to draw such negative conclusions on the initiative’s success—much less its future impact. Instead, the early signs are actually quite positive.
In June 2013, President Obama announced a major new development initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa. The first phase of the Power Africa Initiative focuses on adding more than 10,000 megawatts of “cleaner, more efficient generation capacity” in six partner countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania). This should increase electricity access for at least 20 million households and commercial entities through on-grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions. The US government will commit up to $7 billion over five years to this effort, while helping to mobilize more than $9 billion in private investment. My colleague Todd Moss and I have warmly welcomed this new initiative while also flagging a few things to watch for and think about (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples).
We present results below from a survey of shop owners who are part of the Indian government’s Akshay Urja Solar Shops program. To our knowledge, the Akshay Urja program has not previously been evaluated. These results build on a case study featured in an upcoming CGD policy paper on clean energy access entitled, “Financing for Whom by Whom? Complexities of Advancing Energy Access in India.”
Reducing fossil fuel emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less means that a huge amount of proven fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground. A new Oxfam America Research Backgrounder by Professor Simon Caney of Oxford rightly proposes that, in considering which assets will be “stranded” (left in the ground), priority for extracting these fossil fuels should somehow be given to the poorest countries/people. But while poor countries should get priority when it comes to selling fossil fuels, when it comes to using them, they should be viewed as an energy source of last resort, after alternatives have been seriously explored.
What does the 2016 election mean for America’s future position in the world? It’s likely too early to tell at this stage of the campaign cycle. Many of the early Republican contenders — such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been relatively quiet on foreign policy issues or have focused almost exclusively on Iran, Israel, and Russia. That’s to be expected at this point. Yet, other candidates — like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — are already outlining a more comprehensive vision for advancing American interests.