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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 barely gotten started and now faces a whole new administration, with its own ideas and its own priorities. The biggest risk to Power Africa is loss of momentum. As a progress check, an early analysis of the transactions pipeline, and input to the next White House, CGD assessed Power Africa along eight dimensions. Here’s a summary.
Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie. While it is still too early to provide a complete analysis of outcomes, this report card provides a timely assessment at the close of this administration and an input to the next one. While the judgments of Power Africa are largely positive, the coming months will be crucial to keeping the effort on a positive trajectory.
The Obama Administration has left an indelible impact on domestic energy policy and global climate policy. Policies driving technological innovation—in what critics have dubbed the “war on coal”—are helping the United States transition its energy system to one that is cleaner and more efficient. While the administration touts the growth of clean energy deployment in the United States at international fora, it should not limit its engagement with foreign countries on fossil energy—especially when the climate gains could be large.
Most people accept that we will only achieve sustainable energy patterns with a substantial investment in research and development, but where the research will take place and where energy will be consumed doesn’t necessarily match up. Within 25 years, non-OECD countries will account for two-thirds of global energy consumption. To that end, the climate and energy challenge is primarily about finding ways to bring clean energy to Rio and Lagos, not to San Francisco or Berlin.
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.
Visit the report page for a full interactive version and video.
“Modern energy access” is finally on the international agenda, but the current common definition of 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per capita per year is far too low.
To reflect likely demand and historical trends would require measuring energy usage at higher levels, such as 300 and 1,500 kWh per capita per year.
This paper covers qualitative case studies from Iran, Nigeria, and India to illustrate a series of lessons for governments implementing subsidy reform policies. From these three country experiences, we find that fostering public support to implement lasting reform may depend on four measures: (1) forming a public engagement plan and a comprehensive reform policy that are then clearly communicated to the public in advance of price increases; (2) phasing in price adjustments over a period of time to ease absorption; (3) providing a targeted compensatory cash transfer to alleviate financial impacts on low- to middle-income households; and (4) capitalizing on favorable global macroeconomic conditions.
Late last week, the House of Representatives passed the Electrify Africa Act (H.R. 2548), a bill aimed at improving access to reliable, affordable energy across sub-Saharan Africa. Here’s a summary of the bill and here’s why it matters.
In the push for electricity access in the developing world, many policymakers are trying to figure out where on-grid or off-grid solutions make the most sense. My new paper asks 39,000 consumers in 12 African countries about their energy use and demand. The big takeaway: African consumers don’t view grid versus off-grid as a binary question.
We conducted phone-based surveys on energy access and demand in twelve African countries. From these findings, we draw several potential policy implications. First, both grid electricity and off-grid solutions currently are inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. Second, grid and off-grid electricity are viewed by consumers as complementary, rather than competing, solutions to meet energy demand. Third, a market exists for off-grid solutions even among connected, urban Africans.
This is one of a series of CGD blogs on tweaks to the SDG targets.
I love the proposed Sustainable Development Goal Seven. It says “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Target 7.1 is even better: “By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.” Who could be against that?