The Affordable Energy for Humanity Global Change Initiative is an international collaboration between the world's leading scientists, technology developers and practitioners on the topic of universal energy access.
Our vision is to deliver the next generation technologies, innovations and practical solutions that will drive the costs of energy services to a level low enough for a revolution in energy access without the need for tax incentives and subsidies.
Prof. Dr. Jatin Nathwani & Prof. Dr. Joachim Knebel
Multiplying the impact of clean energy for development
Provision of the energy needed to do useful work and provide critical public services can contribute to the eradication of poverty and improvements in quality of life for those living at the margins of society.
Access to modern, reliable clean and affordable energy - enshrined as Sustainable Development Goal 7 - is a critical enabler sustainable development broadly, and a necessary prerequisite in achieving many other SDGs.
In order for this promise to be fulfilled, energy must be provided in such a way as to systematically support the lives and livelihoods of those who would suffer without it.
Delivering practical solutions
We offer a working definition of ‘affordable energy’, namely, the cost of basic energy services must be less than 10% of disposable income for an individual or a household. For a person living on $2 per day, the energy cost must not exceed 20 cents/day.
This highly challenging target not only has clarity of purpose, it is a metric against which progress can be measured. Achieving this goal rests on critical advances in the scientific and technological capacity to deliver innovations on a scale large enough to render energy poverty a phenomenon of the past.
The initiative draws on insights from a broad, multi-disciplinary knowledge base in order to comprehensively address the problem of energy access. The focus is on cutting edge scientific research through international collaboration, yielding breakthrough innovations for energy access. Research in the social and behavioral sciences is informed by experience in the field and applied to guide technology development efforts.
Four research domain areas have been identified, around which research collaboration is organized.
Confronting the challenge of universal energy access
A major failing of the existing global energy system is its indifference to the needs of a third of humanity. It is vast in scope, delivering upwards of 550 EJ of primary energy annually through an immense interconnected system of pipelines, power plants and transmission and yet leaves millions in the dark to scour the forests for firewood. The problem is one of unequal distribution and affordability.
The link between energy, water, food and health is as strong as it is pervasive, and unequal access to energy remains one of the largest handicaps to meeting human development goals. If the energy poor are to be drawn into the mainstream of global economic well-being, then access to low cost energy is a fundamental requirement.
The global energy system must also evolve through the expansion of new low-carbon sources that do not put the climate at risk. What remains largely unacknowledged is the scope and scale of change required to unlock the barriers to achieving a low carbon energy system in concert with affordable energy access on a global scale.
A low-carbon electricity ecosystem (Adapted from Waterloo Global Science Initiative, 2012)
To unleash the economic productivity of those with very low incomes, provision of even a basic level of energy services can be the tipping point for a range of positive economic, social and cultural developments. Recognizing the concepts of value and cost (at varying levels of consumption) as well as the efficiencies of different technologies to deliver quantities at different price points will in turn allow innovation to flourish in this space. We believe that the ‘energy poor’ of the world comprise a latent market opportunity but the vision rests on innovations that can deliver the solutions at the right cost with a clear understanding of how the cost of energy service is linked to the value it delivers in a specific context.
Understanding the value and cost of energy (Waterloo Global Science Initiative, 2012)