8 ways to change the global energy landscape

OpenAccess Energy Summit recommendations pave the way to end energy poverty

Electricity offers more than just simple energy transfer. For remote and isolated communities, better access to electricity can power a better future — improving health care, education and the day-to-day lives of the more than one billion people living in energy-poor communities.

Creating a viable plan for change was the focus on the OpenAccess Energy Summit, hosted by the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) — a global change partnership between the University of Waterloo and Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Improving the human condition is core to Waterloo’s mission, says Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo.

Feridun Hamdullahpur speaking at the WGSI event

Photo credit: Michael Bennett

As President Hamdullahpur said in opening the summit, “There is a growing awareness, here in Canada and in many places around the world, that scientific, economic, and technological progress is spreading unevenly — sometimes even causing inequity.”

He continued, “We are here over the next days to envision and help make real a more equitable global society; where the building blocks of successful communities and families are firmly in place everywhere.

“In many ways, this starts with energy.”

The summit brought together 40 experts from around the globe for four intensive days of workshops and planning. The multinational, multidisciplinary and multigenerational group included researchers, representatives of energy-isolated communities and Canada’s first nations, policy makers, practitioners and financiers. Their challenge was to find sustainable and feasible solutions to a global imbalance in electricity access — an imbalance that will only increase under current conditions.

On Wednesday, WGSI released their recommendations — eight implementable strategies to shift the massive global imbalance in energy access, focused on increasing access to energy education, research and innovation, and on building stronger global alliances needed to support change.

Eight ways to shift the global energy imbalance

1: Create a supportive financial environment

Creating financial models and partnerships that allow risks taken by entrepreneurs and innovators operating in the electricity access space to be shared by governments, banks, community co-operatives, end-users and philanthropic organizations.

2: Allow a diversity of business models the opportunity to flourish

Creating the conditions — in terms of time horizons, financial risk conditions, regulatory environment stability and availability of capital investment — where a myriad of new business models have a chance to evolve and adapt.

3: Establish energy equity

Encourage national governments and energy regulators to establish a set of guidelines and principles that allow them to ensure equity of access within a market-based system and establish a coherent regulatory environment that allows innovative off-grid solutions to reach their full potential.

4: Ensure energy accountability

Create a body of experts, practitioners and decision-makers — possibly under the umbrella of an existing organization — to facilitate new approaches and actions and ensure that investments in energy infrastructure better meet the needs of energy-poor communities

5: Network energy-poor communities

Create a network linking energy poor communities locally, nationally and internationally, enhancing their connections to ideas, programs, research and technologies, and leveraging greater financial, regulatory and technology resources.

6: Create energy solutions with optimal value and impact

Bring together community development practitioners across the energy landscape, to share case studies of best practices for product and community-needs assessments that reflect end-user value. Expand and recast previous energy access campaigns to give energy-poor communities a greater voice in determining the energy services and products that best meet their needs.

7: Embed energy research in energy-poor communities

Radically overhaul technology research, scaling opportunities for academic and practical exchanges that allow for extended periods of co-operation on product and system development in consultation and collaboration with end-user communities, while respecting the autonomy of those communities.

8: Make energy education available and appropriate

Develop a common framing of energy education principles for students, decision-makers and the general public that apply globally. Establish energy incubators and entrepreneurial ecosystems close to the energy-poor areas that they intend to transform. Create well-structured education and skill-building resources to build self-generated, self-sustaining community or citizen-owned modern energy services.

The mandate of WGSI is both to promote dialogue around complex global issues and to catalyze change by advancing ideas, opportunities and strategies. Over the coming months, the recommendations of the OpenAccess Energy Communique will be further developed, with a Blueprint document set to be unveiled late in 2016.  

Download the OpenAccess Energy Communique (PDF)

Feature image credit: rclassenlayouts/Thinkstock