The influential International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that India is making bigger strides on energy access than any other country.
The IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook, published this week, is regarded as the most authoritative source of global energy statistics and predictions.
This year’s edition found that India has provided half a billion people with electricity since the year 2000, more than any other country. Not only that, it predicts that India will have achieved access for all by the early 2020s.
So what has India been doing so well?
First, it’s been rolling out grid power to communities without electricity, rather than rely on off-grid solutions like rooftop solar panels. Indian ministers have been very clear that a power system which only provides electricity during the hours between dawn and dusk is not good enough for their citizens and so have prioritised reliable grid power.
Second, India has made full use of its large domestic coal resources, which the IEA says remains the fuel of choice in developing countries looking to satisfy fast-growing energy demand.
According to the IEA , coal is popular in countries like India because it is “inexpensive, scalable, relatively secure, easily storable and, in the case of domestic coal, brings employment benefits for local workers.” A similar dynamic has played out in coal-rich Indonesia, which has also made huge recent progress on energy access.
The reality is that developing countries with coal are going to use it to bring power to their people. Where the developed world can help is in backing new technologies which can help them do it cleanly. This is the only way to meet our obligations to both future generations and the global poor.