In a previous article we highlighted the digital competitiveness of 60 countries. At a more fundamental level, energy is required to fuel digital connectivity, and is essential for economic growth and environmental sustainability. The World Bank says it is the ‘the golden thread’ connecting economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.
However, with over 1 billion people without access to electricity, a new online open source tool will help governments and planners estimate the optimal way to provide them with energy access.
Energy poverty stymies development. Modern energy services can help improve the quality of life for millions worldwide and underpin progress in all areas of development. According to the World Bank’s Global Tracking Framework (GTF) released in April 2017, 1.06 billion people live without electricity – only a slight improvement since 2012. At this rate, the world will only reach 92% electrification by 2030. Another three billion rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating, resulting in indoor and outdoor air pollution that causes about 4.3 million deaths each year.
The new electrification pathways tool considers a variety of open, geospatial data to determine the least-cost options for bringing electricity to areas as granular as 1 square km in size. An innovative web-based application developed by the World Bank, Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, it launches publicly this month with data on three countries – Tanzania, Zambia, and Nigeria – and can be adapted for more.
“We have 1.06 billion people who lack access to electricity. We know this will change in the future and the only questions are how, how fast, and at what cost,” said Dimitris Mentis, a lead researcher with KTH’s Energy Systems Analysis division and the developer of the tool. “This tool can help countries move faster, and make more cost-effective decisions, when it comes to ensuring access to sustainable energy for all.”
Governments and other planners are already relying on the geographic information system (GIS)-based application to inform their investments. Zambia used the tool to design a plan for expanding electricity access nationally.
“Tools that offer this level of analysis historically have been proprietary and therefore costly. The Electrification Pathways application is open source, designed in such a way that others can easily adapt the code and datasets for their needs. It also pulls from open data sources to inform its analysis, helping planners to save time on resource-intensive data collection and allowing policy makers to get key answers faster,” said Rahul Kitchlu, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank. “This tool represents a breakthrough in electrification planning, leveraging GIS technology and open data to provide no-cost, open source analysis that will accelerate our progress on sustainable energy for all.”
In developing impactful electrification strategies, officials need to know where people are, what kind of electricity access they may already have, and how to best provide them with electricity access in short timeframes. This is difficult and costly analysis in countries where utilities providers do not have a good picture of their electricity network, and where population and other data are hard to come by.
The new tool’s powerful data analytics relies on the best available datasets, including those from the World Bank, on population density, distance from existing and planned transmission infrastructure, proximity to road network, night-time light, as well as energy resources availability, among others. For each 1 km square location, seven electrification technologies are compared, such as grid, renewable and hybrid minigrids, and individual systems.
Based on the geographic data and the level and quality of electricity supply sought, the lowest-cost system is selected. Results are available for each 1-by-1 km settlement, while summaries including universal electrification costs are provided in national, state and district level. Notably, the Electrification Pathways’ algorithm incorporates ESMAP’s Multi-tier Framework, an approach to defining, monitoring, and evaluating energy access.
This project was made possible thanks to financial contribution from ESMAP. The tool is now available at ENERGYDATA.INFO, a new open data and analytics resource for governments, investors, companies, development organizations, and others working to accelerate affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. With more than 280 datasets and 14 partner organizations so far, the growing online platform is a place to both share and make use of energy-relevant data and analytics for greater impact.
[Main image credit: Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, ESMAP]