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More ambition needed in energy access targets

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World Coal,

The World Coal Association (WCA) has called for greater ambition in the UN energy access targets and highlighted the link between lack of the energy and global poverty in its response to the adoption of the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).

“Energy poverty is a dire reality,” WCA CEO, Benjamin Sporton. “Today, there are 1.3 billion people across the globe without access to electricity. This is equivalent to the entire population of China. It is a significant challenge we need to address with the adoption of these SDGs. The “no one left behind” pledge agreed on when discussing the SDGs is more urgent than ever, especially when tackling energy poverty. When 1.3 billion people are still without energy, we are not in a position to start sidelining any energy source and we need to take an ambitious approach to implementing the goals.”?

Taking its lead from the IEA’s 2011 World Energy Outlook, the SDGs use a definition for energy access of 250 kWh per capita of electricity a year in rural areas and 500 kWh for urban areas – at best, enough to power an “efficient refrigerator, a second mobile telephone per household and another appliance, such as a small television or a computer”, said the WCA. The targets also do not include energy for business, industry and public services.

“Solar and wind play a significant role in supporting ‘light bulb and cook stove’ solutions with mini and micro grids in rural areas. These are important first steps in improving access to energy but they ignore the rapid urbanisation and industrialisation taking place in Africa and Asia, where by 2050 the number of people living in cities is expected to grow by more than two billion. Larger urban populations will demand more resilient and reliable grid-based electricity. They also need much more robust economies where businesses and industries and social infrastructure rely on affordable energy,” said Sporton.

Coal is essential to global efforts to achieve universal energy access and alleviate energy poverty as it provides an affordable, readily available and reliable source of grid-based energy. Global demand for coal is expected to grow by around 33% through to 2040, according to the IEA. IEA data also shows the demand for coal in Southeast Asia is expected to grow 4.8% year-on-year through to 2035.

“Given this growth and the need for greater ambition, it is also imperative that we adopt the use of the best available technology to ensure coal is used as cleanly as possiblem” Sporton concluded. “This includes high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technologies and carbon capture and storage (CCS). HELE coal technologies provide significant immediate CO2 reductions and are a key step on the pathway to CCS. Raising the average efficiency of the global coal fleet from the current 33% to 40% would save 2 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to running the Kyoto Protocol three times over.”

“The problem we are facing is intricate and cannot be addressed on individual fronts - an effective and sustainable solution must integrate environmental imperatives with the necessary aims of energy security and economic development, including poverty alleviation. We cannot meet our energy needs, tackle energy poverty and reduce global emissions without utilising all energy options available to us and all low emission technologies, including HELE coal technologies and CCS,” Sporton added.

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