Energy Program and the Global Energy Assessment

The Global Energy Assessment (GEA) examines the major global challenges and their linkages to energy. The assessment was published in the summer of 2012, and formally launched during a special side-event at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development .

GEA globe

GEA globe

The GEA is a wide-ranging study, similar in scope to the IPCC Assessment Reports on climate change and the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

It looks at many aspects of energy, including sources, technologies for supply and end-use efficiency, environmental and health impacts, energy security and energy access for the poor.

The GEA addresses the following major challenges:

  • Securing affordable, secure, sustainable energy supplies and services for economic growth;
  • Achieving equity and ensuring access for all to modern forms of energy;
  • Mitigating climate change;
  • Significantly reducing the environmental and health impacts of energy production, transport, processing, and end use;
  • Finding a balanced approach to security and peace issues, including concerns about nuclear proliferation; and
  • Identifying the ancillary risks and multiple benefits of energy systems.

Energy Program scientists led two chapters in the GEA study. These include

  1. Chapter 17 on "Transformational energy pathways toward sustainable development," lead by which is based on transformational scenarios that assess the technological feasibility and economic implications of meeting a range of sustainability objectives simultaneously
  2. Chapter 19 of the Global Energy Assessment, "Energy access in developing countries" which reviews global historical progress on access to electricity and clean cooking and current regional energy access for Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Major findings from ENE scientists indicates that the energy transformation is technically possible as long as there is a rapid integration of global concerns, such as climate change, into local and national policy priorities. Key, in this respect, is the integration of objectives that may lead to substantial economic co-benefits.

For instance, Chapter 17 finds that society’s near-term pollution/health objectives are greatly furthered by climate mitigation, and similarly, that stringent climate policy can help to further the energy security goals of countries and regions. The combined costs of climate mitigation, energy security, and air pollution control come at a significantly reduced total energy bill if the multiple economic benefits of each are properly accounted for. The Energy Multi-Criteria Analysis interactive tool allows GEA readers to explore the tradeoffs and synergies between the aforementioned goals for themselves.

The assessment for Chapter 19 involved the collection and development of a large database on energy access within nations. A detailed modeling framework was established to assess how the household energy transition can be accelerated through the use of alternative policy levers. The scenarios explore the costs and the impacts of such policies.

Although results indicate that achieving almost universal access by 2030 would cost up to US$38 billion per year, it would result in between 0.77 and 1.68 million fewer premature deaths every year till 2030 or savings of over 20 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) annually. Substantial additional benefits include time savings for women and children and improved livelihood opportunities. The policies needed to achieve this include fuel subsidies on cleaner energy carriers and grants or microfinance to improve access to cheap credit for households so that they can buy end-use equipment and also cover the capital costs of a switch to cleaner fuels. The Energy Access interactive tool allows GEA readers to explore the tradeoffs and synergies between these policies for themselves.

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Last edited: 21 March 2014

Global Energy Assessment

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Nebojsa Nakicenovic

Emeritus Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Luis Gomez Echeverri

Emeritus Research Scholar Advancing Systems Analysis Program

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