Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Book launch "The Challenge of Rural Electrification: Strategies for Developing Countries”

Featured Speakers: Jamal Saguir, S. Vijay Iyer, Elizabeth Cecelski

The authors of the book explained how the issue of providing energy to poor areas is possible. There is a wide rage of options in terms of approaches, but it is certainly not an easy task. They highlighted the success of countries such as Thailand and Costa Rica and the way in which they achieved rural electrification.

There are 1.6 billion people in the world that do not have access to electricity. Additionally, 2.6 billion depend on biomass fuels for heating and cooking and 1.4 billion will still be lacking electricity in 2030. These were the facts given by Douglas Barnes, one of the authors of the book. He also explained the relationship between access to energy and economic development. It was found that access to affordable and reliable energy services decreases poverty, increases productivity and enhances competitiveness. As an example, Barnes highlighted the case of Peru and Nicaragua; both countries achieved higher literacy by providing energy access to the rural areas. Similarly, providing electricity for clinics and government offices highly influences the outcomes, especially on the health sector.

However, achieving rural electrification involves many challenges. Providing energy service to remote areas is difficult and costly. Poor people in these areas cannot afford it and corporations do not have any incentive to provide it, especially if they will only be serving a few people. The suggestion to this challenge was to multiply the way in which electricity can be provided. For instance, Thailand allowed the community to pay for thirty percent of the upfront capital cost and the government contributing the rest. Another option is to copy the example of some Latin American countries which have used social funds to provide the population with efficient energy service, also, using subsidies to help in achieving this goal.

Lastly, Elizabeth Cecelski talked about Tunisia, a country in North Africa which has a successful story in implementing a good rural electrification system. This country has three pillars of rural development: basic education, which takes thirty percent of the national budget; health, including increased interest in family planning and rural electrification, which supports the other pillars. One of the measures taken by Tunisia in lowering the cost of electricity is to use low cost poles that can be produced locally. This and other similar actions saved thirty to forty percent of the actual cost. The event was concluded by saying that by using the case of Tunisia, electricity service for the rural population in Africa is, ultimately achievable.

Sponsor: The World Bank

Location: World Bank

Date: October 9th

Time: 12:00 pm-2:00 pm

Approximate Number of Attendees: 50

Intern Attending: Yaheiry Galan

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