November 1, 2016 Read More →

A New Study Notes the Gap Between Coal and the Millions of People With No Grid Access

Crinda Manglik for the Huffington Post:

new position paper released last week by 12 organizations — including the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, the Overseas Development Institute, and Oxfam International — rips apart the coal industry’s claim that coal is needed to fight extreme poverty and deliver energy access to billions of people. For years, the coal industry has been claiming that coal is critical for addressing energy poverty in the developing world. In reality, this sort of approach has been little more than a thinly veiled attempt to secure new markets, pursued only because the coal industry is failing so spectacularly in developed countries such as the United States. Vox’s David Roberts recently pointed out several instances of the coal industry framing itself as a solution to international energy poverty, including claims by Peabody Energy, the World Coal Association, and Arch Coal.

As the authors of the new paper argue, however, coal is ill-suited to meet energy access needs in developing countries. Even when people live close to the grid, they may remain unconnected due to factors such as high connection costs. But the majority of the world’s unelectrified — 84 percent — live in rural areas where the grid is even more out of reach. Meanwhile, decentralized and mini-grid solutions offer a fast and cost-effective alternative to delivering basic electricity.

Coal proponents have also argued that coal has been key in reducing extreme poverty, particularly in China. However, the paper’s authors caution that these claims have been vastly overstated. In fact, it turns out poverty reduction in China between 1981 to 2004 mostly happened prior to China’s industrialization and large-scale expansion in coal power, through approaches including economic diversification. The graph below shows how coal was not strongly correlated with China’s reduction in extreme poverty.

Notably, various types of wind and solar electricity generation are cost-competitive with other energy sources and are also abundant, flexible, increasingly reliable, and create more jobs than coal.

Full item w/chart: Anti-Poverty Organizations Say More Coal Will Cause More Poverty

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