Other nations have succeeded in mass electrification only through large-scale, top-down efforts by central governments, most notably the mass rural effort in the 1930s in the United States and more recently in China. But development officials say this model is not suitable for Africa because central governments there lack the cash to make it happen.
"It's fair to say there's been a pendulum kind of swinging back and forth, as is often the case, when it comes to the views of how to scale up infrastructure investment, not least in the areas of energy," Kjørven said. "We have been through a pretty long period in the 1990s and way into this decade where this was widely seen as something that the private sector should do, or through partnerships between the public and the private sector."
Birol said he and others are having trouble getting the message across, encountering some criticism that having 1.5 billion without electricity is a good thing as this prevents the further release of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere.
"We have calculated that if all these people would have electricity access -- that is, universal electricity access throughout the world -- global CO2 emissions will increase only 0.9 percent, which is peanuts," Birol said.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500