EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Global pathways to achieve universal electricity access in 2030

Victhalia Zapata1, Anteneh Dagnachew2, Oreane Edelenbosch1, and Detlef van Vuuren1,2
Victhalia Zapata et al.
  • 1Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague, The Netherlands

There are 770 million people without access to electricity globally, and 77% live in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA). If the current electrification trends continue, IEA projections indicate that still 670 million people will lack electricity access by 2030, meaning that the SDG7.1 goal of achieving universal electricity access will not be achieved with current policies. Most of the research on optimal solutions for achieving SDG7.1 is focused on SSA. However, a nonnegligible number of people still lack access in other regions; therefore, a global perspective is important. This work aims to spatially analyze the least-cost strategies for achieving universal electricity access globally, the investment needed, and the synergies with climate change mitigation. Optimal least-cost solutions vary depending on the local situation. For instance, the cost of in-situ systems depends on the spatial spread of households, local energy demand and resource availability. Therefore, high-resolution (HR) spatial assessment is needed, also for integrated global analysis.

For this research, we build upon the work of Dagnachew et al. for SSA and expand the scope to global. The model is updated and re-coded for open-source access, and the spatial resolution has been increased from 30’ x 30’ to 5’x 5’. The levelized cost (LCOE) for eleven plausible electrification solutions is assessed per grid cell worldwide to select the least-cost option. They can be summarized in three categories: central grid extension and two off-grid options, stand-alone and mini-grid systems. A central grid connection is the solution that usually offers the largest security of supply. However, for remote areas, the high cost of grid extension justifies prioritizing off-grid solutions. Mini-grids consist of small powerplant (s) that feed electricity into a distribution grid. It is the most reliable off-grid option and can be built ready for future grid connection.

The main factors influencing LCOE are socio-geographic conditions and potential local energy resources for wind and solar. The socio-geographic factors are annual electricity use per household, obtained from the integrated assessment model IMAGE, population density translated into the number of households per grid cell, population dispersion within the grid cells and urban/rural rates. Another important factor is the distance to the central grid, assessed per grid cell (5’x5’ resolution) and determines the cost of grid extension. Preliminary results indicate that after optimizing for the lowest cost, central grid densification is the most suitable option for most people currently lacking access. Photovoltaic systems are used the most for the off-grid options, combined with diesel for mini-grids and in solar home systems. Total investment for the SSA region for achieving SDG7.1 is estimated at around 600 billion.

How to cite: Zapata, V., Dagnachew, A., Edelenbosch, O., and van Vuuren, D.: Global pathways to achieve universal electricity access in 2030, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17364,, 2023.