Access to Modern Energy
In principle, all types of fossil fuels, nuclear power, and increasingly also renewables can be used to generate electricity. Important factors in this contest between the different power sources are natural conditions such as deposits of coal, natural gas, crude oil, biomass, watercourses, geothermal energy, wind, and hours of sunshine. Other factors include transport facilities for the individual energy sources consisting not only of road, rail, and ship, but also pipelines and ports right through to the availability of natural gas via efficient loading and unloading stations. The availability via efficient power grids is also of course essential for the actual business of long-distance transmission of electricity right through to its decentralized supply to households.
Also of relevance are regional and/or country-specific political requirements such as the respective competition framework, taxes, or environmental standards as well as emissions costs, which will possibly become more important again in future. Important parameters for power plant investments are the capital, fuel and financing costs, and ultimately the electricity prices that can be achieved depending on the type of customer. So it is no wonder that a look at power plants around the globe reveals that the power generation mix differs from region to region (Auer 2013).
The year 2012 brought improved access to modern energy services through the use of renewables. Rural use of renewable electricity has increased with greater affordability, improved knowledge about local renewable resources, and more sophisticated technology applications. Attention to mini-grids has risen in parallel with price reductions in solar, wind, inverter, gasification, and metering technologies. Government-driven electrification and grid extension programs are still being adopted across the developing world.
However, the last two decades have seen increasing private sector involvement in deployment of different renewable energy sources in remote and rural areas, spurred by new business models and increasing recognition that low-income customers can offer fast-growing markets.
Policies to provide energy access through renewable energy are being integrated increasingly into broader rural development plans. Brazil, China, India, and South Africa are in the lead in the development of large-scale programs that address the dual challenges of energy access and sustainability. However, for energy access targets to be met, institutional, financial, and legal mechanisms must be created and strengthened to support large-scale renewable energy deployment. The UN General Assembly’s “Energy Access for All” objective of universal access to modern energy by 2030 will require an annual investment of an estimated between US$36 and US$41 billion (REN 21 2013).
Developments in the power industry in Europe depend on expectations for future political, financial, and technical conditions. Embedding of renewable energy sources is a quite challenging task, based on conditions defined by the Kyoto Protocol. The trend in European power industry developments will be influenced by:
• Liberalization and globalization with the goal to open markets, not only for delivery of equipment, but also to include new market players in the generation and transmission of the energy;
• Increasing environmental constraints (e.g., CO2 reduction, regenerative power generation, and difficulties to get right of way for overhead lines) will influence
the type and location of new generation and changes in the structure of power systems;
• Increase of the price of oil and gas can speed up the use of new generation technologies if they would be technically available.