This course gives students an opportunity to explore the following questions:
- How can developing nations expand access to electricity for all segments of their economies?
- What is the relationship between economic development and energy access?
- What generation technologies can cost-effectively meet the needs of developing economies?
- What financial and commercial models have been used to increase energy access in developing economies?
- Can alternate financial and commercial models do a better job?
- What is the relationship between government policy and energy access in developing economies?
- What tools can help us understand the economics, investment needs, and political ramifications of these intertwined issues?
Electricity is a critical element of industrialized life—perhaps the most critical. Without it, nothing else works. Water, sanitation, food, healthcare, education, entertainment: without power these activities grind to a halt. Electricity powers the commercial and industrial sector of every country; without adequate supply, the economy will stagnate.
Nearly half of Africa’s citizens lack access to electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number is closer to two-thirds. Most Africans who have access use a fraction of what their counterparts in the US, Europe or China use.
Bringing electricity to Africa’s many citizens that lack it today and increasing supply where it is inadequate are major challenges. How can the enormous infrastructure required be financed? How can businesses be induced to expand in Africa creating the economic growth needed to sustain a vibrant? How can this proceed in the context of global efforts to mitigate climate change?
There is often tension between the behavior and policy objectives of the wealthy west and needs of the poorer, developing world; western preferences have often led to outcomes that do not increase energy access quickly, cost-effectively, or at desirable scale. One of the key objectives of this course will be to better understand the dimensions of this tension.
Grappling with the energy access challenge offers future business leaders a chance to better understand the foundational role that electricity plays in modern life, to see first-hand the challenges faced by nations in the world’s fastest growing continent, and to take part in the effort to solve a complex economic and environmental problem.
We will visit two African countries to better understand the electricity-development-climate nexus.
Morocco, the westernmost country in North Africa is mainly reliant on fossil-fuel for electricity production, most of which is imported. However, Morocco has significant potential for both solar and wind, and has established ambitious renewable energy objectives. Per capita electricity consumption is around 900 kWh per year.
Ghana, located in West Africa on the Atlantic coast, struggles with electric supply reliability and is attempting to improve this situation. About half of Ghana’s electricity supply comes from fossil sources, with the balance coming from renewables, most of it hydroelectricity. Ghana has also established renewable energy targets but has goals for improving rural energy access and overall supply reliability, as well. Per capita electricity consumption in Ghana is around 320 kWh per year.