How will climate policy affect energy access goals?

January 14, 2016, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Energy access policy cost-effectiveness under baseline and climate mitigation scenarios. © Cameron et. al. 2016.

Stringent climate policies would increase the cost of fossil fuels, including those used for the cleaner burning stoves (such as kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, electricity, and piped gas) that are slowly replacing traditional cooking fuels. Without simultaneous targeted efforts to increase funding for energy access, many who would otherwise have been able to switch from traditional solid fuels to modern cooking fuels would no longer be able to afford the switch, according to a study published in the first issue of the new journal Nature Energy.

Currently, three billion people worldwide rely on solid fuels such as firewood, charcoal, coal, and dung for cooking. Burning these types of fuels, especially indoors, is a major source of air pollution, and is estimated to lead to 4.3 million each year. The Sustainable Development Goals have set a target of achieving universal access to modern energy by 2030—but at the same time they call for urgent action to combat climate change.

"There is a lot of pressure on developing countries to take action on climate change. But there has not been much research on how these two policy goals interact," says IIASA researcher Shonali Pachauri, who led the study. "We wanted to find out if there are trade-offs, and if so, how can we design policies that get around this problem?"

The new study focused on South Asia, where an estimated 72% of the population still relies on solid fuels for cooking. It shows that on the current trajectory, by 2030 that number could be reduced to 727 million (35% of the population). But with climate policies and no complementary energy access policies, the study shows, an additional 336 million people who would have otherwise switched to modern fuels will be unable to afford the switch.

The researchers relied on "Access," a residential choice model and the IIASA Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact (MESSAGE) to evaluate four scenarios for climate mitigation at varying levels of policy stringency, each considering a range of subsidies supporting clean fuels or stoves.

"We found that as we increased the carbon price, the detrimental effect on energy access increased disproportionately to the beneficial effect for the climate," says Colin Cameron, a co-author on the paper.

The study also found that the people most impacted by policies on climate and energy access were neither the poorest nor the richest, but rather those slightly above the poverty line but for whom energy access may be just out of reach.

The good news is that energy access subsidies could offset the negative effects of rising fuel costs spurred by policy. However, the study found a broad range of costs for energy access subsidies with similar impacts. The most efficient subsidies, according to the researchers, were those that focused on supporting cook-stove purchases along with fuel bills. Pachauri explains, "For many people, the initial investment in a stove is just too big. Getting over that hurdle may be the push many people need to make the switch to clean-burning fuels."

Explore further: Researchers estimate a cost for universal access to energy

More information: Colin Cameron et al. Policy trade-offs between climate mitigation and clean cook-stove access in South Asia, Nature Energy (2016). DOI: 10.1038/NENERGY.2015.10

Related Stories

Cooking fuel transition in China

July 3, 2012

Despite China's booming economy, many poor individuals continue to use traditional stoves that burn low-grade solid fuels like charcoal and coal. Such stoves generate high levels of indoor air pollution that cause dire health ...

WHO sets guidelines to reduce indoor pollution deaths

November 12, 2014

The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced its first-ever guidelines for indoor air pollution related to cooking, heating and lighting, a problem estimated to kill more than four million people per year.

Recommended for you

Finnish firm detects new Intel security flaw

January 12, 2018

A new security flaw has been found in Intel hardware which could enable hackers to access corporate laptops remotely, Finnish cybersecurity specialist F-Secure said on Friday.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (6) Jan 14, 2016
Petroleum is getting cheaper. Alternative energy systems are getting market penetration. Are they really worried about the availability of kerosene and LPG?
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 15, 2016
Adopt highly inefficient wind and solar get used to the term, "energy poverty." If wealthy people want to adopt it (soalr panels on roofs, etc) let them pay the $75,000 it costs. But don't ask the middle class to subsidize it.
2 / 5 (4) Jan 15, 2016
I am not rich, yet I chose to pay for my increasing power bills in advance by buying a PV setup of 4.5kW. It will also provide power for my electric vehicle. The panels cost me $12k, and added $20k of value to the house. Plus, now I make my power, and you don't.
2 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2016
I'll bet none of the folk who rated me down above have any solar panels at all, and are just depending on the rest of us to be good citizens. They are not here to discuss technology, they are gamers, trolls, snipers. Look them up and remember who they are.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2016
Come on george. People rate you down because they are sick of reading about your personal bullshit.

They rate you down because youre a lying cheating psychopath and as such, nothing you say can be trusted.

This is why your ratings went from 3.4 to 1.8 when people began to find you out.

More evidence that, like all the other sites youve been kicked out of, you dont belong here.
1 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2016
Told you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.