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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's time for the world's biggest multilateral development agencies to radically reframe their goals around expanding electricity access, a new proposal argues.

Why it matters: The nonprofit Energy for Growth Hub says the UN's current sustainable development goals (SDGs) around power access are too modest and focus too narrowly on residential use.

  • Without another metric, the SDGs fail to consider the higher consumption needed to truly lift incomes and economies, the report says.

Driving the news: Energy for Growth Hub is calling for a new metric called the "Modern Energy Minimum" of 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per person annually worldwide.

  • The group, which worked with the Rockefeller Foundation on the proposal, hopes to convince the UN, World Bank and International Energy Agency and others of the idea's merits.

How it works: The report sees that 1,000 kWh split roughly 30% for home use and 70% for use in commerce, transport, industry and more.

  • "[E]lectricity used outside the home includes most of the ways energy contributes to economic activity and higher income," they note.
  • Their analysis shows that 1,000 kWh "tightly correlates" with an average income of roughly $2,500 annually — the midpoint of estimates for what's considered lower-middle income.

The big picture: There has been considerable progress toward the electricity part of the UN's widely cited SDGs for 2030. Per the World Bank, the number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2 billion in 2010 to 789 million in 2018.

  • But, the new report notes that the IEA, which works with the UN and World Bank on tracking the energy goal, defines access as 50 kWh-per-capita in rural areas and 100 kWh-per-capita in urban areas.
  • "The current metric is irrelevant for 150+ countries, where basic access is already solved but electricity is still a constraint on income growth and job creation," Todd Moss, executive director for Energy for Growth Hub and former State Department official, tells me.

Of note: Even 1,000 kWh is still less than a tenth of average U.S. consumption.

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Jan 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Biden ushers in historical turn on clean energy and climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Like the curve of Earth we can’t see from the ground, we’re on a curve in history that we won’t fully recognize until decades in the future.

Driving the news: The inauguration of President Biden completes an economic and political consensus that climate change is an urgent threat the world should aggressively address. Whether this consensus produces action remains deeply uncertain.

2 mins ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

34 mins ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

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