My Vision for the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024)

Alexander Walzl

Dear Mr Secretary-General,

Today, more than a century after the release of the first light bulb to the market, one fifth of all humans still live without electricity. The world’s population is growing, while poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise at an even higher rate. At the same time, over 80% of aggregate global energy comes from fossil fuels, contributing to climate change that may hit poor countries the hardest. Over the next ten years, universal energy access could realistically be achieved, while the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy could be doubled. This would have a gargantuan impact on world poverty and hunger. In my opinion, a universally recognized agency could effectively reach these goals by enforcing a global emissions cap on developed countries while quickly increasing and monitoring energy efficiency in the developing world. Governments would mutually benefit from a high degree of autonomy and individual policy recommendations gathered through big data analytics, which would ensure that they efficiently implement the right projects to comply with their quotas.

Global Regulatory Framework

The transition to a unified global climate regime would be best facilitated through the creation of the Global Emissions Agency (GEA), which would be headquartered in low-lying Dhaka, Bangladesh to symbolically emphasize the urgency of climate action. As an independent body recognized by all nations, it would present an Annual Global Emissions Reduction Survey (AGERS) of 800 climate scientists, in order to transparently determine a gradually lowering global emission cap for developed countries. This would prevent the adoption of less stringent policies in times of economic crisis, which could come with exorbitant costs for future generations. While this forces governments to cooperate with a set constraint, all parties involved ultimately benefit from such a system.

In order not to hinder economic growth, development, and poverty reduction in developing countries, these countries will be required to widely implement metering infrastructures and significantly lower the energy intensity of their output before they have to start cutting their total emissions. While governments will ensure compliance, the GEA will use big data analytics to support their efforts with highly customized, incentive-driven policy recommendations. This will also reduce the likelihood that unsustainable projects with high short-term revenues that are favored by banks will be given preference over sustainable long-term investments in infrastructure. Compliance will be guaranteed by enforcing a penalty that is equal to the extremely high costs of capturing and storing the exceeded amount of carbon dioxide from the air. Furthermore, emission trading will not be permitted, due to the uncertain benefits, associated volatility and difficulty of supervision involved.

Policies for Developed Countries

Governments need to allocate more funds to smarter and more efficient power grids, as well as to new transmission lines to harness the potential of progressively intermittent and geographically dispersed renewable energy sources. They also must create an open electricity marketplace, resulting in a variable tariff system that depends on current production rates, facilitate energy trade with neighboring countries and set uniform standards for metering infrastructure and software to accurately measure, predict, and balance energy supply and demand. Households should be fitted with innovative and user-friendly control interfaces that connect with smart appliances and sensors in increasingly automated homes, helping them save on energy bills by scheduling and optimizing tasks according to their lifestyles and preferences. For instance, compact storage heaters could be switched on automatically to regulate home temperatures, while wash programs could be carried out overnight during peak supply periods, ensuring that laundry is ready the next day.

This would reduce peak demand, ensure long-term policy certainty, encourage new wind energy projects, and provide an incentive for development and investment in costly energy-storage technologies. As requested by the GEA, governments would require fossil fuel power plants to submit actual fuel burn figures so as to benchmark, issue certificates, and impose variable taxes on every megawatt hour injected – depending on the energy source, its relative efficiency, the resulting emissions, and the current security of supply. Governments would set premium and minimum prices for strategic energy reserves and encourage cooperation with efficient gas-fired power plants, which can be installed quickly and operated based on demand. Over the long term, these plants can be fired with locally generated sustainable biogas.

Households should also be allotted transparent online accounts, accessible via smart phone apps, which can instantly display tariff changes, breakdowns of energy consumption and individual saving recommendations. Gamification, monitored by the interface, would encourage households to act on recommendations while educating them and gradually changing their behaviors by offering bonus points for efficient ventilation, maintaining reasonable temperatures and promptly turning off standby devices. Low-income households could receive allowances, and customers and companies could choose the sustainability levels of their annual energy consumption beyond the gradually increasing standards set by their governments, with higher values and increased annual energy saving allowing them to gain bonus points that could be converted into discounts on insulation, teleheating and home appliances.

Policies for Developing Countries

Rampant corruption, legislative uncertainty and poor infrastructure discourage much-needed foreign investment in energy projects, which results in frequent power cuts, drives businesses out of the country, and makes the population dependent on inefficient and expensive-to-run diesel generators. While the urban population would hugely benefit from swift market liberalization, decentralized small-scale renewable energy projects anchored in microgrids should be implemented in rural areas. At the individual level, solar backpacks could charge small mobile battery packs, power safe LED pocket lamps, and lay the foundations for smart phones by improving on their notoriously short battery life. Compact and fuel-efficient solar cookers and stoves can make families energy-self-sufficient, help preserve forests and keep the air inside homes clean, as they are used outdoors. Simple, cheap and highly scalable technologies can thereby quickly improve living standards. As many sustainable technologies can be designed and produced from local materials, more innovative startups will be founded which will accelerate innovation and development. As a result, it is crucial that they receive support from early on in the form of seed-funding and technological equipment.

Telecommunications liberalization and increased mobile phone penetration would help maximize impacts by providing an innovative open-source framework to charities and businesses that would enable them to instantly monitor and evaluate progress and counteract mismanaged outsourcing.

Similar to the mobile authentication service for drugs that has been put in place in Nigeria, a charity distributing solar cookers could enclose codes with cookers, which receivers have to send in text messages to a certain number, together with a second code generated by the charity’s collaborator. This would enable the charity to track progress, introduce accurate performance-based pay and minimize corruption. Furthermore, well-connected, trusted agencies could help charities ensure that the individuals that they rely on are in no way affiliated with the government or civil service.

Professionals and foreign-educated graduates should be encouraged to return to their home countries and empower local communities to form cooperatives that decide on and implement renewable energy projects. These cooperatives would give members considerable autonomy and responsibility and increase their likelihood of receiving low-cost loans, encouraging them to maintain and manage their systems over the long term. For example, a wind turbine combined with solar panels and a biogas plant anchored in a microgrid could supply energy to the community centre, while water from a well could be pumped, stored and purified when energy demand is low. This would provide an incentive for small businesses to locate nearby and acquire shares in the system, which would enable both the microgrid and the community centre to expand. This would put communities in a position to collaborate with enterprises and offer internationally- recognized certificates for young people, thereby improving their employability and encouraging their interest in Informatics, Natural Sciences and Technology. This is absolutely critical to meet the growing demand for talent and ultimately empower them to tackle problems with innovative products and sell them internationally.


Meeting the world’s growing energy demand in a sustainable way requires setting up clear objectives, intensive collaboration programs between nations, and long-term, incentive-driven policies at both the individual and business levels. By using big-data analytics, the independent and impartial GEA would be in the ideal position to determine which projects, policies and incentives are needed, and how they can be implemented in the most efficient way possible. This would ensure that the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the total share of renewable energy are doubled over the next 10 years, mainly in the developed world. It would also drive technology innovation and stimulate sustainable behavior. In developing countries, this system would boost energy access and empower the poor through innovative, scalable technology, market liberalization, the reduction of corruption and global efforts to empower local people, rather than adopting a standard top-down approach. I envision a GEA summit meeting in Dhaka in 2025 – with the sparkling solar panels on every house reminding all parties of the enormous cost of inaction.

Respectfully yours,

Alexander Walzl

Alexander Walzl was a finalist in the annual Global Essay Contest held in 2013 by Global Energy Initiative inviting participants to share their visions for the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024).

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