Session 3

Global energy interconnection: a step forward for universal access to energy?
Gloria Bernasconi
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Today 1.1 billion people have no access to valuable energy services and an additional 1.5 billion people will seek new access by 2030. Considering that energy is a fundamental element for sustainable development, Sustainable Development Goal 7 called on the world for an effort to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” The most recent literature demonstrates that some technological advancement permitted an increased energy supply capacity and lowered renewable energies costs. New technologies in the field of energy generation, transmission and storage, permitted for instance the emergence of a model aimed at building a global energy interconnection (GEI) system based on the use of renewable energies (RE), smart grid technologies and long-distance power transmissions. The paper explores whether this model represents an opportunity for incrementing the global access to modern energy services and provides critical elements to development agencies for envisaging a future involvement in this sector. Starting from the analysis of two specific initiatives that incorporate elements of the GEI model, the Desertec initiative and the NOOR-Ouarzazate Solar Complex projects launched in Morocco, and drawing upon a series of interviews with international stakeholders that have demonstrated an interest in this field, the article offers first-hand insights into the dynamics that characterize a GEI system. Findings show that an increased level of access to modern energy services is not precluded, but the most important benefits of this system would be the access to low carbon electricity. When working with large-scale projects that include features of the GEI model, development agencies can play a very important role in providing projects with financial support, in integrating risk management elements and in facilitating bottom-up approaches.