Energy access is called the “golden thread” due to the critical role it plays in enabling economic opportunity and growth, health, gender equality, food security, and environmental sustainability to individuals, households, and communities. Such access makes it possible to light classrooms, refrigerate vaccines, power machines in factories, and irrigate crops.
Just as access to energy underpins development, so can lack of access to energy perpetuate and exacerbate poverty, insecurity and inequality. Experts agree that energy access is vital to human development, but the challenge of ensuring energy access is becoming both more difficult and more urgent.
The proportion of the world's population lacking access to electricity has decreased in recent years, but the absolute number of people without electricity continues to rise as a result of population growth. Today, more people lack access to electricity than in 2000. The increases in temperature associated with global warming and rapid urbanization will make the need for energy access and efficient cooling technologies more critical than ever.
Two projects that emerged from our energy access Forum (detailed below) are currently underway in Ghana and Uganda. Learn more about them.
On February 20, 2018, Columbia World Projects (CWP) invited about 35 experts from inside and outside Columbia University for a Forum – a meeting to better understand key aspects of this challenge and identify promising projects that CWP could implement to achieve potential solutions. Before the meeting, experts worked with CWP staff to develop more than 15 project proposals, which were discussed and evaluated at the Forum.
Working Groups and Project Proposals
Forum participants were divided into five working groups organized by theme: decarbonization of buildings; breakthrough technologies in storage, materials, and capture; transportation and infrastructure; tracking and measuring emissions to change practice; and policy innovation.
Subject matter experts were assigned to the groups based on their various fields of knowledge, distinct backgrounds, and different views on the topic. Each working group had to evaluate between two and five project proposals developed in advance by participants and CWP staff.
Read more about the project proposals and the working group discussions in our Forum report.
Energy Access Working Groups
- Finance: Innovative financing mechanisms for affordable and reliable energy access add
- Efficiency: Accelerating access by promoting efficient end-use to make energy services more affordable add
- Infrastructure: Structural solutions to deliver universal energy access add
- Renewables: Governance and policy frameworks for energy access add
- Targeted Interventions: Clean cooking, displaced populations, and disasters add
Participant biographies are current as of February 20, 2018
Philippe BenoitManaging Director, Energy, Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Energy and National Security ProgramRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Philippe Benoit is Managing Director, Energy, for Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050 and Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Energy and...
Lee C. BollingerPresident, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University’s nineteenth president in 2002. Under his leadership, Columbia stands again at the very top rank of great research universities, distinguished...
Giulio BoccalettiChief Strategy Officer and Global Managing Director, The Nature ConservancyRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Giulio Boccaletti, PhD is the Chief Strategy Officer and Global Managing Director for Water at The Nature Conservancy. As Chief Strategy Officer, Boccaletti works to develop the organization’s...
Jason BordoffProfessor, Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Jason Bordoff is a professor of professional practice at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and serves as founding Director of Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy.
Michael BruceDirector, Emerson ElementalRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Michael Bruce serves as the Director at Emerson Elemental where he is responsible for managing the for-profit investment portfolio dedicated to restoring and strengthening the symbiosis...
Peter CorsellManaging Partner, Twenty First Century UtilitiesRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Peter Corsell is an entrepreneur and investor known for successfully bringing emerging technologies to market. Corsell is Managing Partner of Twenty First Century Utilities, an investment...
Justin DeAngelisPartner, International Denham Power FundRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Justin DeAngelis is a Partner in the International Denham Power Fund, responsible for origination, analysis, structuring, valuation and execution of investments for the Power Deal Team.
Morgan DeFoortCo-founder and Managing Principal, Factor[e] VenturesRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Dr. Morgan DeFoort is the co-founder and Managing Principal of Factor[e] Ventures, a venture development firm which supports early stage disruptive technologies in the areas of energy...
Kiki Del ValleSenior Vice President, Commerce for Every Device, MastercardRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kiki Del Valle is senior vice president, Commerce for Every Device at Mastercard. She leads Mastercard’s Commerce for Every Device initiatives including developing its Internet of Things...
Johanna DieckerPolicy Director, Global Off-Grid Lighting AssociationRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
As Policy Director for the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), Johanna Diecker drives the continuous development and improvement of policy and advocacy strategies.
Christine EganExecutive Director and CEO, Center for Law and Social PolicyRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Christine Egan is the Executive Director and CEO of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), an organization dedicated to energy efficiency in our appliances both on- and off-grid.
Jonathan ElkindFellow and Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Jon Elkind is a Fellow and Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From 2009 to 2014, Elkind worked on international energy and climate issues...
Alex EvansPresident and Chairman of the Operating Committee, Global LPG PartnershipRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Alex Evans is the President and the Chairman of the Operating Committee of the Global LPG Partnership, a PPP among governments, UN agencies, NGOs, investors, research institutions, and...
Karina GarbesiDirector, Environmental Studies Program, California State University, East BayRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Karina Garbesi is the Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Cal State East Bay, where she is the Vice Chair of the Academic Senate, Chair of the Senate Sustainability Committee...
Peter GeorgeDirector for Enterprise Development and Investment, Global Alliance for Clean CookstovesRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Peter George leads private sector engagement at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as its Director for Enterprise Development and Investment. An investment professional specialized...
Michael GerrardAndrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law SchoolRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Michael B. Gerrard is Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, where he teaches courses on environmental and energy law and directs the Sabin Center for...
Avril D. HainesFormer Deputy DirectorRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Avril Haines was the Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects from 2017-2020. She now serves as director of national intelligence in the Biden administration.
Andy HerscowitzCoordinator, Power Africa, U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Andrew Herscowitz has been the Power Africa Coordinator since 2013. Prior to this appointment, he served as the Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)...
Darby Jack, PhDColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Darby Jack, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. He studies environmental health risks in developing countries, the health impacts of...
Judith KarlExecutive Secretary, UN Capital Development FundRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Judith Karl is the Executive Secretary of the UN Capital Development Fund. Karl started her career in the private sector as a Management Consultant with a focus on optimizing business...
Emily KirschFounder and CEO, PowerhouseRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
As Founder and CEO of Powerhouse, a seed fund and incubator that supports “intelligent energy” entrepreneurs building software-enabled technology for the clean energy industry...
Satish KumarPresident and Executive Director, Alliance for an Energy Efficient EconomyRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Dr. Satish Kumar is the President and Executive Director of the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), India’s premier energy efficiency organization.
Nicholas LemannFormer DirectorJoseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism; Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Journalism; Director, Columbia Global ReportsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Nicholas Lemann was the director of Columbia World Projects from 2017 through February 2021. He directs Columbia Global Reports, a book publishing venture that commissions reporting...
Ben LeoCEO and Co-founder, FraymRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ben Leo is CEO and co-founder of Fraym, a geospatial data analytics company focused on the African continent. Fraym is the leading source of hyper-local social, economic, and security data on African population.
John J. MacWilliamsColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
John J. MacWilliams is a Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Prior to joining CGEP, MacWilliams served as Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department...
Vijay ModiColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Vijay Modi is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University and a member of the Earth Institute faculty. His areas of expertise are energy resources/access...
Hon. Ernest J. MonizFormer United States Secretary of Energy (2013-2017)Read Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ernest J. Moniz served as the thirteenth United States Secretary of Energy from 2013 to January 2017. As Secretary, he advanced energy technology innovation, nuclear security and strategic...
Ellen MorrisAdjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ellen Morris, PhD, is a world-recognized expert on energy and international development, with a particular focus on policy analysis, research, and strategy development on energy access...
Arvind PanagariyaProfessor of Economics and the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy in the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Arvind Panagariya holds a PhD from Princeton University and is currently a Professor of Economics and the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy in the School of International...
Brad PlumerReporter, The New York TimesRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Brad Plumer is a reporter covering climate change, energy policy and other environmental issues for the climate team of The New York Times. He was previously a reporter at The Washington...
Kenneth PrewittCarnegie Professor of Public Affairs, Columbia UniversitySpecial Advisor to the PresidentRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kenneth Prewitt is the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University. He taught Political Science at the University of Chicago from 1965–1982, and for shorter stints was...
Jim RogersFormer CEO, Duke EnergyRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Jim Rogers, lawyer, CEO, and author. He was most recently CEO at Duke Energy and served as CEO for almost 25 years in the electric utility industry. Rogers did a series of mergers and...
David SandalowInaugural Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia UniversityCo-Director of the Energy and Environment Concentration at the School of International and Public AffairsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
David Sandalow is the Inaugural Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy and co-Director of the Energy and Environment Concentration at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Kristina SkierkaCEO, Power for All CampaignRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
As the CEO of the Power for All campaign, Kristina Skierka has helped create a movement dedicated to achieving universal energy access by 2025. With expertise in both energy and public...
Richenda Van LeeuwenChair, International Institutions, Global LPG PartnershipParticipant in the Targeted Intervention working groupRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Richenda Van Leeuwen is an energy access expert who led Energy Access at the UN Foundation and with the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. She launched the 2,300 member "Energy...