ACCESS Theme Projects


Abundant, Clean, and Cost-Effective Energy Systems for Sustainability

Problem The inability to access reliable, affordable, and clean fuels constitutes energy insecurity.  Energy insecurity framed as limited choice on the part of the poor to sufficient, affordable, and clean fuels is deprivation.   Energy deprivation traps people in a cycle of unproductive livelihoods, adverse health outcomes, particularly in women and children, and negative environment and climate effects. The United Nations and the International Energy Agency estimate that 3 billion worldwide are energy insecure, of which 1.5 billion people do not have access to electricity.  A pattern of reinforcing adverse outcomes from energy deprivation repeats across generations of urban and rural poor, and has significant implications for other critical resources such as water and environmental sustainability.  The use of traditional fuels also limits the number of productive hours in a day for adults and children alike.  Absence of reliable lighting in the evening hours adversely affects children’s education and eventually their trajectory out of poverty.  Only by scaling up the availability of affordable and sustainable energy services do we a chance of achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as energy services have a multiplier effect on health, education, safe water, sanitation, and on the overall productivity of a population.  In the absence of affordable and sustainable energy services, the UN estimates another 1.4 billion people will be at risk of left without modern energy.  Populations, whose only source of energy is firewood, crop residue and animal dung for cooking and heating, spend up to eight hours a day collecting needed fuel.  When such time and resources are dedicated to collecting basic unprocessed fuel, it is time away from other economically productive opportunities. Traditional fuels produce numerous pollutants, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, all of which are detrimental to the environment and the health of individuals.

A new energy frontier, inclusive of the poor, demands cross-disciplinary efforts that address technological and non-technological constraints to widespread use of clean energy systems.  Only then, we will positively influence human and environmental conditions.  This is the singular challenge that ACCESS initiative will tackle through multidisciplinary, multi-scale, and multi-university efforts.

Mission ACCESS Initiative will foster trans-disciplinary collaborations in research and intervention to overcome energy insecurity and deprivation of rural populations and achieve sustained positive human and environmental conditions.  Our mission is to identify and elaborate on the core drivers of energy insecurity and deprivation among the rural populations; to bring clean energy technologies to the poor that directly address significant drivers of energy insecurity and deprivation and ensure sustained use of new energy technologies.  ACCESS initiative will work toward a policy and technology infrastructure that enables access to clean energy that is sustainable for people and the environment.

Substantive Areas The collaborative ACCESS consortium will pursue transdisciplinary collaborations in the following areas:

a)      Envisioning energy access, development goals, public policy approaches, and distributive justice;

b)      Toward clean energy technologies; the fundamental science of clean energy technologies, clinical trials to test the use and impact of existing technologies, a systems science of social and cultural drivers of clean technology use;

c)      Energy and Environment nexus with particular emphasis on Water and Energy Nexus; focus will be on competing demands for water and implications for energy production and design of sustainable governance and policies.

McDonnell Academy university partners will pursue specific projects that resonate with these substantive areas.  We will gather in Mumbai, India between December 9 to 12, 2012 to reflect, debate, and leverage new knowledge to design effective programmatic and policy interventions to accomplish ACCESS mission and the substantive areas outlined above.