With 1.4 billion people lacking electricity to light their homes and provide other basic services, or to conduct business, and all of humanity (and particularly the poor) are in need of a decarbonized energy system can close the energy access gap and protect the global climate system. With particular focus on addressing the energy needs of the underserved, we present an analytical framework informed by historical trends and contemporary technological, social, and institutional conditions that clarifies the heterogeneous continuum of centralized on-grid electricity, autonomous mini- or community grids, and distributed, individual energy services. We find that the current day is a unique moment of innovation in decentralized energy networks based on super-efficient end-use technology and low-cost photovoltaics, supported by rapidly spreading information technology, particularly mobile phones. Collectively these disruptive technology systems could rapidly increase energy access, contributing to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for quality of life, while simultaneously driving action towards low-carbon, Earth-sustaining, energy systems.

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
Definition
Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Renewable Energy
Definition
Renewable Energy
Lower technology costs and supportive public policies are driving an increase in renewable energy in markets around the world. EPIC research is assessing the costs, benefits, and efficiency of policies...
Electric Power
Definition
Electric Power
As the electric power system faces new pressures and opportunities, EPIC research is working to identify the mix of policies needed to accelerate the global transition to clean, reliable, affordable...