April 2014


In this issue

In the 1924 The Atlantic article “Life as we know it,” Arthur D. Little, an engineer who founded the world’s first management consulting company, tried to predict the future. Amid all he got right—and wrong—two sentences still scream out for attention: “The rate of our economic progress is primarily a function of the abundance and cost of energy. The preparation and use of fuels and the generation and distribution of energy are basic industrial activities, which, in one way or another, vitally concern us all.”

Almost an entire century later, energy continues to vitally concern us all—because progress will continue only if the energy that powers it keeps pace. By all accounts, it is not. The gap between what’s being produced and what’s needed continues to widen, and the effects of climate change threaten to deepen energy poverty in the regions that can tolerate it least.

The Special Representative of the UN’s Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, Kandeh Yumkella, understands energy poverty first-hand. He recalls for Handshake readers a recent visit to his native Sierra Leone for his university’s 50th anniversary celebration, at which power outages and other energy shortages marred the proceedings. His earliest demonstrations as a student at the university 30 years ago, he remembered, were in protest of these very same problems, which prevented students from studying at night and denied them clean water in the dormitories.

Yumkella and the other experts, officials, and industry leaders in this issue believe that public-private partnerships can help bring much-needed access to energy to students like these, and to people in all corners of the globe. With the world’s energy future at stake, it’s time to listen to these voices. Together, they can give a new meaning to “life as we know it.”