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Electrification is a key step in moving toward low-carbon cities. But not all cities are ready for it – yet . This visualization shows key findings from a new WRI report, “Shifting Currents: Opportunities For Low-Carbon Electric Cities In The Global South,” that highlights which cities are ripe to electrify and which should prioritize a different path to decarbonization. The paper uses two criteria to identify cities in the Global South that today are candidates for electrification – replacing fossil fuel–powered vehicles, stoves, furnaces and other devices with electric alternatives. First, urban access to electricity (i.e., the percentage of people with a household electricity connection) must already be greater than 90 percent. Below this threshold, electrification of fossil fuel–consuming devices may worsen inequities in access. Second, the carbon intensity of electricity supply must be below a threshold of 600 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per gigawatt hour (tCO2e/GWh). Above this threshold, shifting to greater use of electricity would only increase emissions over the life cycle of the product or service.
The report finds that electrification is a good strategy in 34 countries in the global South. In total, these countries contain 105 cities with populations greater than one million people. Electrification is a good strategy to pursue today in all South American cities, and some cities in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Only three cities out of the 40 that have more than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa would be suitable for electrification (Accra, Addis Ababa, Kumasi) based on the data; in South and East Asia, only 26 out of 202 cities with more than one million people are good candidates.