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Rosemary Lyster and Manuel Peter Solis

Abstract The energy sector provides a unique set of challenges in the 21st century. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report has stated, adaptation must be integrated with mitigation and sustainable development for the sake of ‘climate-resilient’ pathways. This understanding of adaptation requires an acknowledgement of the millions of people around the world who are living in a state of energy poverty, and need to be provided with access to modern energy services without being locked into greenhouse gas-intensive emissions pathways. This provides an opportunity to transform away from fossil fuel-powered energy delivered on a traditional electricity grid structure to renewable energy provided through distributed grids and facilitated by energy storage. Finally, electricity infrastructure and energy resources are at risk from slow onset and extreme weather climate disasters. Regulators are required to protect critical infrastructure from such risks including through appropriate land use planning and should consider the adoption of technologies such as Smart Grids to build resilience.
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Manuel Peter Samonte Solis

The debate between human rights and human needs offers interesting perspectives on the proposition to couch universal access to modern energy services in the language of rights. Essentially, this finds justification in the extensive intellectual breadth and moral structure of the theory of rights developed over the centuries. However, the language of needs provides a counterpart theory that asserts the centrality of basic human needs in establishing human rights. It also advances the view that satisfaction of human needs is a prerequisite to being human, and thus, arguably serves as the reason for being of governments. Along this line, it is suggested that the language of rights be abandoned in favour of the language of needs due to the instability, indeterminacy, reification and pragmatic disutility of rights. Accordingly, this chapter examines the merits and limits of the language of needs compared to the language of rights. It also investigates the feasibility of integrating needs-talk into rights-talk in the context of the challenge to achieving universal access to modern energy services. In the process, the implications of couching universal access to modern energy services in the language of rights are identified, including its potential to accommodate and articulate the significance of universal access to modern energy services within its moral and systematic fabric.