Access to Modern Energy

From energypedia


Access to energy is a prerequisite of human development. The 20 countries with the largest access deficits were home to about 75 percent of the entire global population living without access to electricity in 2020[1] Energy is needed for individual survival, it is important for the provision of social services such as education and health and a critical input into all economic sectors from household production or farming, to industry. The wealth and development status of a nation and its inhabitants is closely correlated to the type and extent of access to energy. The more ready usable energy and the more efficient energy converting technologies are available, the better are the conditions for development of individuals, households, communities, the society and its economy. Thus, improving access to energy is a continuous challenge for governments and development organisations.

Common Understanding of Energy Poverty / Energy Access

It is commonly shared that households using candles, kerosene lamps as a sole lighting source while cooking on three-stone-fires are considered to be energy poor. However, there is no such an agreement on where this ends: what improvement in energy services is required to make “a step up”, ending energy poverty? Almost all households even the poorest ones have access to any kind of electricity at least in form of dry cell batteries to run a torch or a small radio. However, these households would certainly not considered to have access to electricity in a broad sense. The assessment becomes more difficult if household have a small solar home systems providing electricity for a few light bulbs and a radio. Can these small systems be considered as access to modern energy systems or should "access" mean to have enough electric power to run for example a refrigerator and other household appliances? Mechanical power for milling grain etc is often a critical energy supply to many small farmers but is “access” having an improved hand grinding tool, or a diesel mill in the village, or the next village?

The examples demonstrate that there are no obvious minimum levels or standards for developing a universally accepted definition of access to modern energy. Gaining access to improved energy services is not a sudden event but a continous process of improvement. Thus, any definition of a basic threshold for energy access will be in a certain way arbitrary. Nevertheless, it is important to have a common framework of understanding about basic characteristics of adequate access to different energy sources and technologies. What level of access should be aimed for, if we talk about “universal access”? If such basic level is defined clearly, international campaigns and targets such as Sustainable Energy for All would become transparent and comprehensible. At the same time a widely accepted set of indicators and variables would provide the necessary base for monitoring and reporting progress and performance of access initiatives and programs.

Current international statistics consider the step from solid biomass (firewood, charcoal) to liquid fuels (ethanol, kerosene) or gaseous fuels (LPG, natural gas) or electricity for cooking and the connection to the national grid as threshold for access. However, definitions based on grid access and a fuel switch neglect the range of off-grid technologies and services provding adequate lighting and the fact that solid biomass can be used in an inefficient, traditional or modern way. They also do not take into account deficiencies in quantity and quality of energy supply. In addition, strategies focusing on energy access by rapidly extending electricity grid and LPG supply will favor urban areas as it is easier and cheaper to provide electricity and LPG to a densely populated area. Providing grid-based electricity to rural households is much more difficult, slow, and expensive, as is establishing the distribution system for LPG and other commercial fuels. Rural households with their typical low electricity consumption and incomes are not attractive clients for a grid-based electricity utility. Even for subsidized programs, grid extension to those households will often not be an economically, technologically and developmentally appropriate solution. Therefore, although grid extension to poor people is to be encouraged whenever reasonable, new access to energy services through grid or gas distribution extension outside urban areas will not happen at large scale and so the goal of universal access on those terms would not be realistic for a foreseeable future.

The IEA defined energy access in its World Economic Outlook 2012 as a household having reliable and affordable access to clean cooking facilities and a first electricity supply connection, with a minimum level of consumption (250 kilowatthours [kWh] per year for a rural household and 500 kWh for an urban household) that increases over time to reach the regional average. When measuring access it is taken into account the need for different technological solutions, such as grid, mini-grid and off-grid solutions for
electricity, and advanced biomass cookstoves, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and biogas systems for cooking.

In terms of focusing international development support which seeks to benefit poor people directly, it is more appropriate to identify and promote other options to provide what could be called basic energy services at fairly low investment costs without having to wait for grid electricity. These options are stepping stones to grid connection focusing first of all on the poverty dimension of energy access. The "right" option depends on whether it is affordable, sustainable and fits the needs of rural and peri-urban households, institutions, and private firms for a certain period. As a minimum requirement it must improve living conditions fairly quickly for a large number of people, thus contribute to the socio-economic development. The temporary solutions may then shift over time until the conditions are satisfied for other supplies, perhaps even grid or infrastructure based to become attractive in the distant future.

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The Poverty Dimension of Energy Access

Provide access to modern energy is not an aim at itself but a key factor to overcome poverty. International energy initiatives such as the Sustainable Energy for All campaignaim first of all to contribute the Millenium Development Goals. Hence, the starting point for defining energy access is the kind of energy based services needed to change the life of poor people in a significant and sustainable way. The supply and use of energy have to be related to these services. Thus all energy based services and technologies contribute to end energy poverty if they have a direct positive impact on basic living conditions.

According to the OECD-DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction the life of poor households is charactericed by[2]:

  • low economic capabilities - the ability to earn an income, to consume and to have assets
  • low human capabilities based on health, education, nutrition, clean water and shelter
  • low political capabilities including human rights, influence over public policies and political priorities
  • low socio-cultural capabilities concern the ability to participate as a valued member of a community
  • low protective capabilities enabling people to withstand economic and external shocks

Overcoming poverty across all these five dimensions requires a variety of changes at personal, political and socio-economic level. Political and economic conditions and the infrastructure must be framed in a way that people can have a sufficient income. Social institutions such as schools and health centers need to provide affordable services for poorer population groups and basic living conditions at personal and household level must be improved to allow a dignant life.

Access to energy for households, enterprises and social institutions is relevant to all five dimensions and to at all mentioned levels. However, the specific energy requirements vary between the different levels and whether the focus is on productive use or health or domestic living conditions. The energy needs of social institutions like schools and health centers depend on the type of services they are supposed to provide. Consequently, social institutions need specific categorized standards for access to modern energy technologies which are related to their service. The same is true for enterprises. Shopkeepers often need only light to be able to offer their product during dawn. Restaurants will need at least energy efficient cook stoves. Some may need a refrigerator to store perishable products. Blacksmiths can provide better services if they can use welding equipment. Food enterprises generally require energy for cooled storage of agricultural or fishery products and the value adding processing of these products. Due to the wide differences in the energy requirements it is impossible to define and quantify a certain basic energy supply or consumption as access to modern energy for enterprises and social institutions in general.

A more realistic approach would be to define energy access specifically for individual business sectors or types of social institutions. These sector or institution specific indicators could then be aggregated in a composite index. The index values would allow an overall comparative assessment of energy poverty and energy access in business and social services. The developed index could be further extended with other variables covering different dimensions of energy poverty. The result would be an overall energy poverty/access index based on a set of multidimensional indicators that helps to assess the energy situations of communities, regions, countries or continents. However, such an index would not be an appropriate tool to define whether an individual person or household, a social institution or private enterprise are energy poor or provided with access to modern energy technologies and services. .

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Basic Energy Access on Household Level

The basic energy requirements of households are more homogenous than those from enterprises and social institutions. People worldwide need energy for lighting, for using information and communication equipment and for cooking. There is not much difference between different countries regarding the type and amount of electricity needed to have bright light for all household members, fo running a radio or charging a cell phone. The demand for affordable, clean, safe and energy efficient cookstoves are also quite similar although the cooking habits can vary significantly. Generally more than 80% of the energy expenditures of poor households are spent to satisffy the energy needs for cooking, lighting, information and communication media. Other energy requirements e.g. for heating, refrigeration, or to run a fan and other household appliances are country or even region specific. Thus, it is feasible to define access standards for households on global level for lighting, information, communication and cooking which then can be completed by standards for other energy services such as heating or cooling on national or regional level.

When developing a methodology to measure energy access on household level and defining a threshold for access it is important to specify the quality and quantity of the mentioned services needed to allow a dignant life. To enable the services the type and amount of energy consumption or the used technology would have to be determined. This would form the base for considering a household as provided with modern energy.

According to our experiences, a significant improvement of the living conditions of poor households will be achieved if:

  • all household members can work, study or relax under sufficient bright light for at least 5 hours per day.
  • households have the cooking facility to prepare typical local hot meals and beverages for all household members,
  • households can use either a land line or a mobile phone, whenever needed, and use a radio and/or small TV for several hours a day,
  • all energy sources and technologies (lamp, stove) are not hazardous to health especially not emit high amounts of particulate matter and fulfill basic safety standards, and
  • expenditures for energy do not overburden the household income or the available working hours of the household members.

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Availability of Bright Light

While most developed countries have norms on lighting intensities that should be provided in e.g. schools, hospitals etc, there’s no universal definition of “enough light”. For the light-flux that should be provided in order to provide basic access with regard to lighting, a value of 300 lumen for a household of up to 5 people, during 4 or 5 hours per day. It’s the light of e.g. a 25 W incandescent bulb, providing enough ambient light to light a room ánd, when hanging above a table, enough light for the people around it to perform some dedicated task. Also a gas lamp or pressurized kerosene lamp can provide such lighting. In comparison, a candle provides approximately 12 lumen, definitely not enough to perform such tasks.

Light-flux is not an appropriate yard stick in all situations. For task-lights the light intensity on the working surface (the illuminance) is actually a more relevant. A value of 100 lux covering the surface size of a large book (0,1 m²) in a distance of 0,8 m is considered as sufficient for one person. This intensity should be available again during 4 or 5 hours per day.
Through the characteristics of the various lamps, the above values can be converted into required amounts of electricity, gas and / or kerosene. Given the differences between ambient lighting and (just) task light as indicated above, thereby for lighting two levels will be defined.

Subsequently, the following variables are proposed:

Direct indicators
Level 1: 100 lux over 0,1 m2 during 5 hours, per person per day (pppd)
Level 2: 300 lumen during 1 hour pppd

Indirect indicators
Level 1: ownership of a solar lantern with 1 W PV panel
Level 2: ownership at household level of a safety tested kerosene pressure lamp, a gas lamp, a 6 W CFL lamp, a 25 W incandescent bulb or LED lamps of certified sufficient brightness (appr. 5 W)
In addition, access to sufficient gas/kerosene, or 6 Wh (CFL/LED), or 25 Wh (incandescent) electricity pppd

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Adaquate Cooking and Heating Facility

This table is summarizing the indicators and translating them into exemplary figures for energy carriers or technologies:

Direct Service Indicator Indirect Indicator (Energy Technology)
Indirect Indicator (Amount of Energy)

all household members can work, study or relax under sufficient bright light for at least 5 hours per day which means 300 lumen on houshold level for at least 5 hours a day or 100 lux over 0,1 m2 during 5 hours, per person per day

kerosene pressure lamp, gas lamp, 9 W CFL lamp, LED lamps of sufficient brightness.

  • 25 Wh in case of a 25 W incandescent lamp (25x5/5 Wh)
  • 9 Wh in case of a 9 W CFL lamp (9x5/5 Wh),
  • 5 Wh in case of a high efficient LED lantern (60 lm/W)
  • 35 g LPG for a gas lamp
  • 0,1 l kerosene (0.5 l/h / 5) for pressure lamp

per person per day.

low fire hazard through light equipment safety tested kerosene and gas lamps, electric lamps

low level of particulate matters (see also cooking) emitted by light device kerosene pressure lamps, gas lamps, electric lamps

enough energy to prepare two hot meals per day which means 10 megajoule fuel per person per day
(assuming that about 5000 kilojoule is sufficient to prepare a hot meal per person)

1 kg firewood per person per day in combination with an improved coook stove, or 0.3 kg charcoal or 0.04 kg LPG or 0.2 litres of kerosene or ethanol per person per day Use of modern fuels (LPG, biogas, improved briquettes etc) or owner of an energy-efficient, clean and safe stove certified according to international or national standards.

Annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) < 10 μg/m3 in households caused by stove
smokeless cook stove, cook stoves with chimney, gas cookers, electric cookers

low fire hazard of cooking equipment insulated cook stoves, safety tested cook stoves
Information and Communications
access to fixed line or mobile phone
use of a radio for at least 4 hours or a small TV for at least 1,5 hours a day.[3]

10 kWh per year and household (7 W x 4 hours x 365 days or 20 W x 1,5 x 333 days)

Owner of a radio or TV, which can be run on rechargeable battery or grid/mini-grid power or access to minimum of 13.6 Wh per year and Owner of a fixed line or mobile phone or owner of a electricity source with mobile phone charging plug.
Affordability, Accessibility

expenditures for energy do not exceed 10% of the household income or do not require more than 10% of the working hours of a household member

low cost fuels and energy technologies and/or highly energy efficient energy technologies

In extremely hot or cold regions access to modern energy is also urgently needed to regulate the indoor air temperature in huts and houses. In these cases indicators such as maximum or minimum air temperatures have to be defined as basic standard for acceptable living conditions, which may be achieved through fans, ventilators or space heating[4].

Social welfare institutions like schools and health centers have specific energy needs, which depend from the type of services they are supposed to provide. Consequently, social institutions need specific categorized standards for access to modern energy technologies.

The same is true for enterprises. Many shopkeepers only need light to be able to offer their product during dawn. Other may need a refrigators to store perishable products. Blacksmith can provide better services if they can use welding equipment. Thus again, specific access standards have to be defined for the different categories of productive use.

The present paper is focusing on access to modern energy on household level and will therefore not go deeper into the discussion on access to energy for social institutions and productive use.

In addition to the definition of minimum standards there are attemps to develop an energy access index[5]. Such an index would allow to describe different levels of access to modern energy services and to identify energy needs. Based on the index criteria governments and international organizations could decide which energy access level for which target group they want to address with specific programs. The above mentioned criteria would form the threshold beyond which the minimum access to modern energy services starts.

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Adequat Cooking Facility

  • biomass used by traditional or modern conversion method
  • use of wood fuels in low efficiency appliances
  • In addition, data on household use of biomass for fuel is difficult to establish with any precision

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Access to Information

While already there’s no definition of “enough light”, there certainly is no such definition where access to information, by radio and / or tv, is concerned. Indicators below are thus composed parallel to the supposed usage pattern of lighting, whereby again it seems logical to define 2 levels above the baseline where no access exists. At the lower level devices like mobile phones with inbuilt radio, or small transistor radio’s would come into perspective, at the higher level various larger devices are supposed, including small TV sets, where the difference obviously is in the electricity consumption.
For a radio built into a mobile phone or a transistor radio with headphone this is practically negligible, 0,5 W will be assumed; for large radio’s 5 W is assumed and for small tv’s 30W.
At the level 1 access to electricity could e.g. be through the solar-lantern, at level 2 at least a solar home system would be required

Direct indicators
Level 1: 1 hour listening to a radio pppd
Level 2: 1 hour listening to a radio pppd and/or 0,5 hour tv pppd

Indirect indicators
Level 1: ownership of a transistor radio with rechargeable batteries or equivalent at household level and access to 0,5 Wh of electricity pppd
Level 2: ownership of a radio and/or television at household level and access to 20 Wh pppd

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Access to Communication Devices

Similar to information, there’s no standards for access to communication devices. Technically this might concern computers, landline telephones and mobile telephones. In reality it nearly only mobile phones while occasionally landlines might be encountered. Like transistor radio’s the actual energy consumption is small; assuming 1 hour use per day, 1-2 Wh per day would be sufficient. However access to a charging facility, preferably in the own household, is crucial.
While not specifically detailed here, a clear improvement in communication, and information, would be achieved by having a computer and access to the internet.

Direct indicators
1 hour use of a telephone pppd

Indirect indicators
Ownership, at household level of a functional landline telephone or of a mobile and 1-2 Wh pppd

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Complementary Remarks

Any definition of energy access is only useful if it is measurable and trackable at reasonable levels of cost and effort. The definition must allow to monitor and evaluate progress and success of projects and help to take actions.

Common definitions of “energy access” and “energy poverty” are characterized by the following aspects:

  • “access to energy” is commonly mistaken as “access to electricity”
  • energy access is commonly measured in “electrification rate” or access to “modern” cooking fuels such as LPG
  • energy poverty is commonly measured in average kWh consumed per person

This leads to a situation where national governments plan to increase domestic electricity consumption in order to achieve higher human development. “Cause” and “effect” are basically exchanged and electricity consumption becomes a purpose for itself.
Energy used by (particularly rural) population in developing countries is much more than just electricity (wood products, petroleum products, etc.).

A concept for “energy poverty” has to consider that…:

  • Energy is not a purpose for itself, but a means to an end: the relevant basic energy services of human life (cooking, space heating, lighting…)
  • Basic energy services are required for people to fulfil their basic needs (nutrition, safe drinking water, housing, social services, access of information, and participation in social life…);
  • Energy poverty should measure to what extend the fulfilment of basic needs has been undermined (by a lack of energy services). This is a complex assessment beyond an easy indicator such as kWh per person.

A concept for “energy access” has to consider the following criteria:

  • Availability (physical presence in a suitable distance)
  • Affordability (seasonal purchase power; priorities of target groups…)
  • Suitability (reliability of access, cultural acceptability, convenience…)
  • Energy-diversification of households as a coping strategy
  • Sustainability: Long-term availability of energy services, avoidance of negative economic, social and environmental impacts
  • Most important: energy access definitions should avoid technological dimensions and focus on economical dimensions such as energy services / usage. Consumer preferences are defined by specific demand for light, heat, etc.

Given the giant task of combating energy poverty, target-oriented action is required. Quantitative targets facilitate management, benchmarking, monitoring, compliance, verification etc. An international framework like the MDG is best suited to set normative and quantitative access targets for a minimum provision of energy services. Nevertheless, it is important to respect and support the definition of national objectives and political targets.

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Distribution of Access

Electrification has the potential to open doors to many essential services such as refrigeration in clinics, lighting in schools and homes, battery charging and diversified livelihoods, yet over a quarter of the world's population lack access. There are over 30 countries where more than half the population are without access[6].

Of the 32 countries with an electrification rate of less than 50%, 26 are located in sub-Saharan Africa where the average rate is just 26%. This geographic distribution is not only evident on a national level but also within countries, where rural areas have considerably lower electrification rates. In sub-Saharan Africa the rural electrification rate is just 8%.

In South Asia the electrification rate is 60-65%. Nevertheless, the absolut number of unelectrified households is as high as in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these households live in India. Per capita consumption of electricity in South Asia is the lowest after Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to insufficient access to electricity, over 3 billion people worldwide are reliant on solid fuels[7], including biomass fuels such as wood, dung, agricultural residues, and coal, for cooking. In at least 45 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, more than three-quarters of the population are dependent on these solid fuels. As with electrification, those in rural areas have far lower access to modern fuels and services[6].

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Benefits of Energy Access

Energy can be a powerful vehicle for the provision of essential services such as education, healthcare and clean water. The time burden associated with essential tasks is an important signifier of energy-poverty yet energy technologies can reduce the disproportionate time spent by poor households on basic activities. Access to energy services can help communities meet basic needs and stimulate social, economic and environmental development[6].

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Livelihood Benefits

Energy access has the potential to alleviate poverty through stimulating rural livelihood options. This can occur via the establishment of new energy-based industries, creating employment in manufacture, construction and maintenance. Energy access can allow households to engage in a more diverse range of income-generating activities as well as make pre-existing activities more efficient. In particular, this diversification will make rural families far less dependent on natural resources as their sole form of income. Nearly 60% of the population in low income countries rely on agriculure, forestry and fishing for their livelihoods. This figure rises to over 90% in some countries. With the necessary infrastructure to ensure sustainability, new livelihoods developed via energy access can have a huge impact on long term poverty reduction[6].

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Modern energy access has the potential to improve health in rural areas both directly- by powering healthcare facilities- and indirectly, by providing cleaner fuel sources and reducing debilitating labor.
The inefficient combustion of solid fuels combined with inadequate ventilation contributes to poor health in many households. These high levels of indoor air pollution often result in decreased pulmonary function, particularly amongst women and children. According to the WHO[8], approximately 1.5 million premature deaths are attributable annually to indoor air pollution, making it the second largest environmental health risk factor in the world. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for 38 million disability adjusted lost years (DALY), where one DALY represents one healthy year of life lost by an individual due to disease or adverse health conditions, which in turn has numerous impacts on income generation, livelihoods and education.
Furthermore, this dependency on biomass resources such as fuelwood and the lack of intermediary means of transportation means that increasingly large distances are traveled with these heavy loads, often resulting in debilitating back conditions, particularly impacting women and children.
This is also having widespread implications for the natural environment in vulnerable regions, with biomass fuel sources rapidly depleting, placing even greater pressure on the poor just to meet basic needs[6].

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Clean Water

Energy based technologies can help ensure that communities have access to one of the most basic necessities, clean water, by aiding in both the distribution and purification of water supplies. 17% of the world's population do not have access to an improved water source with this value rising to over 45% in sub-Saharan Africa[6].

This lack of a clean and steady water supply limits agricultural activity and results in easily preventable diseases, poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation. The World Health Organization found unsafe water, hygiene, and sanitation to be the world's largest environmental health risk factor[9] annually responsible for over 1.7 million deaths. Energy technologies such as solar, wind and hydraulic ramp pumps can aid in redistributing the water supply to the areas in which it is most needed whilst application of simple solar distillation techniques can improve water purity.

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The impacts of energy access on education are often indirect, with one linkage being to the issue of time burden. Improved energy resources can reduce the time and labor required to achieve certain tasks such as collecting fuelwood and water as well as mechanizing many activities. This in turn could lead to increased enrolment of children in schools, since their household roles are no longer as consuming. In addition, access to lighting in the home increases the time available for study and hence may impact on achievement levels. Lighting at the schools themselves can remove restrictions on school times making night classes a viable possibility or allowing schools to double as community centers in the evenings. Electrification can also affect education infrastructure through the integration of modern resources such as computers and internet access[6].

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Requirements to Improve Energy Access

In a broad sense almost all energy investments can be considered as contributing to improved energy access. Political reforms of the energy sector reform can enhance investments in power generation and distribution and in other forms of energy which may benefit the poor. Generation and Transmission projects may form the base for rural electrification. However, most of these investments have only an indirect effect on the access rates. In a more narrow sense only those activities can be considered to target on energy access which directly reach households without modern energy services.
Many of the same elements necessary for any successful development intervention are applicable to the case of sustainable rural energy provisions. Developers should ensure that the technology itself is affordable and appropriate. Participation of the communities in question must be key at all stages and access to energy provisions and services should be equitable. In addition, local capacity should be built in order to ensure the long term sustainability and replicability of the scheme[6].

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Affordability and payment mechanisms are key considerations when assessing energy interventions. The poorest households often spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy. Amongst those earning less than $3000 annually the percentage of total household expenditure spent on energy can be as high as 12%. In most cases it is the capital costs associated with shifting to a new energy carrier or end use technology that present the greatest barrier for poorer households. To remediate this, many payment mechanisms are possible ranging from subsidies to loans to upfront payments. These mechanisms need to be tailored to the specific needs of lower income households[6].

Most[10] still favor conventional centralized energy schemes such as fossil fuel plants or large scale hydro power. However, for the many residing in rural locations a smaller scale decentralized approach is far more likely to meet their needs. It is often economically unfeasible to extend the national grid to low density rural communities, particularly when combined with the relatively low energy consumption of these populations. In such situations, decentralized sources are the only feasible option. When combined with the drive for "sustainable energy" renewables become particularly attractive.

i.e.[11] energy technologies which do not supply to a national grid, can take a number of forms including diesel generators, micro-hydro schemes, wind turbines and solar photovoltaic. The most suitable technology is dependent on a combination of physical, economic and social factors.

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A decentralized approach to energy interventions led by local needs and contexts is important, particularly with smaller communities and rural populations. Starting with the people and not the technology can lead to improved and more widely disseminated energy technologies. Even Principle 10 of the[12] states that "Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens. Each individual should have (information) and the opportunity to participate in decision making processes." Employing a participatory approach underpins every aspect of ensuring the success of an energy project.

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Appropriate Technology

Technology in itself is not the cure-all to rural development issues. In fact, installation of the same technology within different contexts can often yield contrasting results. There is no best-fit solution to energy needs, and carriers must be weighed carefully against the local situation, capabilities and preferences.

For example the initial focus should be on modernizing existing needs before introducing new services. In many rural areas the main household energy need is for cooking purposes. The chief use of electricity is for lighting, which, although important, tends to be a much lower priority amongst households. Despite this rural electrification is often higher on the agenda of many governments and international agencies, possibly due to the relatively high profile and kudos of electrification programs compared to cooking.

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Access and Equity

Access to modern energy services can potentially have a huge impact on poverty alleviation. Despite this not all energy projects have the desired effect on the communities in which they are implemented. Energy planners need to integrate social sustainability factors within projects including: the distribution of households able to access the resources; equality of access within these households; the potential marginalization of certain groups such as women, the young or old, the very poor; and the sustainability of the livelihoods promoted by energy access.

The energy needs of rural communities are not uniform. Income, cultural background, livelihood choices and family structure can all play roles in determining particular requirements and situations.

Intra-household energy use is often just as dynamic as that between households and once again a comprehension of specific needs, situations and behaviors is necessary. Women tend to bear the burden of the human energy crisis taking responsibility for activities such as pumping water, collecting firewood and other fuels, cooking and their family's healthcare (see table below). In addition there are often distinctions in access to credit or land as well as training opportunities. As a result men and women may have very different priorities regarding energy services.

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The replicability of a particular project is also key to ensuring long term success and proliferation especially in terms of the transfer of technology and knowledge to local communities. For example, has capacity been built sufficiently enough that local people are able to take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the project? Have they acquired the necessary skills which will allow them to act as future facilitators on similar interventions in neighboring areas? Have local industries been developed and appropriate technologies been used such that local communities are not reliant on the import of materials?

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Energy for Development

Energy access in itself is not a panacea to rural poverty issues. A successful intervention has the potential to stimulate development by modernizing existing needs and introducing new services. However the long term success of any energy project requires social sustainability to play a central role which can only be achieved by starting from the context of the users rather than the technology.

Typology of Energy Access, A proposal of five different service packages for electricity access at household levels was made by Energising Development (EnDev) (August 2011):

Service Package
kWh pppa Typical System
FULL all you'd want 500 grid 100% + report
ADVANCED basic + tv, fan, video… 50 minigrid 100% + report
BASIC light, radio, telephone 5 shs 100%
PARTIAL less light, radio, phone 1-2 bcs < 100%
MINIMUM even less light 0,5 pico PV << 100%

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Further Information

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-> Please see also the Total Energy Access questionnaire on energypedia - a tool designed to assess whether a household meets the "Total Energy Access (TEA)" minimum standards.