Basic Energy Services - Status Quo

From energypedia

Overview of the Basic Problem and Status Quo

With the current world population close to 7 billion people[1], modern basic energy delivery is imperative for both human survival and economic development. As fundamental as access to energy is, there are still a great number of people who are experiencing energy poverty. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people who have no access to electricity, while 2.6 billion people still do not have access to clean and efficient cooking facilities. More than 95% of these people live in Sub-Sahara Africa or developing Asia and 84% in rural areas.[2]

Children reading with kerosene lamp
Children reading with kerosene lamp

Lack of Access to Electricity - Facts & Figures

  • People without access to electricity are approximated at 1.3 billion which attributes to 20% of the global population.[3]
  • There are over 1 billion people with unreliable electricity supply (unplanned power outages, massive losses, and power quality issues), most of whom are poor and live in rural areas of developing countries.[4]
  • There are over 30 countries where more than half the population don’t have access to electricity.[5]
  • There are 32 countries with an electrification rate of less than 50%, 26 of these are located in Sub-Sahara Africa where the average electrification rate is just 26%, in rural regions as low as 8%[6]. Sub-Sahara Africa has the lowest per capita consumption of electricity globally.[6]
  • Worldwide developing Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa account for 95% of the regions without access to modern energy access.[3]
  • The electrification rate in South Asia is 60-65%. However the case, the unelecrtification rate is as high as in Sub-Sahara Africa with most households living in India.

Electricity Access

Without access to electricity[7]:

Developing Countries
Population (Millions)
Shared Population (according to population size)
Latin America
Middle East

-> Resource and further information on statistics of people without electricity information is on World Energy Outlook WEO.

  • In Sub-Sahara Africa, the countries with the largest population without electricity are DR of Congo, Ethiopia and NigeriaIn developing Asia, India, Bangladesh and indonesia have the largest household populations without electricity.[8]
  • Electricity costs are considerably higher in rural areas than urban centres. This can be attributed to more developed grid systems, lower service cost and service providers incentive to provide higher quality in the urban areas. [4]
  • Projections by The New Policies Scenario indicate that close to 1 billion people will still be without electricity and 2.6 billion people will still be without clean cooking facilities in 2030. While projections are optimistic for developing Asia, where the number of people without access to electricity will be considerably lower in 2030 compared to 2010, and Latin America, where universal electricity access may be achieved before 2030, projections for Sub-Sahara Africa are less optimistic, where a worsening trend will persist until around 2025.[9]

Cooking/Heating with Biomass

Traditional use of biomass for cooking[10]:

Developing Countries
Population (Millions)
Shared Population (according to population size)
Developing Asia
Latin America
Middle East

->Resource and further information on statistics of people using biomass for cooking and heating information is on World Energy Outlook WEO

Women collecting fire wood for cooking, India

  • Food is key for human well-being. 95% of the staple foods need to be cooked before eating[11] and most people cook 2-3 times per day.[12]
  • 2.7 billion people, 40% of the global population use biomass fuel for cooking, i. e. firewood, charcoal, dung and agricultural residue.[12]
  • Cooking energy accounts for about 90% of all household energy consumption in developing countries.[12]
  • Due to its availability, biomass fuels are the only energy sources in rural areas especially in Sub-Sahara Africa, therefore more than 80% of the population depend on it for their daily cooking.[12]
  • Biomass fuels are mainly burned on inefficient open fires and traditional stoves.[12]
  • Despite the efforts focusing on substitution through cleaner fuels such as LPG and electrification, reliance on biomass is on the increase. It is estimated that by 2030, more than 2.8 billion people will be cooking with biomass.[12]
  • In regard to the 3 billion people worldwide without access to modern fuels in 2007, over 828 million or 27% used improved cook stoves (70% of which in China; in Sub-Sahara Africa, where 80% still use solid fuels, only 4% use improved cook stoves). [13]
  • For cooking, developing Asia, led by china sees a significant improvement, but the number of people without clean cooking facilities in India alone by 2030 is still twice the population of the United States today. In sub-Saharan Africa the picture worsens by around one-quarter by 2030.[3]

Population Growth and Rising Energy Demand

  • Across developing countries, the average electrification rate is 76%, 92% in urban areas but only around 64% in rural areas, resulting in more than eight out of ten people without modern energy access living in rural areas, this could be an important factor when trying to identify the most appropriate solution. [14]
  • The World population is expected to grow by over a third, or 2.3 billion people, between 2009 and 2050. Sub-Sahara Africa’s population is projected to grow the fastest (+114%) and East and Southeast Asia’s the slowest (+13%). [15]
  • The urban population is expected to grow from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion 2050 and there will likely be 0.3 billion fewer rural inhabitants in 2050. [16]
  • On average, by 2050, around $635 million will be invested in clean cooking facilities annually. Despite this effort, population growth limits global achievements in the field of cooking energy. The investments rather only ensure there is no significant worsening of the situation between now and 2030.[17]
  • Estimates show a total investment of nearly $1 trillion ($979 billion) would be required to achieve universal energy access by 2030, an average of $49 billion per year (from 2011 to 2030).[17]
  • Strategies focusing on energy access by rapidly extending electric grid and LPG supply will favour urban areas as it is easier and more cost-efficient 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 and low industrial activities are prohibiting factors for grid extension to many rural areas in terms of economic viability of the infrastructure investment. Even for subsidized programs, grid extension to those households will often not be an economically, technologically and developmentally appropriate solution.[18]

Addressing Energy Poverty

A functioning energy supply is crucial for the economy of a country in order to generate economic growth. Over the long term, economic growth at the macro-level is meant to lead to ‘trickle-down’ effects, for instance by causing incomes to rise at the micro-level.

For the individual, the provision of modern energy services in households, social infrastructure (schools, health clinics...) and small and micro enterprises lead to a direct improvement of his or her own capabilities. Energy is needed for lighting, cooking, cooling, income generation, preparation of potable water, heating, communication, entertainment. Lack of this commodity for those living in poverty significantly affects and undermines their opportunities for better health, education and development. Moreover it reduces a family's potential to rise up out of poverty. Poor people do not need energy in a certain form or from a certain source. Instead, they need these very basic energy services, such as energy for cooking, lighting or operating machines, which assist them in improving their life situation.

Households with no access to electricity are often constrained to do their chores during daylight hours. These leaves little time for engaging in paid work or leisure activities. Furthermore schoolwork is also dependent on daylight hours as the commonly used kerosene lamp provides poor quality lighting. In colder regions, firewood has to be collected for keeping the houses warm. Thus the opportunity costs of restricted access to domestic energy have a profound effect for all family members especially women who are the main managers of household biomass energy.

Fuel collection demand a lot of effort, is time wasting and additionally it burns inefficiently in the three stone thus bringing health complications.[19] There are approximately 2 million premature deaths each year mostly in developing countries as a result of indoor air pollution (from cooking with biomass and coal).[20] Most of those deaths are due to pneumonia affecting children under 5 years of age,[21] that’s 50% more deaths than from malaria worldwide. Therefore replacement of outdated cookstoves and open fires with modern energy services would save the lives of 800,000 children who die each year as a result of exposure to indoor smoke. And since healthy people are more productive than unhealthy people, improved health will result to higher revenue. Correspondingly the use of clean energy at homes and in businesses has positive impact on social development.[22]

Incomplete combustion of carbon in solid biomass in open fires and inefficient cookstoves leads to emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Therefore interventions that improve combustion efficiency thus reducing emissions and exposure to pollutants can lead to health benefits and mitigate climate change. Emission reductions can be traded on the international carbon markets (compliance or voluntary market). The revenues stemming from the emissions trade can be used in various ways to enhance the adoption of improved cookstoves - indirect subsidies that support the different steps along the cookstove value chain are generally to be preferred over directly subsidizing the price of the end-user device in order to avoid market distortion and enhance sustainability of the intervention.

Increased deforestation rates are evident in many developing countries, this is mostly attributed to a high population growth rate, intensive charcoal production and reliance on woody biomass for cooking. Charcoal is usually the fuel of choice in most urban and peri-urban areas in developing countries. The unsustainable usage of wood for cooking and charcoal production leads to mud-slides, loss of watershed and desertification and thus places pressure on regional food security and agricultural productivity.[23]

Hence, the importance of energy can be attributed to provision of basic services including, healthcare, clean living conditions as well as education, especially at night. Modern technologies also require energy for conservation e.g. refrigeration of foods and medicine as well as irrigation which leads to higher yields and food security. By using modern fuels, women especially are relieved from the tedious time consuming burden and dangers associated with firewood gathering. [24]This time can be utilized for other productive activities which can earn more revenue for her family. [25] Time spent by poor households on basic activities can be reduced by the embracing energy technologies so as to save time and help communities meet basic needs as well as stimulate their social, economic and environmental development. [26]

Energy poverty should be addressed through a concerted effort of private investements, civil society engagement and the enhancement of policies and national programs. For this to be achieved effectively, energy access situations in countries including regional and national trends, rural/urban disparities and the range of energy sources commonly used in poor households, need to be accurately monitored. [27]

Further Information


  2. iea:
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 OECD/IEA, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 ELECTRA no 259, Invited Papers, The global electrification challenge the case of rural and remote areas, Adriaan Zomers, Dan Waddle, Joseph Mutale, Annemarije Kooijman-van Dijk
  5. EarthTrends Update May 2009, Energy Access for Development:
  6. 6.0 6.1 Energypedia – Access to Modern Energy:
  7. World Energy outlook 2012:
  8. OECD/IEA, 2012:
  9. Wordenergyoutlook:
  10. worldenergyoutlook:
  11. Energy for the Poor: Underpinning the Millennium Development Goals, DFID (August 2002),
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Cooking Energy Compendium:
  13. PPEO, 2012:
  14. World energy outlook 2012:
  15. FAO_How to feed the world 2050:
  16. UN_Worldurbanizationprospects:
  17. 17.0 17.1 World Energy Outlook 2012 :
  18. Energypedia_Access to Modern Energy:
  19. The Impact of Electrification on Women’s Lives in Rural India:
  20. WHO_Indoor air pollution and health:
  21. WHO_Air quality and health:
  22. Productive uses of energy for rural development:
  23. Global alliance for clean cooking stoves:
  24. Earth trend_the enviroment information portal:
  25. Sustainable energy for all:
  26. WHO UNDP_the energy access situation in developing countries: