Basic Energy Supply

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Basic Energy Services in a Nutshell: Context | Basics | Energy Systems


According to the Poor peoples Energy Outlook 2010 there are six basic energy services that an individual needs, wants and has a right to, this services are crucial in the sustenance, maintaining good health, and earning a living for the individuals :[1]

  • Lighting
  • Cooking and water heating
  • Space heating
  • Cooling
  • Access to information and communication technologies
  • Energy for earning a living

Normally poor households spend 80% of their energy expenditure to appease their energy needs for cooking, lighting, information and communication media. There can be other energy requirements depending on the conditions of the country or regional specifications, they include; heating, refrigeration, cooling or running any other household appliances. [2]

Lack of Modern access to energy is a form of individual or household poverty that limits human development and depriving people’s poverty and access to basic needs.[1] This can be shown in the table below, on how access to modern energy services fulfills basic human needs of cooking, heating, and lighting; improves productivity; and addresses the needs of everyday life in a modern society.[3]

Incremental levels of energy access
Use of energy in the level
Level 1
Basic human needs
Electricity for lighting, health communication, and communication
and community services (50–100 kWh per person per year)
Modern fuels and technologies for cooking and heating
(50–100 Kgs of modern fuel or improved biomass cook stove)
Level 2
Productive uses

Electricity, modern fuels and other energy services to improve productivity e.g.

  • Agriculture: water pumping for Irrigation, fertilizer, mechanized tilling
  • Commercial: agriculture processing, cottage industry
  • Transport: fuel
Level 3
Modern society needs

Modern energy services for many more domestic appliances, increased requirements for cooling and heating (space and water), private transportation. (electricity usage is around 2000 kWh per person per year.)

The importance of energy can be attributed to a lot of factors both on an individual and a production level. Social services such as education and health care have to rely on it for them to be delivered effectively. Economic activities such as household production, farming and industrial production depend on it so as to gain more revenue. With this relations wealth and development status of nations are closely correlated to the type of energy and the extent to its access. When the energy is readily available and there is the right kind of technology, there is better development both for individuals, households, communities and the economy as well. [4]

General Definition Of Basic Energy Access

A household is considered to be experiencing energy poverty if they use candles or kerosene lamps as their main source of lighting, while a three-stone fire as their main source of cooking. This however does not have a clear agreement on when it ends or what improvements are needed in the energy services so as to end this poverty. Almost all households, even the poorest ones, have some access to electricity at least in form of dry cell batteries to run a torch or a small radio. However, access to electricity in a broad sense would seem like a mirage to these households, this assessment becomes even more difficult if the households have a small solar home system providing electricity for a few bulbs and a radio. Hence this raises the question: 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? Likewise mechanical power is critical for small scale farmers, but is `access` having an improved hand grinding tool, or a diesel mill in the village, or the next village?

From the examples demonstrated it is clear to see that there are no minimum levels or standards for developing a universal accepted definition of access to modern energy. However gaining access to improved energy services is a continuous process of improvement and not a sudden event. 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 their technologies as well as what level of access should be aimed for, if we talk about “Universal Energy Access”? If this 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. [5]

Basic Definition Of Energy Access

Since there is no single internationally-accepted and internationally-adopted definition of modern energy access, there are a few definitions that have been raised so as to understand modern energy access. According to World Energy Outlook, Modern energy access is defined as, “a household having reliable and affordable access to clean cooking facilities, a first connection to electricity and then an increasing level of electricity consumption over time to reach the regional average”.[6] This is just but one definition of energy access that is widely acceptable although there are more definitions for instance basics definition of Energy Access according to HERA GIZ, it can be summarized as follows: [7]

Access Level
Type Of Access
KWh pppa
Full Access
Unlimited energy use
Grid Connection
Basic supply plus DVD player, fridge, fan
Mini grid
Basic Supply
Lighting, Radio, TV, Phone
10 (CFL/LED);20 incandescent
Solar Home System
Partial supply
Less light, Radio, TV
3 (CFL/LED);6 incandescent
Rechargeable Battery
Minimum Access
Even Less light
Solar Lantern

Total Energy Access

Total Energy Access is energy access defined at point of use and in all its dimensions. According to the Poor Peoples Energy Outlook, there are a series of proposed minimum standards to energy services that people need, want and have a right to.[8][1]

Energy Access
Minnimum Standards of Energy Access
  • 300 Lumens at household level.
Cooking and Water Heating
  • 1 kg wood fuel or 0.3Kg charcoal or 0.04Kg LPG or o.2 liters kerosene or ethanol per person per day, taking less than 30 minutes per household per day to obtain.
  • Minimum efficiency of improved wood and charcoal stove to be 40% greater than three stone fire in terms of fuel use.
  • Annual mean concentration of particulate matter (PM 2.5) 10 ug/m 3 in households, with interim goals of 15 ug/m 3, 25 ug/m 3 and 35 ug/m 3.
Space Heating
  • Minimum daytime indoor temperature of 12 degrees centigrade.
  • Food processor, retailers and householders have facilities to extend life of perishable products by a minimum of 50% over that allowed by ambient storage.
  • All health facilities have refrigeration adequate for blood, vaccine and medical needs for local populations.
  • Maximum indoor temperature of 30 degrees centigrade.
Information and Communication
  • People can communicate electronic information beyond the locality in which they live.
  • People can access electronic media relevant to their lives and livelihoods.
Earning a Living
  • Access to energy is sufficient for the start-up of any enterprise.
  • The proportion of operating cost for energy consumption in energy efficient enterprise is financially sustainable.

Factors to be Considered in Gaining Energy Access

The importance of energy access is evident in all aspects of human survival and wellbeing.It is essential for the provision of social services such as; education and health and an essential input for the economic and industrial sector. Since energy access is commonly measured as the electrification rate and access to modern cooking fuels, poverty levels will continue to be on the rise because of lack of access to basic energy access leads to poverty which normally goes hand in hand with energy services. Hence providing and improving basic energy services will only be successful if tailored to the needs and capabilities of poor population groups. For this to be achieved a full set of poverty-relevant criteria must be considered for the energy service provided. This include :[9][10]


This is to understand if the energy is available in the long-run as well as the long-term solutions to the current energy problems. The possible use of the energy without negative side-effects is also considered as it has an impact on the environment and health of the users.


The availability of energy is the presence of energy service in a particular surrounding. This makes the energy accessible to more people leading to better energy services.


This is concerned with how many people can afford the energy service. Since most poor households spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy. For households earning less than $3000 annually, the percentage that is spent on energy can be as high as 12%. In most cases this costs are associated with shifting to a new energy carrier or end use technology which is usually a great barrier for poor households. This can only be mitigated with interventions on how such households can have energy access through payment mechanisms such as loans or subsidies. [11][12]


The energy service needs to meet the demands of the end user. And as modern energy is not easily accessible especially to the poor, but the imperative question is if it meets the necessary needs of the end user when it’s available.

Socio-cultural Acceptance

Within a society, processes leading to change include invention and culture loss. And since culture is dynamic and difficult to just change, energy has to fit in and be accepted at the community level by the users.

Security Of Supply

Access to cheap energy has become essential to the functioning of modern economies. However its uneven distribution among countries has led to significant vulnerabilities. Developed countries have the capacity to develop new sources of energy production but their poor counterparts’ lack this capacity. This makes them even more susceptible to development.[13]


There are a variety of energy sources that can be used both in households and for industrial purposes. But since most of the World’s population that lacks basic energy services cannot afford to invest in multiple improved energy services, it leaves them mostly with the option of biomass as their main source of energy. This makes them vulnerable because there is no alternative energy service in case there is a breakdown.


When it comes to energy and for it to ameliorate there has to be participation from the ends users. Involving the people in the provision of the energy services makes it easier to surpass the cultural challenges that are associated with introducing new energy technologies to the market. Therefore employing a participatory approach underpins every aspect of ensuring the success of an energy project. [14]

Appropriate Technology

Without the appropriate technology, full energy access cannot be entirely achieved. Although this is true technology in itself is not the cure-all to rural development issues. There is no definite solution to energy needs; therefore carriers must be weighed carefully against the local situation, capabilities and preferences.[15]


The long term of a project is mainly determined by its replicability in the future or in other terms the capability of transfer of technology and knowledge to local communities. This focuses on whether the local people have gained sufficient knowledge to take responsibility of the maintenance and upkeep of the project. Are the acquired skills adequate enough to allow the local communities to be future facilitators of similar projects in neighboring communities and most of all are there local industries and technologies that limits the local communities’ reliance on imported materials? [16]

Access and Equity

Poverty and underdevelopment has been closely related to access to modern energy. In spite of this, not all energy projects have the desired effect on the communities in which they are implemented. Social sustainability factors need to be integrated within the energy projects, this include,

  • 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
  • the sustainability of the livelihoods promoted by energy access.

Factors such as income level, cultural background, livelihood choice and family structure play a role in determining the energy needs for rural communities. In the household level, energy use is just as dynamic and comprehension of specific energy 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. [16]

Requirements to Improve Energy Access

Provision of basic energy services is only successful if it is tailored to the needs and capabilities of poor population groups. Continued efforts in improving the quality and quantity of statistical information related to energy access is also essential as well as a clear basis for designing policies and programs to address energy poverty challenges.For most countries, statistical data on access to electricity and modern fuels (or conversely reliance on solid fuels) are relatively available and accessible, although there are issues of data consistency with other sources. Further information is required so as to understand the type of energy carriers and the end-users, how much they cost, and the benefits derived from them especially for the poor men and women.Particularly noteworthy is the lack of data available on improved cooking stoves (73 of 140 countries lack data) and mechanical power (137 of 140 countries lack data). [17]

Greater broad-access efforts are essential in the achievement of modern energy access, especially for cooking, heating services and mechanical power, especially rural and remote areas. For accountability and tracking of the progress, well defined targets need to be set and they ought to be part of a viable energy access strategy backed by appropriate priorities, policies and programs, and financial resources. Unless this is perused and massive efforts made to expand the range, quality and quantity of energy services available to the poor, total energy access and development is unlikely to be achieved.[17]

of Global change implied by achievement of universal energy access is difficult to imagine while the number of people without energy access continues to grow in absolute terms. In the PPEO 2010, three key areas – policy, capacity, and financing – were identified as issues on which change is required at local, national, and international levels if energy access is to be accelerated.[8]Clearly, achieving universal access to energy by 2030 will demand increased collaboration between primary stakeholders in order to unblock barriers. These includes government and international agencies ,those in the formal energy sector, as well as enterprises, universities, non-governmental organizations, community groups, financiers and more. This ‘ecosystem’ of energy access service providers must expand in order to meet the objective of total energy access.[1]

In a broad sense almost all energy investments can be considered as a contribution to improved energy access. Reforms in the political and energy sector can encourage investment in power generation and distribution of different forms of energy which can benefit the poor. However, most of these investments have an indirect effect on energy access rates. To narrow it down further these activities can be considered to target on energy access which directly reaches households without modern energy services.[18]

Further Information


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 PPEO 2010:
  2. Energypedia:
  3. ESMAP (2011), Household Energy Access for Cooking and Heating:Lessons Learned and the Way Forward:
  4. Energypedia:
  5. Energypedia :
  6. World Energy Outlook:
  7. Energy Access, GIZ
  8. 8.0 8.1 PPEO2012:
  9. GIZ, factsheet-poverty-oriented-basic-energy-services
  10. Energypedia:
  11. EarthTrends Update May 2009, Energy Access for Development:
  12. Energypedia :
  13. Globolisation 101:
  14. Energypedia:
  15. Energypedia:
  16. 16.0 16.1 Energypedia:
  17. 17.0 17.1 UNDP, The Energy Access Situation in Developing Countries: A Review Focusing on the Least Developed Countries and Sub-Saharan Africa: Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "UNDP, The Energy Access Situation in Developing Countries: A Review Focusing on the Least Developed Countries and Sub-Saharan Africa:" defined multiple times with different content
  18. Energypedia:Access to Modern Energy