Planning and Implementing Energy Access

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Introduction: What?

Access to safe, clean, affordable, adequate and modern energy is necessary for human development, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth. To effectively provide universal energy access, a robust planning and implementation mechanism is required.


There are many Institutions responsible for planning and implementing energy access. Their roles are elaborated on in this Energypedia article.


First, we need to understand the barriers to energy access.

The largest percentage of people without adequate energy access are the rural poor in developing nations. Connecting the underserved is often considered economically unviable. Combined with the huge investments in production and delivery that would be required, private players are often reluctant to undertake this on a large scale given that returns are uncertain. Therefore, governments have the responsibility to make energy access possible.

One of the barriers is the lack of effective policies governing energy access, which leads to a lack of effective long term sustainable programs for providing electricity. Further, institutional frameworks, which would govern how access is provided, may be missing. This can lead to poorly defined roles, as well as impairing effective leadership. In some nations, these responsibilities are shared across multiple governmental departments, which gives rise to bureaucratic challenges, delayed release of funds, improper fund allocation as well as misdirected focus. The sometimes brief tenure of personnel can also play a part in this. In addition, issues such as the unavailability of trained manpower, sudden lack of finance, uneven distribution and unreliability of the supply of resources and raw materials pose additional challenges. Lack of coordination between different branches of the government is also a problem, because simply providing energy is not sufficient for development. Coordinated developmental interventions, informational sessions and training need to be implemented, and targeted towards agriculture and small industrial firms.

Establishing processes and assigning responsibilities is essential for the effective planning and implementation of safe, affordable and equitable energy access.

Political Vision

Long term government support and commitment is required in order for any large-scale energy access program to succeed. Planning should be done keeping in mind the next 30 years. Strong leadership is required that will promote an agenda of welfare, health and development, with clean energy access being the driver.[1] In most nations where universal energy access has been achieved, strong leadership and long term political vision has been the essential to success.[2]

Energy Strategy & Scenarios

The vision must then be translated into an effective strategy to provide electrification. Such a strategy must be set out in comprehensive terms and electrification plans must be carried out at a national level and, subsequently, at each state/province level. Adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders, which would include state governments and generation and transmission utilities, is essential.

This is important as, in some developing nations, it has been observed that there are several government bodies involved in providing energy access, sometimes with no coordination between them. For example, there are different entities that are responsible for energy generation, energy distribution, renewable energy, rural development, hydroelectric power and so on. An effective strategy would require that these multiple stakeholders be placed under clear leadership or at least have coordination with one entity. Thus, the plan will set up a framework regarding the roles and responsibilities of each entity. Strategies may also include capacity building and skill development of existing staff, or of additional personnel which is needed to scale up and deliver services efficiently

Detailed Roadmap & legally binding targets for implementation

Once the long-term vision and strategy are in place, there must be a roadmap for the different facets, along with legally binding targets and real consequences for lack of follow through for implementation to be successful. Providing such long-term, output-based roadmaps, will also improve the governance system with regard to issues such as bureaucratic inefficiencies, changing personnel and political expediencies affecting decisions.

Processes for implementation must be evolved and codified. Implementation starts from building generation capacity, transmission infrastructure and end-user connectivity.

This can be done through grid extension or through decentralized means. Further information about these methods is presented here. Planning energy access: Centralized or decentralized electrification

Regulatory and Institutional Frameworks

While much focus is placed on getting energy access, it is important to remember that the quality of the energy supplied matters, too. To achieve a basic minimum standard of supply, regulations must be developed and promoted. Quality standards may be different for different uses, but still must be realistic and affordable to achieve and use. This is especially true for decentralized distribution; regulations need to be introduced in a simplified manner, so that they are accessible to as many people as possible. Regulations could cover tariffs, power and service quality.[1]

Finance is another issue, as funding energy access is not cheap and the financial distress of utility companies is often a large barrier to energy access. With the issue of finance comes the issue of affordability: energy services must be provided at a price which is affordable to the end consumer and makes financial sense for the utility provider. In the event of a financial gap, the government should have a plan to subsidize electrification.[1] To prepare for such investments, long term financial planning must be carried out, keeping in mind current and projected revenue streams and potential cross subsidization opportunities, both from industry as well as from comparatively affluent urban areas. There also needs to be a framework regulating how private players can be involved in the process, as centralized distribution does provide cross subsidization opportunities, while decentralized systems are usually locally owned and operated as a business. Therefore, incentives are needed for these entrepreneurs, such as risk guarantees and tax breaks, especially for smaller players. Furthermore, specific frameworks for decentralized systems, such as quality standards, must be established.

Information and training need to be fostered, along with improvements in access to institutions and financial inclusion through access to credit. This is especially important as, in some cases, groups who have recently obtained access did not know how to economically benefit from it.[3] Community engagement is required in order to secure any socioeconomic benefit. Thus, creating institutional frameworks is essential to maximize the impact of energy access.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Transparent Reporting

Once implementation has begun, it is important to measure progress, therefore, a robust Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting framework is required.

Ideally, successful electrification should include not just the physical infrastructure built, or the number of persons connected to electricity, but the impact that electrification has on socioeconomic indicators and on the general well-being of consumers and suppliers, as well.

First, a set of indicators must be developed as part of the planning process. These indicators could be qualitative or quantitative, and can be measured at the start of the project to establish a baseline, and then be regularly monitored through various earmarked stages of the project implementation. While every electrification program could formulate its own indicators and frameworks, for comparison and benchmarking, it would be best to use a globally accepted framework. An example this is the Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE). RISE, a product of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative’s Knowledge Hub. Some of the indicators that RISE evaluates for energy access are illustrated in Table 1. Additionally, there is a need for transparency of this process, with governments providing data and reports in an open and free manner to ensure progress.

Table 1: RISE -Policy and Regulation indicators for Energy Access [4]

Existence and Monitoring of officially approved electrification plan

Scope of officially approved electrification plan

Framework for grid electrification

Framework for mini-grids

Framework for stand-alone systems

Consumer affordability of electricity

Utility transparency and monitoring

Utility creditworthiness


Although proposed plans may have a time horizon of decades, they must be flexible enough to react to new challenges and opportunities.

One such opportunity is the rapid growth of technology in the field of energy uses, which produces falling prices of energy efficient appliances, as well as the development of more efficient distribution methods. A related development is the falling price of renewable energy, combined with improvements in energy storage technology. Such innovations and opportunities must be embraced in order to make the implementation process effective and efficient.


Planning and implementing universal energy access is undeniably a challenging task. Nations have done it differently and at different rates, with varying degrees of success. Each nation needs to find its own path. A sustained commitment from the government is essential in meeting the objective.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 World Bank. (2017). State of electricity access report 2017.
  2. UNCTAD. (2017). The least developed countries report 2017: Transformational Energy Access. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
  3. Peters, J., Harsdorff, M., & Ziegler, F. (2009). Rural electrification: Accelerating impacts with complementary services. Energy for Sustainable Development, 13(1), 38–42.
  4. Banerjee, S.G, Moreno, F; Sinton, J.E., Primiani, T., Seong, J. (2017). Regulatory indicators for sustainable energy: a global scorecard for policy makers (English). Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. scorecard-for-policy-makers

Other reading

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This article is part of the Energy Access Portal which is a joint collaboration between energypedia UG and the “World Access to Modern Energy (WAME)". WAME is managed by the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (MuST), the Fondazione AEM and the Florence School of Regulation (FSR) and it is supported by Fondazione CARIPLO.

Written by Arjun Surendra