Poor People's Energy Outlook 2010

From Open Energy Information

The report presents the perspective of those living in energy poverty through direct testimonies, and proposes a new series of energy service standards in response.

Access to modern energy services is a fundamental prerequisite for poverty reduction and sustainable human development. Energy services impact upon all aspects of people’s lives and livelihoods – people without access are constrained to a life of poverty. The importance of energy access demands greater attention from the development community.

Apart from the physical impact imposed in terms of fuel collection, the wasted time and the inefficient burning of woodfuel in three-stone fires, there is a huge burden on health. A staggering 1.4 million people – mostly women and children – die each year as a result of inhaling smoke from traditional cooking stoves. That’s 50% more than worldwide deaths from malaria. In September 2010 the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon launched the target of universal energy access by 2030. He described the importance of energy access in poverty reduction and the role of energy services in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):

“Universal energy access is a key priority on the global development agenda. It is a foundation for all the MDGs. … Without energy services, the poor are cut off from basic amenities. They are forced to live and work in unhealthy, polluted conditions. Furthermore, energy poverty directly affects the viability of forests, soils and rangelands. In short, it is an obstacle to the MDGs.”

But today’s approach to providing energy access to those who lack it is, from a poor person’s perspective, fractured and incoherent. National energy planning still assumes that the formal energy sector will be the principle means to ending energy poverty. But reality shows something different. The energy provided by rural electrification programmes is rarely sufficient or affordable for cooking, the most energy-consuming household activity. This leaves millions of families who have been lucky enough to benefit from such a programme preparing their evening meal under the glow of an electric light – in a smoke-filled kitchen over an unimproved wood or dung-burning stove. Meanwhile national planning for improved access to mechanical power, which is so necessary for small enterprises and the development of local economies, remains almost entirely forgotten.

The Poor People’s Energy Outlook seeks to highlight today’s energy access apartheid, as a first step to ending it. The report presents the perspective of those living in energy poverty through direct testimonies, and proposes a new series of energy service standards in response. Practitioners present their perspectives on the big challenges. Finally, a new framework for action is proposed that recognises the full range of actors needed to eliminate energy poverty, and focuses energy policy on creating an energy access ‘ecosystem’ in which these various actors can effectively work and flourish. This report asserts that such a change is possible. The UN Secretary General’s call for universal energy access by 2030 can still become a reality.

Access to modern energy can truly transform the lives of people living in poverty. Stories like Mamdhur’s from Nepal must inspire us to act:

“Now we have electric lighting, we are very much relieved. We have more time to spend with our children and families, and no longer breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamp that used to hurt our lungs. It was my dream to have lighting facilities in my village. The dark has turned to light.”

I hope you, like me, will find the Poor People’s Energy Outlook a compelling call to action: energy access for all.