The world is currently facing an unprecedented health crisis, and as usual the vulnerable communities are hit the hardest. Energy poverty (or lack of access to electricity) is worsening the humanitarian crisis amid COVID-19 pandemic, and is preventing the poor from securing social benefits and economic opportunities.
Electricity, in modern life, is the foundation and lifeline for communities and economies to run and thrive. There is a growing international acknowledgement of the strong ties between poverty and lack of access to modern energy. For example, in impoverished communities, peoples’ well-being is in grave danger, because of the use of dirty and very primitive fuels (forest wood and animal waste). Moreover, rural women and young girls spend excessive time in collecting wood for fuel in order to meet their basic household needs.
Therefore, where there is no modern source of electricity, there is human suffering, lack of access to economic opportunities, and limited opportunities to get healthcare or education. Access to electricity is a key to uprooting people from poverty.
Nowadays, more than 840 million people live without access to modern energy resources and 2.8 billion people rely on primitive domestic heating options to meet their daily heating and cooking needs. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest energy access rates in the whole world – around 789 million people are living without any access to electricity.
Forecasts shows that even with current international efforts to achieve universal energy access, 650 million people will still lack electricity access by 2030. Thus, without access to clean, modern source of electricity power, it would be impossible to achieve the UN internationally agreed sustainable development goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty and enable for social and economic development.
For example, replacing open fires in poor communities with clean cooking stoves, would save the lives of 800, 000 children who annually die from exposure to indoor pollution. Not forgetting that women and girls are threatened with loss and sexual harassment when go out to search for biomass fuel. That is why SDG#7 call for action to “ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all by 2030” that is including universal access to electricity and clean cooking by 2030.
Energy Access Matters
Energy plays a crucial role in poverty eradication. Consequently, access to modern source of power is central to achieving the interconnected goals for the SDGs among them social and economic development aims. Energy poverty is conceptualized as a twin of poverty. The lack of access to sustainable and clean energy fuels and services is described as energy poverty.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in order to lift people from poverty, energy access is fundamental in reducing poverty and improving health, increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth. When access to affordable forms of energy, the vicious cycle evolves around poverty will eventually vanishes.
Ending energy poverty will contribute to building better future opportunities such as job creation, economic growth, agriculture, and education and health services. Finally, access to modern electricity should not be the end in itself; it is about advancing inclusive bottom-up solutions that will enable achievement of sustainable development priorities to end poverty.