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We’re Closer To Universal Access To Electricity Than We Think

1.2 billion people have already gained access since 2000.

Photo via PxHere.


More people than ever now have access to electricity.

It’s not hard to imagine how difficult life would be without access to electricity. Everyday activities like checking emails, heating up leftovers, or running a load of laundry become monumental — if not impossible — without electricity. For the International Energy Agency (IEA), lack of energy access isn’t a thought experiment but a key element of its sustainable development goals.

Thanks to the work of their agency and many like it, fewer than 1.1 billion people around the globe currently live without easy access to electricity. While that number may sound large from the outset, consider the fact that nearly 1.2 billion have actually gained access over the past 18 years. A large portion of that population — 870 million to be exact — come from developing regions in Asia, one of the continents seeing the greatest improvements in energy access. As a direct result of plummeting solar energy costs and more efficient lighting solutions, it might be easier to close the energy gap than we think.

Still, challenges remain, which is something the IEA addressed in a report. As a result of the energy gap in developing countries, 2.8 billion people lack access to clean, safe kitchens. And of those nearly 3 billion people, 2.5 billion have no means other than traditional fires to cook food. Through the burning of biomass and coal, these households risk exposing themselves to the harmful consequences of airborne pollutants. This is the case in 80% of sub-Saharan Africa, where people rely on the burning of solid biomass to prepare their meals.

On the bright side, researchers have seen a 60% increase in the use of clean cooking methods by means of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, and electricity since 2000. Through policy reform and investment in new technologies, the IEA projects a 99% electrification rate in Asia and Latin America and a rate of 95% in the Middle East by 2030. On its current path, India could achieve universal electricity access by as early as the 2020s.

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