Global Energy Divide

updated December 2016

The inexplicable omission of energy from the Millennium Development Goals constrained the flow of foreign aid and other sources of development finance to energy poverty programmes. As a result, the advance towards universal energy access currently records slower progress than many other poverty indicators.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of people with no access to electricity fell from 1.2 billion to 1.1 billion. More than half of this figure (621,000) is accounted for by sub-Saharan Africa where many countries provide electricity to less than 10% of rural households. A 2014 Mckinsey report finds that the whole of sub-Saharan Africa consumes less electricity than Brazil.

Mapping the current rate of progress in this region with anticipated population growth suggests that universal access will not be achieved until 2080, an indication of the challenge posed by the new Sustainable Development Goal to reach this target by 2030.

Not that connection to a grid in poor countries is any guarantee of household energy security. Inadequate maintenance, transmission losses and inability to pay for fuel imports have reduced the quality of many urban systems to a laughing stock. Up to a billion people experience unreliable services characterized by high charges and interminable periods of load shedding.

Bungled privatisations and governance failings have created energy divides within countries, with middle class urban elites and their business interests attracting premium services. The mushrooming population of cities around the developing world has added an urban dimension to energy poverty.

An even more disappointing picture emerges for access to modern cooking facilities, equally neglected by the international donor community until very recently. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of people relying on traditional biomass cooking methods increased from 2.8 billion to 2.9 billion, including 730 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, a more positive interpretation of current trends is possible. These statistics date back to 2012 and subsequent years have seen a surge of development programmes targeting energy poverty. Updated statistics due in 2017 may report significant improvement, particularly in access to electricity.


Nigerian entertainers speaking out in 2009 against the state of electric power supply. Not much has changed in the intervening years.
from effianjay

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