Worldwatch Institute
says more than a
billion people in the
world still lack access
to electricity.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania --- ESI-AFRICA.COM --- 03 February 2012 - More than a billion people in the world still lack access to electricity, while another one billion have unreliable access, hampering efforts to improve health and livelihoods, and to conserve the environment.

Findings from new research by the Worldwatch Institute (WI) urge governments and development organisations to invest in electrification to achieve critical health, environmental, and livelihood outcomes, a statement released here by the Institute said.

Citing data from the UN and the International Energy Agency (IEA) the WI research says between 1990 and 2008, close to two billion people worldwide gained access to electricity. But more than 1.3 billion people still lacked access to electricity, while another one billion had unreliable access.

According to the IEA, some US$1.9 billion had been invested worldwide in 2009 in extending access to modern energy services, such as electricity and clean cooking facilities. The agency projects that between 2010 and 2030, an average of US$14 billion will be spent annually, mostly on urban grid connections.

“Modern energy sources provide people with lighting, heating, refrigeration, cooking, water pumping, and other services that are essential for reducing poverty, improving health and education, and increasing incomes,” write WI research report authors Michael Renner and Matthew Lucky.

At least 2.7 billion people, and possibly more than three billion, lack access to modern fuels for cooking and heating, according to the research.

They rely instead on traditional biomass sources, such as firewood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues, that can emit harmful indoor air pollutants when burned. These pollutants cause nearly two million premature deaths worldwide each year, an estimated 44% of them in children. In adult deaths, 60%are women.

Traditional energy usage also contributes to environmental impacts including forest and woodland degradation, soil erosion, and black carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Electrification varies widely between rural and urban areas in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the rural electrification rate is just 14%, compared with 60% in urban areas.

“As new approaches to electrification evolve "’ones that don't rely on expensive regional or national grids but rather a diversity of locally available energy resources "’ we can begin to reach for the goal of access to electricity for all, rural as well as urban,” said Worldwatch president Robert Engelman.