Understanding "Energy Poverty"


hat is "Energy Poverty"?

Energy poverty can be defined as a lack of access to energy services. This means that a family's well-being may be affected by a number of factors intrincically linked to economic poverty, including low consumption of energy, pollution due to energy use (direct and indirect), or time spent in collecting various energy sources. These factors make a family "energy poor"

Consider these factors:

  • 18 percent of the global population lack access to electricity, despite modest improvements, and 38 percent lack clean cooking facilities.
  • One in five people still lacks access to modern electricity
  • Nearly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating
  • Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reducing the carbon intensity of energy is a key objective in long-term climate goals.
Source: SE4ALL and IEA

Energy Investments Nearly USD 1 trillion in cumulative investment would bring universal access by 2030. That equates to USD 49 billion a year or about five times what was being invested in 2009.

(But compare that to $187 million of military spending being spent EACH DAY in 2015 for the conflict response in Iraq alone)

Sustainable Development Goals
In response to this situation - of increase in energy poverty, the United Nations and its member states marked the start, in 2014, of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL).

SE4ALL is focused on achieving three objectives: (1) Universal Energy Access, (2) Renewable Energy and (3) Energy Efficiency. More informatio can be found on the SE4ALL website

The objectives of SE4ALL revolve around Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were drawn up in September 2015, and are targetted for completion by 2030. Specifically, Goal #7, which focuses on the role of partnerships in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

The targets of SDG#7 look at energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, eventually helping in reducing energy poverty.

Reducing energy poverty is an important policy goal not only from the perspective of economic development or job creation, but also from those of social well-being and environmental management.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org