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Global Goals

Getting current: New tech giving more Africans access to electricity

Charles Feinstein's picture
Control room at a power station in Ghana. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst / World Bank)

Much work remains to be done to ensure reliable electricity access for Africa's citizens. A number of complications are making it difficult to achieve this UN Sustainable Development Goal. Yet access rates are expanding in many nations, and technology and design improvements offer opportunities to make rapid leaps forward. 

Of the 1.1 billion people on Earth without access to electricity, about half live in Africa. And while the World Bank’s Global Tracking Framework shows progress is being made to deliver electricity to those without, most of it is taking place in Asia. In Africa, it’s a different story.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

Ashok Sarkar's picture
What is this? Read on to find out.

Riddle us this. In what country are...
  • 450 million ceiling fans already in use, 40 million new ones sold every year?
  • 350 million fluorescent tube lights already in use, 10 million new sold every year?
  • 30 million air conditioners already in use, three million new sold every year?
If you guessed India, you are right.

With a population of about 1.2 billion, India is one of the largest consumer markets in the world. So it’s no surprise that household appliances account for several gigawatts of electricity usage across the country. As India’s middle class grows and people move from villages to towns and cities, electricity usage is only increasing. In fact, hundreds of millions of electric appliances will be added over the next few decades. This poses a serious challenge for India’s energy security since there already are electricity supply shortages, which often lead to chronic outages and blackouts. The surge in household appliances is also a climate change challenge—India, the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter, is predicted to continue increasing its greenhouse gas emissions at least until 2030.

But India is turning this challenge into an opportunity by tapping into energy efficiency solutions, a relatively new area with already a few major successes. Considered globally as the “first fuel,” energy efficiency is rising to the forefront of India’s quest for innovative solutions to provide 24/7 reliable and affordable electricity for all.

Eyes in the sky help track rural electrification

Kwawu Mensan Gaba's picture
Front page of nightlights.io with an overview of India.
“Nightlights.io is a path-breaking platform that will transform the way the world solves the global challenge of energy availability. The tool will help us... provide energy solutions... to people who need it most.” — Tejpreet Chopra, President and CEO of Bharat Light and Power


Electricity is integral to people’s well-being across the world. With electricity, children can study at night, women can walk home more safely on well-lit streets, and businesses can stay open well past dusk.
 
However, more than one billion people still lack access to electricity today. Governments and electric utilities around the world are mobilizing vast sums of money to close the access gap, especially in rural areas that are home to those lacking electricity.
 
So, how can we determine and identify who has electricity and who doesn’t? What if we had the technology and tools to help us see lights from space every night, for every village, in every country? We could then closely monitor progress on the ground. We could even plan and optimize policies and interventions in a different manner.

Twelve energy stories you enjoyed reading in 2015

Andy Shuai Liu's picture

What are some stories that caught your attention in 2015?
 
They are ones that focus on people, data and events tied to sustainable growth, climate action and efforts to end energy poverty.
 
As we look ahead to 2016 we’d like to recap 12 popular stories that many of you read and shared in 2015. Thank you for a year of continued and growing readership. Tell us in a comment what you’d like to hear more of in the next year.  
 

Opportunity Africa: people, power, planet

Caroline Kende-Robb's picture
Africa is rich—energy rich. The continent has massive potential for renewable and low-carbon energy, with unparalleled resources to generate solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.

With such an endowment, African nations have much to gain from building internationally pioneering low-carbon energy systems. At the same time, the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway that has been followed by today’s richest countries and major economies in other regions.
 
"The effects of climate change are being felt all over the planet, but not equally." -- Kofi Annan

The poor pay more

Despite this energy wealth, two-thirds of Africans (621 million people) still live in households that do not have electricity. Africa’s poorest people also pay the world’s highest prices for energy. A woman living in a village in northern Nigeria, for example, pays 60 to 80 times as much for a unit of energy as a resident of New York because she does not have access to grid electricity.