Improving access to electricity and clean cooking requires good data. However, national surveys often fail to give a nuanced picture of how households use energy, let alone the barriers they face in accessing it.
A review of 78 household surveys shows that only a fraction — less than four percent of surveys — provides a detailed snapshot of how households access and use energy, including whether they depend on multiple fuels and devices for their energy needs or the quality and safety of their energy source.
National household surveys, on which most policymakers rely to collect energy access data, merely mention yes-or-no questions such as, “Do you have an electricity connection”?
It’s the same for cooking. Simply asking, “What is your main cooking fuel?” doesn’t help one understand the impact of cooking on health — such as exposure to harmful fumes.
Access to clean household energy is key to universal health and development
National electricity grids have expanded, adding more than 1.7 billion people in the last 20 years, benefitting urban areas for the most part and leaving rural areas behind.
Polluting fuels and inefficient cooking devices are a deterrent to growth and improved welfare. They create dangerous levels of household air pollution, which is associated with a wide range of adverse health impacts.
Collecting better data on household energy use
Responding to the global call for greater availability and quality of energy data, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), and the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) developed core questions on household energy use.
These questions go further than simply establishing if a household can access electricity and what primary cooking fuel they use. They also cover the type of electricity access, the quality and impediments to access, the kind of fuels and devices used for cooking, heating, lighting, and critical safety and livelihood impacts of household energy use.
A new guidebook to measure—and help improve—energy use
A new guidebook lists step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate the core questions into existing household surveys, administer the questions, and use the data to calculate key indicators on household energy use.
This approach aims to help countries collect and analyze data to monitor progress toward Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), indicators 7.1.1 (proportion of the population with access to electricity) and 7.1.2 (proportion of the population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technologies).
The guidebook draws from ESMAP’s Multi-tier Framework (MTF) energy access project, which accounts for the vast differences across populations in accessing energy, along with the range of technologies that can provide such access.
Looking to 2030
The annual Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report shows that barring significant efforts, the world will fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.
The goal of the Guidebook is to improve the quality and utility of the data resulting from enhanced surveys to develop and implement effective policies to address energy access gaps and promote clean cooking, heating, and lighting.
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