Why energy


Satellite image of earth city lightsEnergy is essential to meeting basic human needs – food production, running water, heat, light and transport are all dependent on energy access. Poor access to energy has severe impacts on health, quality of life, education and economic productivity.

According to the International Energy Agency, 1.3 billion people around the world lack access to electricity – 84% are in rural areas. 2.4 billion people rely on traditional use of biomass, and that number is expected to rise to 2.7 billion by 2030.

Using biomass in inefficient stoves causes highly toxic household air pollution, which leads to 4.3 million premature deaths each year – a figure set to overtake the number of premature deaths from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.

Energy access is crucial to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015.

To achieve the target of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, another 395 million people require electricity and an additional 1 billion require clean cooking facilities. To ensure universal electrification by 2030, an expected $700 billion of investment is expected to be required. In developing countries, the public sector will not be able to finance this investment and private sector interventions are critical.

“Universal energy access is a key priority on the global development agenda. It is a foundation for all the Millennium Development Goals.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General.

In recognition of the importance of energy access for sustainable economic development and supporting achievement of the MDGs, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. This initiative calls for private sector and national commitments, and is attracting global attention to the importance of energy for development. It has three objectives to achieve by 2030:

  • Ensuring universal access to modern energy services.

  • Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

  • Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

We are supporting various initiatives to achieve universal energy access by 2030.

Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were designed in 2000 to eradicate extreme poverty in 2015. Energy can contribute to the achievement of many of these goals. Here is how:


Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

  • Household lighting extends the productive work day.
  • Electricity facilitates the establishment of village-based micro-enterprises.
  • Energy for irrigation increases food production and access to nutrition.
  • Better cooking technologies reduce the time spent collecting firewood.
  • Local power makes charging mobile phones cheaper and less time consuming.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

  • Household lighting enables children to read and study at night.
  • Energy services reduce time spent by school-going children on basic survival activities, such as fetching water and firewood.
  • Electricity enables the use of educational media, computers, and Internet access at schools.
  • Efficient cooking equipment releases cash for books that would otherwise be spent on charcoal and firewood.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

  • Modern energy services free women from extreme household drudgery, increase their employment opportunities, and allow them to participate more fully in community activities.
  • Energy access reduces girls’ burden to collect water and fuel, increasing their school enrolment.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

  • Energy is a prerequisite for a functional health system, contributing, for example, to lighting operating theatres, refrigerating vaccines, sterilizing equipment, and providing communications.
  • Energy for water pumping and purification greatly reduces the risk of water borne diseases.
  • Energy increases efficiency of midwives and other community-based health workers
Goal 5: Improve maternal health

  • Besides its centrality to the healthcare system, modern energy can lower maternal mortality by reducing the level of indoor air pollution, which kills 1.6 million people every year.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases 

  • Modern energy services for power and communications in rural clinics and hospitals enable a quantum leap in health services.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Access to renewable energy technologies helps to preserve natural resources and lowers emissions, which helps protect the local and global environment.
  • Reduction in biomass demand through improved cookstoves and other energy efficiency measures can reduce the rate of deforestation.
Goal 8: Build a global partnership for development

  • Electricity is necessary to power information and communications applications.