We need energy access for all. Energy is the miracle that makes modern civilization possible. How many millions of services do we have today that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago, simply because of access to energy?
Light bulbs, heaters, computers, cell phones, radios, stove tops, refrigerators, water pumped right to your faucet… It’s easy to take our energy abundance for granted, but much of the world lives, literally, in the dark.
Bringing a clean and reliable energy supply to the nearly 3 billion people who are without it, in a way that neither pollutes the air and water quality nor contributes to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, is one of the key challenges of our day.
1 out of every 5 people on Earth live without access to electricity and the opportunities it provides for education, business, and healthcare (PDF, United Nations). And without safe, well-lit places to gather, millions of women and children are placed at risk every night.
2.7 Billion people use wood, coal, dung or kerosene for cooking, heating and illumination. This exposes families to smoke and fumes that kill 2 million people per year, and is a major source of carbon pollution in the developing world. In regions like sub-Saharan Africa, no electricity means there is no water purification or regular crop irrigation, restricting food and water supplies.
Ultimately, energy poverty leads to social conflict. In some of the poorest regions of the world, the need for fuel wood is driving rapid deforestation and violent social conflict. But there is a solution to energy poverty. Even without a modern electrical grid, affordable & renewable energy sources like solar power can meet demand where it’s needed most, and do so without increasing the risk of dangerous climate change.
Some claim it’s not possible to bring electricity to those living in poverty, but if we could bring mobile phones to 6 billion people in less than 20 years (PDF), why not renewable energy? Africa’s solar resources are abundant. Data shows the continent could generate as much as 42 million megawatt-hours per year, more than 80 times its projected energy demand in 2030.
Many examples have shown just how powerful it is to bring clean, renewable electricity to rural regions.
In 2008 SolarAid trained 16 entrepreneurs in rural Tanzania to start businesses selling solar kits for schools and homes. Now 64 schools, clinics and community centers have clean, affordable energy.
In Benin, West Africa, the Solar Electric Light Fund installed an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system for the Bessassi Women’s Farming Collective. They now grow 6 tons of produce per month, nearly doubling their typical family income.
One doctor traveling through Nigeria realized she had to do something to save the lives of women and their babies. The solar suitcase was invented and now hundreds of maternity clinics in 15 countries are equipped with lighting and electricity.
Great success stories are happening throughout the developing world, but governments need to take decisive action to increase funding for energy access. $48 billion is needed per year, 5 times the current level of funding (PDF).
It transforms the lives of people, communities and nations. No country ever developed without access to energy. – Helen Clark, UNDP