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There are currently 2.8 billion people on earth who live on less than $2 a day, an amount the World Bank uses to measure poverty1. Poverty refers not only to a lack of wealth, but also to the inability to fulfill basic human needs. On the other end of the spectrum, the world's 225 wealthiest people have a combined income of $1 trillion 2! These statistics illustrate the large disprepancy between the "haves" and "the have-nots". Unfortunately, the gap arguably gets bigger by the day. How can we change this trend? What would be an effective approach to take on this overwhelming but quintessential problem?

The social and economic issues associated with development from poverty, such as education, health care, clean water, child mortality, and wealth are all interconnected. These are being addressed from various approaches and each warrants sustained attention. A fundamental component necessary for progress in all these fields is access to modern energy. Energy consumption is a prerequisite to development and poverty alleviation which warrants a careful examination of the most effective ways to increase it's accessibility to those who need it the most- those who live in poverty.


"To implement the goal accepted by the international community to halve the proportion of people living on less than US$ 1 per day by 2015, access to affordable energy services is a prerequisite." 3

Take a look at the world's distribution of energy.

You'll notice the strong correlation between the world's distribution of energy consumption and wealth. This is not a coincidence. Wealth and energy consumption increase together with positive feedback. The World Bank has also shown a direct correlation between energy consumption and quality of life, as measured by the Human Development Index, which takes into account educational achievement, life expectancy, and income. This is because practically every feature of development requires energy consumption and is improved with access to modern energy: health care, education, and income growth.

The research that follows will take a deeper look into how a lack of access to modern energy affects one's life (see Terese) and identify some of the key problems from the supply side (see Barriers). The Best Practices section describes certain aspects and mechanisms that can accelerate the process, while the various case studies illustrate how the specific needs in a certain context dictate the method of obtaining access to modern energy.. This will hopefully provide a good overview of the main issues and problems with a lack of energy and make clear the relevance of this issue.

Picture courtesy of Energy for Sustainable Development,


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Updated: 2016/06/30

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