Electricity for all:
Targets, timetables, instruments
An initiative to make electricity
available, accessible and affordable to all:
Proposal for a global debate.
Universal access to essential services such as energy,
water and health care was, together with the theme
of public-private partnerships, the central issue
of the World Summit for Sustainable Development held
in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. In particular,
the awareness has been constantly growing that
access to electricity plays a crucial role
in achieving the objectives of sustainable development.
Providing electricity to all citizens of the world
who are deprived to access appears as the breaking-point
of poverty alleviation. Every single one of the
UN Millennium Development Goals from the
halving of the number of people living in poverty
to better education and improved health requires
access to electricity as a necessary prerequisite.
Currently, one third of humanity is still without
access to electricity, thereby foregoing the basic
amenities of electric lighting, communication or refrigeration.
Without electric pumps, in some regions, access to
clean water is very difficult; without electricity
there is no refrigeration, no radio, no television,
no internet; without electricity there is no mechanic
energy for improving labor productivity or allowing
for the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Poverty and non-access to electricity are closely
correlated. Establishing a correlation, however, does
not provide the sense of causality. Is poverty the
consequence of non-access to electricity? Or is the
access to electricity the result of improved income
and economic affluence? Causalities work in effect
both ways. The central idea which is proposed in this
study is that access to electricity might be the
breaking point of the vicious cycle of poverty.
Not only electricity supply is at the crossroads of
economic, social and environmental progress. Not only
electricity is a common source of other major basic
services, but progress is measurable in clear-cut
quantitative terms. Whereas alternative criteria
of access to other forms of basic services
such as nutrition, public health, education, clean
water, etc. is measurable in qualitative terms,
and do not establish a strict divide between "haves"
and the "have-nots", there exists a clear-cut and
visible divide with regard to access to electricity
between those who have access and those who do
The guiding spirit of Initiative Electricity for
All is that everything that can be measured can
be improved. In the field of access to electricity,
quantification is achievable and progress is clearly
measurable. Goals are understandable, focus can be
targeted, timetables can be set up, efficient policy
instruments can be devised.
This paper combines in-depth economic, commercial
and technical expertise in order to provide a solid
quantitative framework for action. In addition, it
provides a discussion of financing issues and an overview
of existing and proposed public-private partnerships
to promote global access to electricity. Its main
results are the following:
- Currently, more than 2.1 billion people or
425 millions households are still without access
- Poverty and lack of access to electricity are
intertwined. 80% of the population deprived of access
to electricity are located in South Asia (40%
electrification rate) and sub-Saharan Africa
(20% electrification rate). Non-access to electrification
is centered on rural areas in the developing world.
- The basic consumption needs evaluated
at 1 kWh per family per day require
the provision of additional power-generation capacity
of 60 GW corresponding to less than 2% of currently
installed global capacity.
- The cost of providing this additional capacity
(including transportation and distribution infrastructure)
with various technical options (connection to the
grid, decentralized grids, solar home-equipment,
etc.) amounts to about Euro 180 billion.
Spread over a 25 year time frame, the cost
of providing this capacity would amount to slightly
over Euro 7 billion per year.
- Due to population growth, providing access to
the people currently deprived of electricity is
not enough. It is necessary also to supply population
increases resulting from demographic growth in poor
regions of the developing world. With a demographic
growth rate estimated at 1.5% per year, that amounts
to an increase of 1 billion people until 2027, equivalent
to the number of human beings who will get access
to electricity during the same period under " business
as usual" trends.
- While a substantial proportion of the investments
required by electrification will be covered
like in any commercial enterprise by customer
receipts, this will not be possible for the
entire amount as long as the vicious cycle of poverty
is not broken.
- Public-private partnerships are thus needed
to share investment risk and enable widespread electrification.
Such partnerships will involve the international
electricity industry as well as national government
agencies and international funding organizations:
rural electrification agencies, perequation funds,
multilateral and bilateral development aid, concessional
loans, etc. However, they will also need to involve
NGOs and local small and medium-sized enterprises
for their commitment and local expertise.
- The decisive contribution of electricity to economic,
social and environmental improvement justifies public
participation. Funds for leveraging investment,
however, need to be used wisely. General subsidies
for consumption lead to inefficiency and waste.
Access to electricity, not consumption, should
be promoted wherever possible.
- The figures that have been proposed in the present
study have been gathered from public sources as
well as from the experience that comes with being
a electricity provider with a certain amount of
in-house technical. scientific and commercial competence.
Of course, the targets and timetables can be challenged
by more elaborate studies and are open to debate.
- Everything that can be measured can be improved.
We might also say "improvement needs measurement".
If "Electricity for All" is to proceed from proposal
to an objective for global human solidarity, quantified
targets and timetables need to be identified.
In presenting these results, the authors hope to
provide an invitation for an open dialogue without
preconceived notions about the issues with all public
and private stakeholders on the vital issue that
is "Electricity for All".
©Copyright 2002, 2nd edition
- October 2002.
published by EDF/DPRI - Electricite de France, Direction
de la Prospective et des Relations Internaionales,
a member of e7
for the World Summit for Sustainable Development
EDF, P O Box 417, Paris 75008 France.
Editor, Christian Stoffaës