Working together to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy

energy Russia energy china flag

World Energy Outlook

Modern Energy for All

Modern Energy for AllModern energy services are crucial to human well-being and to a country’s economic development. Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of clean water, sanitation and healthcare and for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting, heating, cooking, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications services. It is an alarming fact that today billions of people lack access to the most basic energy services: as World Energy Outlook 2014 shows nearly 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution. These people are mainly in either developing Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, and in rural areas. Our energy access database provides information at the country level.

The Africa Energy Outlook, a Special Report in the 2014 World Energy Outlook series, shows that more than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (two-thirds of the population) live without electricity, and nearly 730 million people rely on dangerous, inefficient forms of cooking. The use of solid biomass (mainly fuelwood and charcoal) outweighs that of all other fuels combined, and average electricity consumption per capita is not enough to power a single 50-watt light bulb continuously.

In our projections, one billion people gain access to electricity in Africa by 2040, 950 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa; but population growth in sub-Saharan Africa and progress in other parts of the world means that the remaining global population without electricity access becomes increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa – this figure reaches 75% in 2040, compared with half today. This projection indicates that current efforts to tackle this problem are set to fall well short of the goal of achieving universal access by 2030, the target of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Instead, some 635 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are set to remain without electricity by this date, leaving a sombre gap in the global energy system.

Figure 1: Population without access to electricity by sub-region in sub-Saharan Africa in the New Policies Scenario

Population without access in sub Saharan Africa

Demand for energy services by households across sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise along with incomes, but the mix of fuels used is relatively slow to change. Solid biomass still accounts for half of total final consumption in sub-Saharan Africa in 2040, this figure rising to almost 60% if South Africa is excluded. Gaining access to clean cooking facilities encompasses not only switching to alternative fuels, but also access to improved biomass cookstoves (fired with fuelwood, charcoal or pellets) that are more efficient and reduce household air pollution. Together, fuel switching and the spread of improved cookstoves lead to a decrease in the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa without access to clean cooking to 650 million in 2040 – a 10% decline in relation to the figure for 2012. Within the overall context of a rising population, this means, more positively, that around 1.1 billion people do have access to clean cooking facilities in 2040, almost two-thirds of them living in urban areas.

Figure 2: Population with and without clean cooking access in sub-Saharan Africa in the New Policies Scenario

Population with and without cooking access in SSA

The World Energy Outlook has devoted attention to the topic of energy access for many years, informing the international community with key quantitative analyses, including energy access databases, projections and estimates of the investment needs and implications for global energy use and CO2 emissions of universal energy access. 

The UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) in 2012 has now made way for a Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. The SE4All Global Tracking Framework, led by the IEA and the World Bank, was the first major analytical report produced under the SE4All initiative. The report defines the starting point against which progress can be measured and the scale of the challenge understood.

For further information, please contact weo@iea.org indicating "energy poverty" in the subject line.

Photo © Shutterstock