Modern 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 2016 shows 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, which is associated with the approximately 3.5 million deaths annually from indoor air pollution. Our energy access database provides information at the country level.
More than 95% of those living without electricity and modern cooking fuels are in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, and they are predominantly in rural areas (around 80% of the world total). While still far from complete, progress in providing electrification in urban areas has outpaced that in rural areas two to one since 2000. Sub-Saharan Africa has now become the most electricity poor region in the world in terms of the total number of people (surpassing Asia), as well as the share of its overall population. But the pace at which the picture in Africa has been deteriorating has slowed, and rapid population growth can conceal the efforts and results that are taking place.
While the number of people relying on biomass is larger in developing Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa, their share of the population is lower: 50% in developing Asia, compared with over 80% in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, nearly three-quarters of the global population living without clean cooking facilities (around 2 billion people) live in just ten countries. This deteriorating global picture dispels any notion that the transition to cleaner cooking fuels and appliances is straightforward. Economic development and income growth do not automatically lead to the adoption of clean cooking facilities, meaning that specific government policies have an important role to play. Despite this, clean cooking features much lower on government priorities than promoting access to electricity.
A population similar to that of the European Union and the United States combined lives without electricity access in India (240 million people), by far the largest national population of any country in the world. Despite the fact that China achieved universal electricity access in 2015 - a major achievement - around one-third of China’s population still does not have clean cooking facilities, illustrating the disconnect that can exist between rising incomes, improving electricity access and clean cooking.
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