The World Energy Outlook (WEO) has published databases on electricity access and reliance on traditional biomass for cooking since 2002.
Here, we report where the world stands on universal energy access to modern energy, based on a comprehensive update of our electricity and traditional biomass databases. We use 2011 data where available or an estimate based on latest available data.
Hundreds of millions of people have attained modern energy access over the last two decades, especially in China and India. Rapid economic development in several developing countries, increasing urbanisation and ongoing energy access programmes have been important factors in this achievement. Despite this, in a world where the total population grows persistently, in 2011, nearly 1.3 billion people did not have access to electricity, close to one-fifth of the global population. Twice as many, more than 2.6 billion people, relied on the traditional use of biomass for cooking (Table 1).
Table 1: People without access to modern energy services by region, 2011
* Based on World Health Organization (WHO) and IEA databases. **Includes OECD countries and Eastern Europe/Eurasia.
This analysis focuses on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, but there are also around 200-300 million people (not included in the table above) that rely on coal for cooking and heating purposes, which causes air pollution and has serious potential health implications when used in traditional stoves. These people are mainly in China, but there are also significant numbers in Liberia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Paraguay.
Access to electricity
Developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa continue to account, together, for more than 95% of those without modern energy access. Across developing countries, the average electrification rate is 77%, increasing to around 91% in urban areas but only around 65% in rural areas. More than eight out of ten people without modern energy access live in rural areas, an important factor when seeking to identify the most appropriate solutions.
There are 615 million people in developing Asia and nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who lack access to electricity. The population without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is now almost equal to that of developing Asia and, if current trends continue, will overtake it in the near future. Since 2000, around two-thirds of the people gaining access to electricity have been in urban areas and the population without electricity access has become more concentrated in rural areas.
Figure 1: Countries with the largest population without access to electricity, 2011
Traditional use of biomass for cooking
More than half of the population of developing Asia – over 1.8 billion people – and around 80% of people in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly 700 million people – live without clean cooking facilities. Developing Asia accounts for around 70% of the global population relying on traditional biomass for cooking and includes seven of the ten largest populations without access to modern cooking facilities. In India, around two-thirds of the population, rely on traditional biomass – almost twice as many as in China, which is ranked second. In China, the predominance of coal for cooking has decreased over the last decade, but around one-third of the population still relies on traditional biomass. While the number of people relying on biomass is larger in developing Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa, the share of the population is lower: 50% in developing Asia, compared with 80% in sub-Saharan Africa.
Figure 2: Countries with the largest population relying on traditional use biomass for cooking, 2011