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World Energy Outlook

Energy access projections

In the central scenario of the World Energy Outlook 2016, (the New Policies Scenario), the outlook for access to electricity and clean cooking shows that the world is not on track to meet the SDG 7 goal of achieving universal access to modern energy by 2030. In the New Policies Scenario, more than 780 million people are projected to remain without access to electricity in 2030 and 540 million still remain without it in 2040. However, these figures risk masking  the progress that is made: population growth means that around one billion people gain electricity access in both Africa and Asia by 2040, compared with today (nearly three-quarters of this increase occurring in cities). An expanding centralised electricity grid provides nearly two-thirds of the electricity supplied to those gaining access for the first time from now to 2040, but decentralised solutions, particularly from renewables, are critical in providing access to remote rural areas of many countries. But progress is uneven and the remaining population without electricity access becomes more concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa (accounting for more than 90% of the global total without electricity access in 2040, up from just over half today). At present, per-capita electricity consumption in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, is only 6% of the world’s average today and is projected to grow to only to 14% by 2040. Those without electricity become more and more concentrated in rural areas, with 95% of the total population without access in rural areas by 2040, from around 80% today.

The projection for access to clean cooking facilities shows less progress than in the case of electrification: the number of people without access decreases by 200 million by 2030, a reduction of 14% relative to today, but the adoption of clean cooking facilities struggles to keep pace with population growth in many of the countries concerned. Of those that gain access, three-quarters do so via LPG cookstoves, mainly in urban areas because of the relative ease of establishing fuel supply networks. In rural areas, the most common route to access is via improved biomass cookstoves: solid biomass remains a major fuel for residential use in our projections. Developing countries in Asia, despite reaching almost universal electrification, still have 1.5 billion people without clean cooking access in 2030, over one-third of the population at that time. Even in China, where universal electrification is already complete, around 450 million people still rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking today and this is projected to remain the case for 250 million people in 2030. In sub-Saharan Africa, the shift to cleaner forms of cooking is not rapid enough to keep up with the rise in population, and so the number of people without access increases by 2030, to over 800 million, before starting to decline gradually through to 2040.

Table 1 ⊳  Population without access to modern energy services in the
New Policies Scenario (million people)


Sources: IEA and WHO (World Health Organisation) databases.

Energy for all will not cost the earth

In our Energy for All Case, we examine the trajectory that would be required to achieve the goal of universal access to electricity and clean cooking facilities by 2030. Latest analysis from WEO-2012 showed that total investment of nearly $1 trillion ($979 billion) would be required to achieve universal energy access by 2030, an average of $49 billion per year (from 2011 to 2030). We found that an additional $30 billion per year on average was required to provide universal access to electricity by 2030, while another $3.8 billion per year was required to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030.

All sources and forms of investment have their part to play, reflecting the varying risks and returns of particular solutions. All need to grow: the private sector needing to grow the most. For more on financing and investment for modern energy access, see the WEO-2011 special excerpt “Energy for All: Financing Access for the Poor”.

As part of WEO-2017 a new Energy for All Case is planned, which will highlight the progress achieved since this analysis from WEO-2012 and the gap left to be covered.