Energy for the poor

Access to basic, clean energy services is essential for sustainable development and poverty eradication, and provides major benefits in the areas of health, literacy and equity. However, over two billion people today have no access to modern energy services.

a Maasai woman cooks on a traditional stove, Kenya The issue of energy choice is fundamental to the great challenge facing the world at the beginning of the 21st century - how to eliminate the obscene levels of poverty without further polluting the planet. Practical Action believes that there does not have to be a trade-off between human development and the environment. Millions can be lifted out of poverty without ruining the planet with the help of clean sustainable energy.

Energy poverty: the hidden crisis

The hidden crisis of energy poverty condemns billions of men, women and children in the developing world to continue to live in absolute poverty because they have no access to modern energy services; energy which is taken for granted in the developed world.

If they are serious about eradicating poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), international development agencies, donors and governments in low-income countries need to make energy access for the poor a priority. More »

Energy poverty: barriers and the way forward
Read more about the barriers to energy access, and the sustainable solutions that could overcome these.
Download Practical Action's briefing paper, Energy poverty: the hidden crisis (PDF, 2.5Mb) or read as web page.

Energy Access Video Competition
A challenge to help Practical Action communicate a neglected issue.  Practical Action is launching this competition for AS/A level students across the West Midlands, challenging them to produce a compelling 90 second video focusing on energy access in Africa.


Related issues

The following Practical Action websites provide more information on issues related to energy access for the poor:

GATS & Reforms
A website from Practical Action South Asia, addressing service sector liberalisation from a developmental perspective through informative policy advocacy. This site brings together the studies, analysis and documents generated by the Practical Action GATS and Reforms team on both water and electricity liberalisation. See also GATS and the threat to community electricity

indoor air pollution

Smoke - indoor air pollution
Smoke in the home from cooking on wood, dung and crop waste kills nearly one million children a year. In its report, Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen, Practical Action is calling for global action to save the lives of 1.6 million men, women and children lost each year to lethal levels of household smoke. More »


Recent policy papers and events

Poor people's energy outlook 2010 (PDF, 2.4Mb)
This report presents the perspective of those living in energy poverty and those for whom energy access has been life changing. It will be of interest to anyone seeking to better understand energy access and its role in development at a human scale, and should be required reading for the international energy sector and programme planners at national and local levels.

Powerful solutions to poverty (PDF, 1.4Mb)
A life without energy condemns people to a life of poverty. This report outlines the problems that lack of access to energy can cause, and demonstrates that simple solutions can provide access to energy cheaply and sustainably.

Energy poverty: the hidden crisis (PDF, 2.5Mb)
International development agencies, donors and governments in low-income countries need to make energy access for the poor a priority if they are meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and eradicate poverty. This briefing paper looks at the existing barriers to energy access and the sustainable solutions that could overcome them. Read as web page | download PDF

How to Engage with GATS: Practical Action and service provision for the poorest (PDF, 3Mb)
We believe that the GATS process as it stands does not have the potential to develop appropriate, poverty-focused services. This policy document, commissioned by Practical Action from Dr Jonathan Cloke of Newcastle University, details the concerns we have over the existing GATS process, especially with respect to the most vulnerable sectors in the socially structured poverty that exists in the global south: women, indigenous peoples, Dalit communities etc.

The Africa-EU Energy Partnership - high-level meeting 2010
A briefing paper on the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) high-level meeting held in Vienna, Austria on 14 and 15 September 2010, with energy ministers from several African countries, ministers from EU Member States, and Commissioners from the EU and AU. This will be the first meeting of the AEEP at this level since its launch in 2008. The agenda for the meeting is relevant to the concerns of civil society organisations in Europe and Africa, and participation by civil society organisations and private sector representatives is invited by the organisers.

The Africa-EU Energy Partnership and Civil Society
A briefing paper on the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), which aims to scale up investment in energy infrastructure, to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency and improve management of energy resources.

Bridging the funding gap to ensure energy access for the poor (PDF, 259k)
Presented at "Financing energy access for the poor", a Practical Action event at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) 15, New York 2007.

Decentralised energy schemes: the option for most rural poor
Presented at Small is beautiful: making decentralised energy a reality, a side event at the the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) 14, New York 2006.

Energy options for the poor in Africa and Latin America 27-28 March 2006, Brussels
Practical Action organised a two-day workshop, making a call for decentralised energy options to be at the top of the European Commission's agenda to combat poverty in rural areas of Africa and Latin America. The workshop report and all presentations are available to download.

Energy poverty and renewable energy technologies in South Asia February 2009
Practical Action South Asia published two research studies on Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Poverty in South Asia, ahead of a three-day workshop on the hidden energy crisis in South Asia.

First CEES Energy Justice Conference 23-24 October 2009
Practical Action's international director, Nick Burn, will be speaking at this conference in Boulder, Colorado, USA, which will focus on the energy oppressed poor afflicted by energy access problems.

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Policy archive Previous policy briefings on issues relating to energy access and poverty have now been archived.

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