Total Energy Access

Energy enables development

Total Energy Access is Practical Action's approach to achieving energy for all. It requires understanding who has access to energy across households, businesses and in the community, and how that energy is used.

This can only happen if it is measured properly and at the right scale. Billions of people use energy from off-grid sources, so measuring grid electricity access is not the answer.

Practical Action is calling for governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to adopt Total Energy Access as the approach to defining and delivering energy to the billions of poor people who need it. Join us.


Download the Total Energy Access infographic

Total Energy Access infographic

What are we doing?

To make progress towards achieving Universal Energy Access by 2030 it is important that we recognise the range of services which poor people want, need and have a right to.

Practical Action has used its first-hand experience of working with poor communities to devise tools that will assist governments, NGOs and international communities to understand these requirements. The Poor people’s energy outlook series pays special attention to the energy needed for households, livelihoods and community services. It also proposes a framework for action along with indicators that can be used to measure country specific progress.

For over 40 years, Practical Action has worked in partnership with poor communities to achieve renewable, locally-sourced sustainable energy solutions which lift people out of poverty for good. Read more about our work online.

What needs to happen?

Total Energy Access has the potential to transform the lives of the poor. There is a growing recognition of this fact and an appetite to implement change. 2012 was the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All in which the UN called for its member countries to commit to ensuring universal energy access to modern energy services.

Practical Action fully supports this commitment and it makes some recommendations to help achieve these targets.  

1) Recognise energy needs across home work and community

2) Measure energy services not just supply

3) Prioritise and adequately finance decentralised solutions

4) Acknowledge the roles of government, private sector and civil society in achieving total energy access

#energyenables me to...

The facts about energy poverty

  • Despite the availability of technical solutions, 2 in every 5 people still rely on wood, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food and 1 in 5 people lack electricity.
  • Each year, 2 million people die from diseases caused by indoor smoke – more than deaths from malaria.
  • An estimated 1 billion people use health services without electricity.
  • Over 291 million children go to primary schools without access to any electricity.
  • Almost 50% of vaccines in developing countries are ruined due to poor cold chain services.
  • In Uganda only 1% of rural outpatient clinics are connected to the electricity grid.
  • 4 out of 5 health facilities in Rwanda offer antenatal care, but only 17% of those have examination lights which would allow for a proper pelvic examination.
  • To reach Universal Energy Access by 2030, 55% of additional electricity generated for households will need to be through mini- and off-grid solutions.

Further Energy Info

Poor people's energy outlook 2013

The third edition of the PPEO series focuses on energy for community services. This report builds on our evidence base and our call for Total Energy Access by focusing on vital community services. It brings to life the experiences of people living in energy poverty in countries with varying geographical, environmental and development contexts such as Bolivia, Bangladesh and Rwanda. It places the spotlight on the contribution that improved energy access can make to health, education and infrastructure services such as water and street lighting.

Energy enables: Building a new energy access narrative

Policy brief to accompany the PPEO 2013

Poor people's energy outlook 2012

The 2012 report, 'Energy for earning a living', was designed to act as a catalyst for a movement for change on energy access, and a source of information to support it.

Poor people's energy outlook 2010

The first PPEO presents the perspective of those living in energy poverty and those for whom energy access has been life changing.

Expanding Energy Access in Developing Countries: The role of mechanical power

Expanding Energy Access in Developing Countries: The role of mechanical power.

Energy: the power to change lives

Even today, millions of people living in developing countries have no access to modern energy. This six-page leaflet gives an overview of how Practical Action works to put the power in the hands of the people who need it.

Energy policy brief

Billions of poor people have not got the energy they need to light their homes, cook meals safely and earn a living. Although the technology exists to deliver universal access to modern energy, a huge effort is needed to make that happen.

Energy poverty: the hidden crisis

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.

Smoke: the killer in the kitchen

Every day thousands of men, women and children in the world’s poorest countries die as a result of deadly smoke in their homes. Practical Action is working with poor communities and using simple technology to reduce the threat from this lethal smoke and improve people’s lives.

Powerful solutions to poverty

Isolated communities in developing countries should not be denied the right to energy. That's why our solution is working with them to develop renewable energy technologies.

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