<i>By Mattia Vianello, Practical Action Consulting

Taken from DEW Point Newsletter, Issue 38 – December 2011</i>

Universal energy access, advocated by the UN General Secretary for 2030, would create a step change in poverty reduction in the developing world and help billions out of the darkness and drudgery so many are forced to endure on a daily basis. However, without a change of course by 2030 the total number of people without access to electricity will still be almost 900 million, 3 billion will cook on traditional fuels, and 30 million people will have died of smoke‐related diseases.

Practical Action will launch the second edition of the Poor People’s Energy Outlook in January 2012. Its release is timely as 2012 marks the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, and the injustice of energy poverty is rising up the international agenda.

The report, which includes UNIDO Director and UN Energy Chair Kandeh K. Yumkella’s foreword, examines the linkages between energy access and earning a living. The conclusion is that where poor people have the sustainable energy access needed to grow enterprise activities; it becomes possible to escape the vicious cycle of poverty. For smallholder farmers, the increased use of modern energy services can contribute to increasing incomes through a wide range of energy services at each step of the agricultural value chain from production, post‐harvest processing and storage, to marketing. MSEs such as street‐side stalls, small garages, and tailors, each have its own specific set of energy needs if it is to survive and thrive. Improved energy services can enable new or improved products and services to reach customers, and improve efficiency and returns for the enterprise.

This second PPEO report also refines the definition of energy access, further developing the concept of Total Energy Access as a framework to measure progress in the dimensions that matter to people. The complementary Energy Supply Index indicates the levels of improvement in the quality of supply as people really experience it.

Thus, change in energy access can only happen by identifying and targeting energy services and supply gaps in the dimensions that matter to people and by effectively addressing finance, policy and capacity. From national governments, donors, utilities, and businesses, to NGOs, civil society, community groups, and individual consumers, all of these actors have a crucial role to play in creating universal energy access. In PPEO 2012 we describe this interconnected network of organisations by presenting the energy access ecosystem and we present a guide to action to accelerate energy access.

PPEO 2012 will be of interest to anyone seeking to better understand energy access and its role in development at a human scale and will be an essential reading for the international energy sector and programme planners at national and local levels.