Policy void could jeopardise UN's energy access goals

Thursday, 9 May 2013 13:36 GMT

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Universal access to electricity and clean cooking stoves will not be achieved by 2030 without new policies and further investment, says a study published today.

It also predicts that, without new policies, the number of people relying on traditional solid fuels and fuels will increase by an additional 50–220 million people in South and Pacific Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the regions where the majority of those without access to electricity and modern cooking stoves live.

And up to 810 million people in those regions will remain without electricity in 2030, the UN's target date for universal access to sustainable energy


  • Up to 220 million extra people in Africa and Asia may be using dangerous traditional stoves by 2030
  • 810 million may still be without access to electricity if new funds and policies are not set up
  • New policies and a US$86 billion a year would ensure universal access to modern energy

"Only a combination of policies that lower the costs of modern cooking and stoves, along with more rapid electrification, can enable the realisation of [the UN] goals," the study, published in Environmental Research Letters, says.

The researchers used a modelling approach to study different energy policy pathways and their cost-effectiveness. 

They estimate that total rural electrification and universal access to clean cooking stoves could be achieved with an investment of US$65–86 billion a year up until 2030, in combination with supportive policies.

"The scale of investment required is small from a global perspective, though it will require additional financing for nations that are least likely to have access to sources of finances," Shonali Pachauri, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, said in a press statement published today. "But the benefits could be enormous."

For example, extending access to electricity and clean cooking stoves would save up to 1.8 million premature deaths a year associated with household air pollution caused by traditional cooking practices while only having negligible impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the study says.

"Our analysis indicates that, without new policies and efforts, universal access to modern energy will not be achieved by 2030," Pachauri said. "Actually, for cooking, the situation may even worsen." 

Emma Wilson, senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development, tells SciDev.Net that the study "is convincing and in line with current thinking".

While the findings are unsurprising, she adds, they may bolster arguments made by policymakers and activists that universal energy access cannot be achieved without significant policy support, both to reduce costs through grants and loans and to reform subsidies.

Link to full paper