Energy Apartheid Keeps Billions of People in Poverty Says New Report

 Breathing easier in Nicaragua with solar power

MORE than one and a half billion of the world's poorest people will be condemned to a life of poverty if they are denied access to basic energy services, according to international development charity Practical Action.

A lack of energy to power life-giving services such as lighting, heating, cooking and healthcare means that many countries in the developing world will never meet the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, says Practical Action's PPEO (Poor People's Energy Outlook) report.

In the inaugural report, which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme, the charity calls for an end to the ‘energy apartheid' between the developed and the developing world.

Currently one and a half billion people are living with no access to electricity at all, and three billion still rely on traditional biomass and coal for cooking. In the developed world energy is often squandered.

The PPEO report proposes the Total Energy Access concept, a minimum standard amount of energy for people in the developing world for lighting, cooking/water heating, space heating, cooling, information/communications and livelihood.

Simon Trace, Chief Executive, Practical Action, said: "Energy apartheid is deeply unjust, it can and must be addressed.

"Development is not possible without energy access for poor people and many, if not all, of the Millennium Development Goals simply cannot be met without it. The Poor People's Energy Outlook is a critical publication in helping to tackle this."

Among the recommendations for minimum energy standards are the need for every house to have 300 lumens of lighting, 0.3kg of charcoal per person per day, a minimum daytime indoor temperature of 12C and a maximum indoor temperature of 30C.

The report argues that Total Energy Access cannot be achieved by the formal energy sector working alone and that the ecosystem of energy access service providers must widen and deepen to include international agencies, small and medium scale enterprises, universities, NGOs, community groups, financiers and more.

In sub-Saharan Africa more than 70 per cent of the population is still without access to electricity. This figure will only be reduced to 67% by 2015 when the MDGs expire, unless collective action is taken.

And it's not just electricity poverty which is an issue. Lack of energy for cooking means indoor smoke from traditional cookstoves causes 1.4 million deaths per year – more than malaria.

 When wood is the only lighting source

When wood is the only lighting source

The report is published in the wake of the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook (WEO), which this year placed a special emphasis on energy poverty and published a chapter on how to make energy access universal in advance of the main report.

Practical Action welcomes the WEO's recognition of the importance of tackling energy poverty but calls for further action, including the establishment of a global agreed set of minimum standards for energy access.

Trace added: "Practical Action is an organisation that puts poor people at the heart of all of its work, involving them in every step of their development and our report seeks to explore the issue of energy access in more detail and acts as a call to action for the creation of a coalition to tackle the issue from all sides."

For more information please visit or to view the report in full.


For further information, please contact Gemma Hume, Practical Action Communications Officer, on 01926 634486

Notes For Editors:
Practical Action believes that the right idea, however small, can change lives.

Practical Action is an international development charity with a difference, working together with some of the world's poorest women, men and children, helping to alleviate poverty in the developing world through the innovative use of technology.

Practical Action's particular strength is its ‘simple' approach: finding out what people are doing and helping them to do it better. This enables poor communities to build on their own knowledge and skills to produce sustainable and practical solutions: driving their own development.

Whether enabling women and men in Darfur to feed their families, providing people in Bangladesh with the chance to control the impact of flooding on their lives or working with remote communities in Peru to introduce electricity, Practical Action's activities are always people focused, locally relevant and environmentally sensitive, offering tangible ways out of poverty.

Practical Action won The Ashden Award for Light and Power in 2007 for its micro-hydro work in Peru, bringing electricity to over 30,000 people living in remote Andean villages.

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