Global Energy Poverty
The International Energy Poverty Action Week (IEPAW) will occur in February 2023 for the second year, focusing on efforts to address global energy poverty. IEPAW will take place virtually from February 20–24 and will bring together experts in the fields of energy access and energy poverty for a series of five seminars, roundtable discussions and workshops, among other activities, centered on finding practical solutions to this global problem.

Global Energy Poverty and Health

The first day of the event aims to assess the relationship between energy poverty and the population’s health. Many poverty-stricken families are most often located in rural areas and depend on the use of unclean fuels, such as coal and firewood, to generate heat and prepare food. Such fuels contribute to air pollution and have a debilitating effect on people’s health.

According to a report from European Environment Agency (EEA) in October 2022, Europe’s greatest environmental health concern is air pollution — a significant contributor to early mortality and disease. EEA data shows that, in 2019, fine particulate matter stood as the cause of roughly 307,000 premature deaths in the 27 EU countries. The agency also estimated that 40,400 premature deaths related to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and “ground-level ozone” has been connected to 16,800 sudden deaths.

As a result of the energy crisis of 2022, supply cuts have pushed people to rely on unclean fuels. Assessing the link between energy inaccessibility and health, with the support of qualitative surveys, will allow for data-driven solution development.

Discrimination and Social Impacts

Exploring the “different faces of vulnerability” also forms part of the IEPAW’s agenda. This means considering the social impacts of energy poverty and assessing how “gender, class, age, disability and ethnic and racial identity interact with energy poverty.”

A study in South Africa by Boqiang Lin and Michael Adu Okyere aimed to assess the link between race and energy deprivation. The researchers found that people of color endure a higher prevalence of energy deprivation. In particular, findings highlight that non-whites, particularly black people, are 11.5% more likely to experience energy deprivation in comparison to white people. The researchers also found that minorities who receive “free basic electricity and social housing subsidies” generally see no improvement in their energy poverty.

Considering studies like these, IEPAW will attempt to address social issues that link to energy deprivation and encourage decision-makers to take action to address the prejudice associated with the distribution of subsidies.

Economy and New Policy Responses

Energy poverty and its relation to the economy and the policy responses needed to address the issues are at the heart of IEPAW’s five-day event. The session will highlight several global strategies for investing in the fight against energy poverty and addressing financing barriers in countries that do not acknowledge energy deprivation as a problem.

The agency aims to assist nations to “navigate a new world order while preserving social stability,” hinting that deeper structural adjustments may be necessary for “economies, policies and societies.” The discussion will examine potential strategies for energy policies that aim to resolve global economic, social and technical issues.

Findings of a U.K. Citizens Advice report, published in January 2023, show how dire the energy crisis is for millions of low-income and vulnerable households in one of the most energy-efficient countries, the United Kingdom.  Around 3.2 million individuals in Great Britain had their prepaid electricity meter credit completely depleted in 2022 due to an inability to afford the expense of replenishing it. This equates to a person disconnecting from the electricity supply every 10 seconds due to the high cost of living.

The U.K. ranked second in the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard in 2022 but still faces problems of such nature. This provides insight into the gravity of the energy situation in less developed countries.

Spiraling energy costs, harmful air-polluting fuels, poor quality housing and inadequate electricity supply among the world’s most deprived are pressing concerns that require collective action and fast solutions. The IEPAW’s activities aim to “create an energy system that puts people and planet before profit” by bringing together stakeholders from a wide variety of backgrounds to find innovative solutions to solve global energy poverty.

– Ralitsa Pashkuleva
Photo: Flickr

Global Energy Poverty
Around 840 million people around the world have no access to electricity. Global energy poverty is prevalent with most living in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is twice as high.

Energy poverty or the lack of access to modern energy services, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, at the current rate of progress, 650 million people will still live in the dark. Microgrids have the potential to improve that course and eliminate global energy poverty.

What are Microgrids?

Microgrids or mini-grids are small, localized power grids. They can operate on their own using local energy generation without needing a connection to a larger power grid. Renewable resources power most along with diesel back-up and batteries.

Microgrids can power fridges, fans, irrigation pumps and other basic machinery. With microgrid energy, families can power appliances that save time on household chores, farmers can increase crop yield with irrigation and schools can light their classrooms.

Benefits of Microgrids

With low costs and high yields, microgrids could end global poverty. The price of batteries, solar and other energy technologies has been decreasing since 2010, in turn reducing the cost of microgrids. The International Energy Agency named localized power grids as the most cost-effective option to deliver electricity to more than 70 percent of the unconnected. Continued innovation will further drive cost reduction.

Microgrids are also modular, easy to transport and simple to install. This makes them especially valuable in remote and rural areas.

Use of Microgrids

In India and Sub-Saharan Africa, microgrids are already electrifying and transforming communities. SmartPower India, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, has used microgrids to power more than 100 villages and serve 40,000 people. Since the project launched in 2015, carpenters and tailors have more than doubled their productivity, farmers have built cold storage facilities to keep produce and entrepreneurs have opened small businesses. Local economies grew by $18.50 per capita.

In Kenya, a solar company is using microgrids to deliver power to villages deep in the African bush. SteamaCo’s microgrids supply 10,000 households and businesses across 25 villages with electricity. This has allowed for businesses to trade longer, students to study after dark and communities to grow more independent.

A lack of access to modern, reliable and affordable energy services hinders communities and cripples economies. It is time to turn the light on for the billions of people without access to electricity. Microgrids could end global energy poverty.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps