Better access to energy reduces poverty – report

2012-02-01T11:00:00Z

<p style="text-align: justify;">Nearly half the world’s population has no reliable – let alone clean and renewable – energy services. The figures are quite staggering: Some 2.7 billion people, which amounts to 40 percent of the world’s population, depend on wood, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. <!--more--></p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">By 2030, household air pollution from biomass use in inefficient stoves is likely to cause more than 1.5 million deaths a year.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Pacific Islands region is also classed among one of the energy poor regions of the world – where reliable energy is hard to come by and where it is available it is most likely to be generated from a non-renewable source and expensive.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">New analysis from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), based on case studies from across Asia and the Pacific, calls for a set of “energy plus” services – one that combines access to modern energy for heating, cooking and electricity, with measures that generate cash, supplement incomes and improve health and education.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Lack of energy access and its impact on health, education and income continue to be a significant cause of chronic poverty. Since poverty in turn inhibits access to energy services, a vicious cycle develops. A paper titled “Towards an ‘Energy Plus’ Approach for the Poor,” has reviewed 17 energy access projects across the region to find out what works and what does not work in breaking the vicious poverty-energy-poverty cycle.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The findings indicate that most energy projects adopt a minimalist approach, focusing on the basic energy needs of the poor for lighting homes, cooking and heating. However, “energy services per se do not reduce poverty,” says the report. “Instead, they transform people from being ‘poor without energy access’ to ‘poor with energy access.’”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In addition, the report finds that “Energy, poverty and heavy reliance on biomass fuels have a disproportionate effect on women and children, who are forced to spend significant time collecting fuel wood and preparing meals in poorly ventilated kitchens.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The report cites a couple of standout examples of proactive government energy projects that have helped alleviate poverty and bring in sustainability to some extent: In Fiji, a rural electrification programme backed by a government target of universal electricity access, has resulted in a rise in access from 30.6 percent to 81.4 percent between 1986 and 2007.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In China, a Renewable Energy Law has led to an acceleration of new wind, solar and biomass projects and has achieved a dramatic shift in the political and social atmosphere regarding renewables.</p>
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<p style="text-align: justify;">Photo / Asif Akbar</p>

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