FEATURE STORY July 10, 2018

The Race for Universal Energy Access Speeds Up

World Bank Group


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • A billion people still live without electricity, but certain countries are starting to adopt new approaches to expand electricity services – reaching millions of people in the past few years.
  • The number of people gaining access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa has begun to outstrip population growth for the first time. In South Asia, progress has been even faster.
  • Much more work will be needed to achieve universal electrification by 2030, as called for in SDG7. The World Bank is significantly ramping up financing for energy access programs, with support for mini-grid and off-grid projects growing the fastest.

Fondly referred to as “mini Africa” by local residents, Sabon Gari is one of Nigeria’s biggest markets, where you can find anything from electronics and clothes to toys and hardware. Shops here used to depend on expensive diesel generators for electricity. But today, thanks to a new solar mini-grid, shop owners say they now spend just a fraction of what they used to previously on electricity.

More than 5000 miles (8000 kms) away, in the remote island of Monpura in Bangladesh, Lhota Khatun runs her own sewing business out of her bedroom, thanks to a solar mini-grid installed on the island. Since 2016, she has had dependable electricity access that helps her work at night, after her children are in bed.

Sabon Gari and Monpura represent communities around the world that, today, are more productive and prosperous through reliable and affordable access to electricity.

Energy is at the heart of development. Access to electricity makes communities safer, helps small businesses thrive and powers essential services such as schools and clinics. It also helps provide a conducive environment for investments, innovations and new industries that spur growth and provide jobs for entire economies.

The World Bank constantly works with governments to tailor solutions to suit every country’s unique energy needs. These approaches, led by countries, are working.

For example, a new $350 million electrification program in Nigeria is expected to attract $410 million in private investment, and create a vibrant market for mini grid and off-grid energy solutions.

In Kenya, the World Bank supports more than $1.3 billion of generation, transmission, distribution and off-grid investments, helping the country more than double electricity access rates from 23 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2016. A new $150 million off-grid project is designed to provide service to another 240,000 households living in more remote and poorer areas.

And in Bangladesh, the World Bank supports the largest off-grid solar program in the world, powering over four million households through solar home systems, 1,000 solar irrigation pumps, and 13 solar-based mini-grids. More than 18.5 million people in rural Bangladesh now have reliable access to solar-powered electricity through this program.

Altogether, between 2014 and 2017, the World Bank helped deliver new and improved electricity services to more than 45 million people.


"We have made great strides in bringing electricity to the millions of people who need it most, under challenging conditions. But there is no time to rest. A billion people still don’t have electricity today. We are committed to helping countries scale up successful approaches to rapidly extend electricity services to all of their citizens."
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Riccardo Puliti
Senior Director and Head of the Energy and Extractives Global Practice at the World Bank

Progress has sped up.  Sub-Saharan Africa’s electricity deficit has begun to close for the first time.  India is bringing electricity to 30 million people a year – more than any other country.  And a number of pioneering countries have put in place approaches that have allowed them to rapidly expand electricity services. Among these are a commitment to both grid and off-grid electrification efforts, long-term national electrification planning, and a focus on the quality and affordability of service. 

The success of these approaches has led to a jump in demand from countries for support for energy access programs, which is being reflected in the World Bank’s portfolio.  In recent years the World Bank provided an average of $900 million a year in energy access financing.  This grew to $1.4 billion last year.

Support to mini-grid and off-grid programs is growing the fastest, from roughly $200 million a year in recent years to $600 million last year. The World Bank is on track to provide 20 percent of the projected investment needed for solar home systems in developing countries over the next four years.

The recent progress on energy access will be discussed as part of the review of global energy targets under Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) at the UN High-Level Political Forum. Underpinning these discussions is the fact that while progress is picking up towards universal energy access, more than 600 million people will still not have electricity access in 2030 if current trends persist.  That could have a devastating impact on health, education and economic prospects for a significant part of the world’s population.

Accelerating progress will require the private sector to play a key role. The World Bank is actively mobilizing private investment for energy access projects by helping to put in place conducive policies, demonstrating viable business models, and providing targeted funding to leverage commercial financing.

In Haiti, a project supported by the World Bank and Climate Investment Funds establishes a fund that will provide grants and loans to mini- and off-grid businesses. The project is expected to eventually mobilize $45 million in private financing and help bring electricity to 10 percent of Haiti’s population.

Innovation and technology are also playing a key role. Geospatial mapping is changing the face of electricity planning, with unprecedented detail and accuracy on unserved populations. For example, the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency is mapping more than 200 sites for mini-grid development based on this approach.

The World Bank is committed to help countries harness these innovations, whether technological, financial or on the policy side, to accelerate the expansion of reliable and affordable electricity services, and to end energy poverty once and for all.


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