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Results Briefs October 15, 2020

Increasing Access to Electricity and Renewable Energy in Bolivia


Solar field, Pando, Bolivia. Photo: Bolivia Ministry of Communications

Bolivia is moving forward with its objective of reducing poverty and achieving universal access to electricity by 2025. Between 2014 and 2019, 4,300 households were connected to the power grid, providing electricity to approximately 20,200 people. In addition, the country constructed 708 kilometers of electricity distribution lines.


By 2013, Bolivia had made considerable progress in reducing poverty and inequality. However, poverty still affected more than 61 % of the rural population, almost twice the urban poverty rate. Acknowledging that access to basic services has a direct impact in alleviating poverty and enhancing social inclusion of the rural poor, the Bolivian government aimed to eradicate extreme poverty by providing basic services, including access to electricity. The government set the objective of achieving universal access to electricity by 2025 and established a program entitled Programa Electicidad para Vivir con Dignidad (PEVD, Electricity Program for Living with Dignity). The 2010 Autonomy Framework and Decentralization Law brought actors in addition to  the Ministry of Energy and sector entities into the electrification agenda, granting the autonomous departmental governments (gobernaciones) and municipalities new responsibilities for rural and periurban electrification, including the design and implementation of investments, asset ownership, and operations and maintenance.


The Access and Renewable Energy Project continues World Bank support for Bolivia’s electrification agenda, which has been ongoing since 2003 and has included two prior lending operations that benefited 42,000 households. The earlier projects took an approach that focused on utility-owned grid extensions and user-owned off-grid systems. The Access and Renewable Energy Project aims to support Bolivia’s universal access and decentralization objectives and to assist the gobernaciones and municipalities in meeting the challenge of expanding access, enhancing ownership, and building capacity. The project thus focuses on providing electricity using household connections in unserved areas in Chuquisaca and Potosi and on building capacity among the entities involved in project implementation.


In support of its main objective of extending electricity access to unserved areas, the government focused on an expansion model for implementing a national decentralized service framework. To further this aim, the project focused on locations with the highest levels of poverty and lowest levels of electricity coverage. Eight grid-extension subprojects helped achieve the following outcomes, between August 2014 and April 2019:

  • 4,300 households were connected to the power grid, providing electricity to around 20,200 people (of whom 48 % are women);
  • 708 kilometers of distribution lines were constructed or rehabilitated;
  • Nine capacity-building activities, two energy sector studies, and 67 outreach training events were conducted, benefiting multiple existing institutions, including government entities at the central (Ministry of Energy) and the subnational levels (gobernaciones and municipalities) and distribution companies, contractors, and other relevant stakeholders. 


households were connected to the power grid, providing electricity to around 20,200 people

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank Group, through the International Development Association, provided a credit in the amount of US$50 million equivalent to cover costs of the three project components, accounting for 84.5 % of the project’s total cost. Following a restructuring in 2018, the project was reduced in scale and scope and the IDA credit was reduced to US$11.13 million equivalent, although it remained the project’s main source of financing.


Project activities were closely coordinated with programs of other donors supporting the PEVD universal electricity effort, including Germany’s KfW (supporting renewable energy mini-grids) and the InterAmerican Development Bank (supporting transmission and distribution).


Celia Sabaya and Roberto Condori are two of the 20,200 individuals who benefited from electricity provided by the project.

Celia Sabaya lives in the community of Pirquiña: “Since I was a child we didn’t have light at home. We had to use candles and flashlights; nights were very dark. Thanks to the project we are doing much better, we have light, we can listen to our radio and charge our cell phones...”

Roberto Condori, from the Mama Huasi community, municipality of Sopachuy, notes: “As beneficiaries of the project, we are very happy and satisfied. We’ve waited so long for this service. Now health and education will improve in our community.”

Moving Forward

Achieving sustainability is a main priority of the project and of the country’s decentralization framework. Participation by utilities, gobernaciones, and municipalities will contribute to the sustainability of the grid extension effort, as gobernaciones are assuming the debt incurred for this component. Furthermore, implementation arrangements included specifications for operation and maintenance and replacement of subprojects through agreements already reached with distribution companies. The sustainability of the project and the overall rural electrification effort are also reinforced through other ongoing programs, including the IDB-supported project for transmission expansion and further grid extension. 


Power grid installation, Chuquisaca, Bolivia. Photo: PEVD

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