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.