From: Editor, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published January 31, 2012 12:01 PM

Energy Poverty Remains a Global Challenge for the Future

Washington, D.C.—Despite massive gains in global access to electricity over the last two decades, governments and development organizations must continue to invest in electrification to achieve critical health, environmental, and livelihood outcomes, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication.

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Between 1990 and 2008, close to 2 billion people worldwide gained access to electricity. But the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that more than 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, while the United Nations estimates that another 1 billion have unreliable access. The UN General Assembly has designated 2012 as the "International Year of Sustainable Energy for All," providing an opportunity to raise awareness of the extent and impacts of the electrification challenge.

"Modern energy sources provide people with lighting, heating, refrigeration, cooking, water pumping, and other services that are essential for reducing poverty, improving health and education, and increasing incomes," write report authors Michael Renner and Matthew Lucky. "It will be difficult toachieve a number of the UN's Millennium Development Goals without improving energy access." Among the UN goals, targeted at 2015, are combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and eradicating poverty and hunger.

At least 2.7 billion people, and possibly more than 3 billion, lack access to modern fuels for cooking and heating. They rely instead on traditional biomass sources, such as firewood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues, that can emit harmful indoor air pollutants when burned. These pollutants cause nearly 2 million premature deaths worldwide each year, an estimated 44 percent of them in children. Among adult deaths, 60 percent are women. Traditional energy usage also contributes to environmental impacts including forest and woodland degradation, soil erosion, and black carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Electrification varies widely between rural and urban areas in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the rural electrification rate is just 14 percent, compared with 60 percent in urban areas.

Article continues: http://www.worldwatch.org/energy-poverty-remains-global-challenge-future-1

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