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Country-Based Action to Achieve Universal Access to Energy

About 1.2 billion people still lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion have to rely on wood or other biomass to cook and heat their homes, said a recent report produced by a multi-agency team led by the World Bank.

The Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework report is also clear about where the energy gap is concentrated: in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. These are countries and regions where children do not have light to study at night, where communities are often insecure after dark, and where businesses lack the reliable power to get off the ground.  Changing this picture will require a concerted international effort.

In response, the World Bank Group is launching a global program to help countries achieve universal energy access, as part of its support to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The Sustainable Energy for All Technical Assistance Program (S-TAP), with US$15 million in initial funding from the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), will start in five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique and Senegal. 

The program will deliver a comprehensive package of support to help countries expand energy access, and build a prospectus of investment-ready projects that will facilitate that expansion.  Together, these are expected to catalyze further funding and investment from donors and the private sector that will allow countries to achieve universal access to electricity and safe household energy solutions by the year 2030.

“We cannot end extreme poverty without tackling energy poverty,” said S. Vijay Iyer, Director of the World Bank Group’s Sustainable Energy Department. “The low access rate in these countries is both a cause and result of poverty. Change will require investment, knowledge sharing, and a long-term, collaborative effort with governments and development partners.”

Discussions are underway to expand the program beyond the first five countries to Central America and Asia.  The program will also work to support the further development of regional power pools in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The program is designed to eventually extend to 20 countries, with an end goal of catalyzing access to electricity and modern cooking fuels for 200 million people by 2030.

The current participating countries are characterized by low rates of energy access. Senegal is working to double rural electrification to 50 percent by 2017, and to minimize power outages. Liberia is rebuilding infrastructure damaged by its recent civil war, but at present less than 2 percent of the population is connected to the grid – one of the lowest rates in the world.

“The scale of the challenge for these countries is daunting, but experience shows that it can be done,” said Rohit Khanna, Manager of the World Bank’s ESMAP, which will implement the program. “Take Rwanda, which was able to triple household energy access in only three years. Or Vietnam, where a generation ago fewer than 15 percent of rural homes had access to electricity.  Today, over 95 percent do.”

S-TAP will focus on developing a detailed action plan and an investment prospectus for each country.  The investment prospectus will determine the policy and financing support needed for each country to meet its targets, and will include pre-feasibility studies for specific investment opportunities.  These opportunities are expected to cover both expanding electricity access and solutions for cleaner household cooking and heating.

Other activities include a stock-taking of current energy access programs, capacity development, and policy and regulatory advice focused on two areas:

  • improving the power sector investment climate by helping countries develop more credible and predictable regulations, and adopt global procurement standards;
  • improving the governance and financial viability of power companies, through better accountability, autonomy and cost recovery.

Taken together, this support is expected to lay out a clear roadmap for each country to achieve universal energy access by 2030.

Lead image courtesy World Bank, IFC and Lighting Africa

This article was originally published on World Bank and was republished with permission.

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