Solvable Problem: Ending Energy Poverty

Why, with the rise of new technology and renewable energy solutions, is a third of the world still deprived of reliable power?

More than a billion people live without consistent access to electricity. Over 3 billion people still rely on kerosene, wood, and other biomass to cook and heat their homes. In established markets, a household freezer consumes 10 times more electricity in one year than the average Liberian citizen. At the same time, low income populations in the United States face eviction due to high fuel costs.
Beyond the glaring disparity, energy poverty has a direct connection to poverty indicators, such as community health, education, and economic growth. Cooking without clean energy causes severe respiratory illnesses believed to account for four percent of all global disease. Without reliable electricity in their homes and schools, children cannot study to learn the skills they need to thrive as adults. Hospitals cannot store lifesaving vaccines, nor operate after sundown. Women’s safety remains at risk, job growth remains stagnant, and workers remain unemployed.
The Paris Agreement signaled our global desire to increase the use of renewable energy, which becomes more affordable and accessible every day. Yet energy poverty keeps 2.3 billion people in need. A third of our global population is simply left in the dark.
Subsidies targeting energy poverty alleviation exist, but investments often do not focus on the greatest needs. Partnerships have formed to address the issue, but linkages between corporations and other sectors remain weak. Change is occurring at a transactional level, without the sectoral alignments needed to bring new innovations to market. Mini grids provide some light at the household level but fail to connect to larger communities to ensure scale.
Providing access to safe, clean, and affordable energy would break the cycle of poverty and fulfill proposed long-term value approaches to economic development. The International Energy Agency’s 2040 projections show that 500 million global citizens will still lack access to electricity, and 1.8 billion will still use unclean fuels to cook and heat.
How might we increase access to energy—uniting the needs of local communities without power with those of utility companies that provide energy? How might we unite the private, public, and social sectors to ensure consistent investment to reduce energy poverty? How might we ensure that power can be delivered to those who need it today? How do we ensure we can all finally connect?

Energy Poverty Stories