What makes you angry?

Many things in our modern lives make us angry: long lines at the supermarket, missing the last bus, traffic jams, difficult-to-open packaging. Sometimes though, it’s worth taking stock and considering something we should be really angry about: energy poverty.

Yesterday I was at the launch of the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012 report and sitting in the audience I was getting angry… luckily I wasn’t alone.

Nearly 7 out of 10 people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity and nearly 8 out of 10 people do not have access to clean cooking facilities.

Sadly this picture isn’t improving – if anything it’s getting worse.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2012, by 2030 the total number of people with access to modern energy sources will decrease in every region EXCEPT sub-Saharan Africa. Under current policies by 2030 there will be 655 million people without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa as oppose to the 589 million currently without access. The total number of people without access to clean cooking is also increasing.

This is ridiculous. Sub-Saharan Africa’s renewable energy potential is huge.

As of 2010: only 0.6% of its geothermal energy had been exploited; less than 2% of its wind energy had been exploited; only 7% of its hydropower potential had been exploited; and Africa has hardly even scratched the surface of its solar. Additionally even if not all of this energy access was provided from renewable energy sources the International Energy Agency predicts global CO2 emissions would increase by only 0.6%.

Access to modern energy sources is crucial for human development and job creation. It is unrealistic to think that Africans will be able to fulfill their human or developmental potential when the majority of them are excluded from modern energy access.

Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, agrees. When asked about the lack of modern energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa he stated:

“We believe this is economically, socially and morally unacceptable.”

and he is right… luckily there is some good news:

25 African countries have now signed up in support of Sustainable Energy for All initiative. An initiative set up last year to spur action to: achieve universal modern energy access; double the share of renewables in the global mix; and double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; all by 2030. African Energy Ministers are meeting in Ethiopia this week at the Second AU Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa (CEMA) to look at how to mobilize domestic resources and prioritize energy in their economic development strategies. The European Commission, theAfrican Development Bank, the World Bank and German and French Development Ministries have all said they will be funding more projects to increase energy access.

What we need to do now is build on this good intention. We need to put leaders under pressure to turn this interest into actual KiloWatt Hours of energy delivered to those who need it.

With your help – we’ll be able to turn anger about energy poverty into action. With your support, we at ONE will be working with leaders and government to do this – so that soon access to modern energy isn’t the exception in sub-Saharan Africa but the norm.