Energy Poverty Awareness

Energy is all around us. It is in the trees, in the sky and the beautiful sun, and also within our own bodies. Yet it is not always available to us. Most of the energy is not in usable forms, and those who do not have the resources or money will not be able to obtain it. Energy Poverty is a major issue affecting the world. Energy is the basis for the things we do in our lives from cooking, to lighting, and more complex aspects of business, the arts and more. Many of us are used to the light turning on at a flick of a switch but that is not the case for the 1.2 billion people who still do not have access to energy (“Modern Energy for All”), as of 2016 according to the International Energy Agency. That’s around 1.6 per 10 people.

The lack of energy can be damaging to human well-being and a country’s economic development. Access to modern energy is essential for cooking, heating, telecommunication services, sanitation, and more. According to UN studies, energy consumption is linked with increased development and productivity. Countries that are more developed with a higher standard of living consume more energy per capita.

human development index chart

Figure 1: Human Development by country versus per capita power consumption (“Growing Poor Slowly”).

Giving people access to energy means giving people opportunity in life. Having a cell phone now means being able to do business. A small business owner isn’t worried about his power going out at any time and affecting his/her sales. Even something as simple as a light means a child can now stay up just a bit longer in order to finish his or her school work. At the same time, if we can meet the growing demands for energy, we can also tackle major environmental issues of our time such as Climate Change. Investment in renewable energy, not only in increasing energy access, is how energy poverty should be tackled.

One of the more hidden benefits of increased access to energy is an increase in health standards. About 2.7 billion people still rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, heating, lighting, etc (“Modern Energy for All”), and according to the World Health Organization, and household air pollution was responsible for 4.3 million deaths in 2012 (“Mortality from household air pollution”). That’s more than malaria, 0.438 million, 2015 (“Fact Sheet: World Malaria Day 2016”) and tuberculosis, 1.8 million, 2015 (“Tuberculosis”), each year combined.

The problem is grand, the benefits are immense, and the whole world is working hard to solve it. World Vision has taken an aim at tackling this problem in a different way. Energy Poverty, like any poverty is not something that can be solved overnight, and requires innovative thinking and key collaborations among all groups of peoples. The World Vision Social Innovation Challenge 2017 has provided the platform to help generate and incubate market-based ideas that could help to alleviate energy poverty. They provided the expertise, guidance, and eventual startup funding to the eventual winners. The winners will continue to receive support in order to be market ready.