When was the last time that lights went off? Couple of years ago? Couple of months? Couple of hours? Your answer depends on where in the world you seat. When sitting in Lagos, lights went off several times on a typical day. At inconvenient times on occasion, like in the middle of taking a shower before sunrise. But I won’t complain: this is just nothing compared to what billions of people go through on a daily basis because of energy poverty.
Why I’m I talking about energy poverty today? Last week, I attended the official launch of The Fuel Freedom Chair for Energy and Social Development at IESE. In his presentation, Founder and Chairman of The Fuel Freedom Foundation Yossie Hollander brought to our attention some important considerations about energy poverty. I’ll summarize some of them here.
Most people in the world don’t have access to all the energy they would need. This is what energy poverty is about. While the problem is broader than electricity, the discussion is focused on electricity. And that’s why the problem of energy poverty is not solved, according to Hollander.
Some areas where energy poverty shows in ways that have a profound impact on people’s lives:
- Transportation: the cost of every product or service includes transportation and fuel costs. These are significantly higher in developing countries.
- Fertilizers: the low agricultural yields and food insecurity in Africa are related to how expensive fertilizers are. Compare the cost of a ton of urea – one of the most important fertilizers: $90 in Europe, $120 in coastal East Kenya, $400 in West Kenya, and $700 in Malawi. The huge differences are due to transportation costs.
- Cookstoves: roughly 40 % of the world population make fire out of wood or biomass to cook and to heat their homes. The pollution this generates causes the death of 4 million people every year – including roughly 50 % of premature deaths among children under 5.
- Electricity: where national grids don’t reach, electricity is produced by diesel or gasoline-based generators. These are expensive, unreliable, and highly polluting.
How can we improve this situation? Hollander had it very clear: promoting alternative sources of power that can be produced locally. Doing so will be more efficient from an economic perspective, and will improve the health and environmental conditions of all those living under energy poverty.
Any thoughts you would like to share?
Btw, congrats to my colleague Ahmad Rahnema, holder of the new Chair!
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