Energy access and living standards: some observations on recent trends

A subset of Sustainable Development Goals pertains to improving people’s living standards at home. These include the provision of access to electricity, clean cooking energy, improved water and sanitation. We examine historical progress in energy access in relation to other living standards. We assess regional patterns in the pace of progress and relative priority accorded to these different services. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa would have to undergo unprecedented rates of improvement in energy access in order to achieve the goal of universal electrification by 2030. World over, access to clean cooking fuels and sanitation facilities consistently lag improved water and electricity access by a large margin. These two deprivations are more concentrated among poor countries, and poor people in middle income countries. They are also correlated to health risks faced disproportionately by women. However, some Asian countries have been able to achieve faster progress in electrification at lower income levels compared to industrialized countries’ earlier efforts. These examples offer hope that future efforts need not be constrained by historical rates of progress.