The goal of this periodic blog (EgyDev) is to promote information exchange on access to quality energy services in developing countries including renewable, modern, biomass and household energy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Two Billion People Gain Electricity Access: 1970-2010


Rural Energy
and Development,
Published 1996
In 1996 I wrote "It is hard not to be daunted by the scale of providing energy services to the world's rural population. There are nearly two billion people without access to modern forms of energy such as electricity or oil. This book describes the plight of these two billion. Its message, however, is that there are now many ways in which their situation can be improved. For though the problem is daunting, practicable and affordable prescriptions are available." This was from the book Rural Energy and Development: Improving Energy Supplies for Two Billion People (World Bank, Washington DC).

At the time, no one was counting the number of people who were without electricity. My World Bank Director during that period was Richard Stern. He was very supportive of this new line of work on rural and household energy.  During those times when most people didn't give a thought to rural energy in international organizations, as the director of energy at the World Bank he took a risk that this long ignored issue would take on future importance. Only time would prove him right.

During one of our pre-publication meetings, he turned to me and asked, "How confident are you of the number two billion. It's in the title of the book, so it better be right." I squirmed a bit in my seat, knowing all the potential flaws in the numbers we had researched. However, at that time no one had taken the effort to calculate the number of people without electricity. The team that I worked with had been fairly meticulous in looking at those with and without electricity country by country.  As a result, I looked at him and confidently said, "No one has any better numbers than us." He still did not look convinced, but accepted our judgment. Later we would turn these numbers over to the International Energy Agency, which now keeps track of those rural electrification rates in developing countries.
Table 1 Rural Electrification in Developing Countries,
1970-2010
Source: Barnes, Electric Power for Rural Growth,
Second Edition, 2014 

As one of the first people to count the number of people without electricity, I recently took a look at some figures in my book Electric Power for Rural Growth published in the 1980s. The Second Edition of this book will be available soon. I found that in 1970, the rural electrification rate in developing countries was only 12 percent, compared to more than 60 percent today (Table 1). 
Today, projecting backward from recent trends, I found some interesting results. In 1970 there were only about 2 billion rural people in developing countries, so about 1.75 billion people were without electricity. I estimate that during the 1970s and 1980s due to population growth and few international efforts involving rural electrification programs, the number of people without electricity kept growing to well over 2 billion. The incremental number of people with electricity was not even keeping up with population growth. 
During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the number of people without electricity in developing countries finally started going down (due to significant programs in China, India, Thailand and other countries). People without electricity declined to about 2 billion people in the early 1990s. Today the number of people without electricity has declined further to 1.3 billion. Significant progress has been made in the last 40 years.

In the 1990s there were 2 billion people without electricity, and in 2010 the number was 1.3 billion. But this does not mean that only 0.7 billion new households have been provided with electricity between 1970 and 2010, because during those times populations grew at about 2% per year. Thus, during the last 30 years over 2 billion people have gained access to electricity. Countries like China, Thailand, Brazil and Mexico now have electricity access rates that are well over 95 percent, and they are working on the last remaining pockets of people without electricity.

Obviously the task is not complete. Even a large country like India still has more than 200 million people without electricity, and in rural Africa, astoundingly, only 1 in 8 people in rural areas has electricity. So complacency is not the order of the day, and actions are still needed to bring a modern life to those living in extreme poverty or very remote areas. This is still true even 30 years after the publication of the forward looking policy book Rural Energy and Development.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Traditional to Modern Stoves: A Chronology of Development




India Traditional Stove: Credit C. Carnemark
Recently I participated in a very interesting workshop at Yale University. The workshop was called The Adoption Gap: Design, Development and Diusion of Household Energy Technologies. The focus of the conference was to examine why improved biomass cooking stoves have not achieved widespread adoption even after over 25 years of promotion. Many of the presentations were very innovative. Included among the speakers was Rema Hanna, who is the author of the controversial study Up in Smoke. She talked about her well designed stove impact assessment. Unfortunately, the stove being evaluated was from India's legacy mud stove program, some of which are still being promoted. Hanna made the valid point that many current programs are still supporting such stoves. While this is true, today there are many  better designed stoves compared to those from the 1990s (see commentary on the paper). Unfortunately, public monitoring and evaluation studies of these new stoves are still fairly sparse. The presentations from the conference are not yet available on line, but I will update this blog once they become available.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I am one of a small number of people that have been involved in improved stove development for almost its entire history. I say fortunately because it has been a very interesting to observe the evolution of the programs over the years. I say unfortunately, because even today with the many innovations taking place, most poor households in developing countries still use open fires or primitive stoves for cooking.  Also, in many countries well meaning non-governmental organizations are still promoting the stoves designed in the 1990s.
I prepared a presentation for the conferences with the title, Improved Stoves:  What Have We Learned, How Do We Move Forward? The ideas for this presentation were taken from my recent book Cleaner Hearths, Better Homes: New Stoves for India and the Developing World. For those interested, a free digital copy of the book is available, or for those more interested in print, copies can be purchased online. The book describes the positive and negative aspects of India's legacy improved stove program that was abandoned in 2002. This legacy program now is universally criticized, but most people really don't understand the pros and cons of the old program. Some aspects of the legacy stove program were quite innovative, including working with NGOs, including women's groups, assigning technical agencies to evaluate design issues, and developing commercialization strategies. Many of these innovations are relevant for the promotion and sale of improved stoves today. 
As part of my presentation, I had one slide on the development of stove programs. For those just now becoming interested in the new stoves, this slide provides a historical overview of the 25 year history of improved stoves.  The text below the break is from a glossy insert in the center of Cleaner Hearths: Better Homes that was published in 2012. The rest of the book is based on empirical findings from short questionnaires and focus discussion groups carried out at the very end of India's program. The book takes a more objective approach identifying both what went wrong and also positive contributions of the program for people in India. Anyway, continue after the break to read my short history of improved stoves.