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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Energy Poverty Continued: A Narrative from Andrew Barnett

I have received a rather long comment from Andrew Barnett from The Policy Practice and I thought it would be good to include his insights on energy poverty as a main post. The slightly revised text below is from Andrew Barnett.

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A Narrative on Energy Poverty by Andrew Barnett
Fuel Collection Bangalore, India Photo by D. Barnes
A new generation of people has recently become interested in “Energy Access” and I am frequently asked what did we learn over the past 30 years. What follows is my attempt to put together a “simple narrative” about what we know about energy poverty.

It is probably useful to start by making the distinction between primary energy, energy conversion technology, and the idea of “useful energy” or (better) modern energy services. So the issue is how to enable poor people to gain greater use of the services made possible by modern energy. This is the crucial insight that enables “decision makers” to see the problems involved. Namely, the problems involve an increase in the supply of modern energy forms and great access to and utilization of energy conversion technology. This leads on to to issues of energy conversion efficiency, and the ability of people to pay for the services. It has been said for a long time that poor people do not lack access to energy (they are sweltering in the heat from the sun and many have biomass all around them). What they lack is the means to make it useful to them. This usually involves the expenditure of capital on equipment to turn biomass and the sun’s energy into energy that is useful for them. Energy poverty no doubt results from money poverty and is largely about the inability to pay for modern energy services. Focusing on energy use at the outset focuses attention on the demand side of the problem.

Continue below....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Concept of Energy Poverty

The existence of energy poverty today is quite well accepted around the world. In fact alleviating energy poverty is a goal of many development organizations that deal with energy issues for developing countries.

Migrant Workers Cooking-India: Photo WB/Curt Carnemark
When it comes to defining energy poverty these organizations assume the position that many take in appreciating good art--"they know it when they see it." There is much talk about energy poverty but not much action in terms of measuring it.

There is a good reason the people avoid defining energy poverty. It just is very thorny to define. There even was a time not too long ago that development specialists refrained from using the term. One can ask several different questions concerning the definition of energy poverty. Is energy poverty the same as income poverty? Is energy poverty based on access to energy services such as cooking, communications or lighting? Or is it based on quantities of energy that people use? These questions have generated several different approaches to measuring energy poverty.