A Narrative on Energy Poverty by Andrew Barnett
|Fuel Collection Bangalore, India Photo by D. Barnes|
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.