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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 35 - November 2001 - Theme: Poverty & Energy (INFORSE, 2001, 18 p.)
close this folderTheme: Poverty & Energy
Open this folder and view contentsViews on Poverty
View the documentPoverty Orientation in Energy - NGO View
View the documentWorking Group of the UK Development Assistance Seeking Dialogue


In this theme on "Poverty and Energy" we start with an overview of present visions made by Greenpeace, Worldwatch Institute, and INFORSE.

You can read about some facts. "The progress has been less than hoped." as also the World Bank concludes in its yearly report. There is an active search for broader approaches how to reduce poverty, and how to use sustainable energy to tackle poverty. On the next pages, you can read about an NGO view and the view of a working group of the UK government, which is searching dialogue.


Global Marshall Plan

Global "Marshall Plan"
It does NOT cost too much.

The industrial nations should launch a global "Marshall Plan" to provide everyone on earth with a decent standard of living.

A 1998 report by the UNDP estimated the annual costs:
- $9 billion - to provide water and sanitation for all;
- $12 billion - to cover reproductive health for all women;
- $13 billion - to give basic health and nutrition for all;
- $6 billion - to provide basic education for all.

These sums are pale in comparison with the estimated $ 780 billion that is being spent on military by all nations.

George C. Marshall, June 5, 1947, said surveying the wrecked economies of Europe:

"possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned." There could be "no political stability and no assured peace" without economic security, and that U.S. policy was "directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."


How to bring energy-sector assistance closer to...

How to bring energy-sector assistance closer to contributing to poverty reduction?

· Put ‘Energy Poverty’ on the national energy agendas!

· Overcome the limitation of the market-based approach by assisting:

· Equal access for the minimum standard energy services

· Capacity building by decentralised energy services

· Civil society participation

Read more about this NGO view on pages 8 - 9

Photo: From the front page of the Greenpeace Campaign Paper. "Power to Tackle Poverty"

Getting Renewable Energy to Tackle Poverty

Getting Renewable Energy to Tackle Poverty

Action for Clean Energy - Global Campaign
to secure a commitment from the world leaders at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to get renewable energy to the world’s 2 billion poorest people within 10 years.

The poor do not have access to essential needs such as clean water, health care, cooking facilities, heating, lighting.

The failure of providing these is one of the most pressing problems facing humanity today.

Renewable energy can meet people’s needs.


Global Vision 2050, INFORSE

Global Vision 2050
100% Renewable Energy in the World in 2050.

It is possible before 2050 with:

· More energy services

· Higher energy efficiency

· Cheaper: solar and wind

· Phased out: oil, nuclear


Improved Cooking Stove - a Case in Nepal

The photo shows a happy poor woman in Nepal, who got an improved cooking stove. Photo by Saurab K. Shrestha, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, Nepal.

An improved cooking stove has an immediate impact on poverty reduction:

· it decreases respiratory diseases, and as a result it decreases mortality in women and children,

· it reduces drudgery as the stoves reduce by half the consumption of fuel wood,

· it generates income at the local level as the local stove promoters and stove technicians are paid, and

· it builds up both institutional and technical capacity at the local level, as local structures are used as a basis for social mobilisation.

The stoves also have positive environmental impact, as the reduced fuel wood consumption reduces the pressure on scarce forest resources, and as a well built and maintained stove has a better combustion and thus reduces the emission of dangerous gasses.

In Nepal, DANIDA (Danish International Development Assistance) started up a project promoting improved cooking stoves.

The users are supposed to pay the stove builder a fixed price, which has been decided by the community. The prices vary from location to location from 50 rps (0.6 USD) to 350 rps (4.2 USD), reflecting, among other factors, the fuel scarcity and relative affluence in a given area.

Even with these low prices, it is still a challenge to reach the poorest part of the population. The support of the project is primarily being spent on building up a critical mass of skilled stove promoters and on creation of institutional capacity both at the local and central levels.

More information: Saurab K. Shrestha, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, Krishna Galli, Pulchowk, Lalitpur Nepal, Ph: +977 1 522520, or CRT, e-mail:

Progress has been less than hoped

"Progress has been less than hoped"

Critics resulted with three World Bank Reports, which Urge Broader Approach to Reducing Poverty World Development Report (WDR) 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty

At the start of a new century, poverty remains a global problem of huge proportions.

Of the world’s 6 billion people, 2.8 billion live on less than $2 a day, and 1.2 billion on less than $1 a day.

8 out of every 100 infants do not live to see their fifth birthday. 9 of every 100 boys and 14 of every 100 girls who reach school age do not attend school.

Deprivation is also evident in poor people’s lack of political power and voice as well as in their extreme vulnerability to ill health, economic dislocation, personal violence, and natural disasters. The scourge of HIV/AIDS, the frequency and brutality of civil conflicts, and rising disparities between rich countries and the developing world have increased the sense of deprivation and injustice for many.

Voices of the Poor

A research study in 3 volumes, background material to the WDR 2000/2001.

-"Can Anyone Hear Us?" analyzes the voices of over 40,000 poor women and men in 50 countries from participatory poverty assessments carried out by the World Bank in the 1990s;

- "Crying Out for Change" pulls together reports on fieldwork conducted in 1999 in 23 countries involving over 20,000 poor men and women; and

-"From Many Lands" offers regional patterns and country case studies.

Poverty Reduction Strategy Sourcebook Draft - for Comments!

Despite modest reductions in poverty in recent decades, progress has been less than hoped, especially in low-income countries.

This disappointment has led to a critical search for policies that best promote economic growth and reduce poverty in low-income countries, as well as a realization that the delivery of external support should be changed.

The purpose of the book is to provide guidance and analytical tools for developing poverty-reduction strategies. An "Energy Chapter" is also included!
Comments are welcome to the draft:

"Poverty is pain; it feels like a disease.
It attacks a person not only materially but also morally.
It eats away one’s dignity and drives one into total despair."
- a poor woman in Moldova

"Poverty is like heat you cannot see it, so to know poverty you have to go through it"
- Adaboya, Ghana

Poverty Orientation in Energy - NGO View


By Susanne Backer,
Forum for Energy and Development, INFORSE Secretariat

How to bring energy-sector assistance closer to contributing to poverty reduction?

The popular market-based approach leaves the needs of the poor largely unattended.

Further, ‘energy-poverty’ is not yet on the national energy agendas, therefore, it is not adequately addressed in energy-sector assistance.

Current Understanding of Poverty

Within the last ten years, understanding of poverty has broadened from a relative narrow definition based on quantifiable measures of consumption and expenditure to a more complex concept including also issues relating to energy and the structures underpinning poverty. This broader and generally accepted understanding of poverty perceives poverty as an ever-changing interplay among some of the following factors:

Poverty factors relating to insufficient income, consumption possibilities, and human development:

A. Lack of access to and control over productive assets, with consequent insufficient income and coverage of basic needs;

B. Lack of opportunities to exploit human potential and resources due to insufficient education and health.

Poverty factors relating to power relations, and structural reasons underpinning poverty:

C. Isolation due to geophysical conditions, and lack of education;

D. Lack of influence on own living conditions and, thus, of potential avenues for escaping poverty, lack of rights;

E. Vulnerability due to a very limited economic basis as well as to unstable natural and political environments.

Poverty is a non-static interrelation among these factors. The poor are an inhomogeneous group.

Poverty is gender-biased, putting a relatively greater burden on women and girls than on men and boys.

Understanding Energy in Relation to Poverty

This broader understanding of poverty can be transformed into a conceptual framework for understanding of energy in relation to poverty, which is described below.

A. Lack of access to and control over energy as a productive asset

· Low profitability of poor people’s economic activities;

· Limited potential for economic development;

· Low coverage of basic needs in relation to, e.g., number of hot meals and reduction of energy-intensive preparations like, e.g., pulses;

· Insufficient heating;

· Conflict over insufficient resources (biomass);

· Drudgery in relation to collection, transport, and consumption of biomass.

B. Lack of opportunities to exploit human resources due to insufficient education and health

· Unsatisfactory health and educational services;

· Time lost for educative, reproductive, or productive activities;

· Physical wear and health risks in relation to collection, transport, and consumption of traditional energy;

· Time lost for self studies and evening classes for both adult and children.

C. Isolation due to geography and education

· Unattractive market for commercial energy supply;

· Unattractive ‘market’ for political ‘vote-seekers;

· ‘Imperfect’ consumers due to lack of knowledge of alternatives and due to inability to hold politicians and suppliers accountable.

D. Lack of influence, lack of rights

· Absence of institutions and methods identifying and linking the energy interests of the poor with the national policy planning method;

· Minimum standards for energy services not identified as basis for national energy planning and policy;

· The right to a minimum and fair energy consumption not a basis for national energy planning and policy;

· Absence of public debate on national energy policy from the perspective of the poor.

E. Vulnerability due to unstable economic, natural, and political environment

· Natural disasters deprive many poor people of the most basic means of survival, including energy for cooking and heating;

· Political and social unrest transform thousands into refugees, with extremely limited access to resources, including energy.

Improved cooking stove in Nepal.

Photo by Saurab K. Shrestha, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre.

Limitations of the Market-based Approach:

The dominating trend in the energy-sector programs’ support is to work towards liberalisation of energy markets.

However, as the conceptual framework for understanding of energy, in relation to poverty shows, the market based approach has some limitations:

· The market approach will only be able to reach the poor to the extent that the productive activities and related energy needs of the poor are integrated into the cash economy.

· The market approach does not address the structural reasons and the power relations underpinning ‘energy poverty’. By avoiding the political dimension of energy poverty, energy-sector programs and assistance ‘risk’ to loose the dynamism of people’s own actions and organisations in the setting of national energy agendas.

The real challenge is to maintain the focus on getting the market right for energy demand that is part of the cash economy and, at the same time, to give sufficient focus to developing a framework that also permits poor people who are not securely integrated in the cash economy to benefit from energy-sector assistance programs. To move beyond the market-based approach and reach the poor will take strong political action, as it will not happen through the market forces.

Solar dryer drying mango in Uganda. Solar dryers open up income generating opportunities exporting dried fruit.

Photo by Youssef Arfaoui.

Overcoming some of the Limitations:

Which design elements could contribute to overcome the limitations of the current market approach in future energy-sector assistance?

Basic Energy Services

The basis for multi-and bilateral negotiations of energy-sector assistance has to be coverage of minimum-standard energy services:

· Equal access for all to sustainable, efficient, and healthy thermal heat for cooking and heating;

· Equal access to sustainable and efficient processing services for agricultural products;

· Equal access to sustainable and efficient water-pumping services;

· Equal access to health and educational services improved by sustainable and efficient energy services.

Solar steriliser in Uganda.

Photo by Youssef Arfaoui.

Capacity Development: Energy Service Delivery

Establishment of decentralised energy service centers with the following capacities:

· Participatory analysis of local energy needs in co-operation with local authorities and civil society organisations;

· Identification of social and economic activities where sustainable energy can make a difference within and outside the cash economy;

· Development of local energy plans;

· Development of community-owned and -managed energy-service delivery models in close co-operation with local authorities and CBOs.

Civil Society Participation

Facilitation of and support to Cross Sectoral Civil Society Networks in the South with the following capacities:

· Linkage between local CBOs and the national public debate on energy issues;

· Collect, document, and disseminate information on needs as well as solutions to the energy services required by the entire population, in order to provide a basis for energy-related decision making and planning;

· Provide a meeting space for energy specialists (technical and political) with CBOs, advocacy organisations, and media in order to facilitate energy-service delivery;

· Provision of high-quality inputs to the national energy agenda-setting process as well as to the donor community, in order to influence national energy policy.

More information: FED and INFORSE, Blegdamsvej 4 B, 2200, Copenhagen N, Denmark. Ph: +45-35-247700, fax: +45-35-247717, e-mail:,

Working Group of the UK Development Assistance Seeking Dialogue


By Gill Wilkins Energy Adviser to the Department for International Development,UK; and consultant to the Energy and Poverty Working Group.

PV water pump

Photo by IT Power, UK

A Working Group has been set up in the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to undertake a wide-ranging review of how energy, including renewable energy, is considered in the UK’s International Development Programmes for poverty reduction. Energy is being looked at within the framework of the International Development Targets (IDTs) or, more recently, the Millennium Development Goals.

The purpose of this Energy for Poverty Reduction (ENPOV) Working Group is:

· to raise awareness of the role energy can play in achieving the IDTs;

· to get energy back into the development as possibly a theme rather than a sector;

· to help develop an understanding of the link between energy and poverty reduction; and

· to raise awareness of the link among both energy and non-energy experts.

Solar foldable cooker used in refugee camps in Rwanda.

Photo: Solar Cookers International (SCI).

The Group has representatives from different interests within DFID to be sure to take on different perspectives. An external Advisory Group will be set up to provide comment and feedback. The Advisory Group will include representatives from other UK Government Departments, regional DFID offices and other relevant organisations (multilaterals, bilaterals, NGOs, companies and foundations). Wider consultation with the public will also be possible via the DFID Energy Knowledge and Research (KaR) website (see at the end of the article). It is hoped that the findings of the working group will be produced in the form of a guidance note in early 2002.

The Working Group aims to:

· have a primary focus on poverty reduction;
· cover both macro- and micro-level issues;
· cover issues related to rural urban and peri-urban areas;
· look at sustainable livelihoods through and energy lens;
· be people centred, demand-led, and pro-poor.

Questions to be Answered

It is clear that there are many questions to be answered with regard to the links between energy and poverty reduction. For example:

· Is energy important for the poor?

· What is the impact of energy access on education, health, urban migration, empowerment, drudgery, vulnerability, enterprise development, and job creation?

· Can economic growth be stimulated with energy provision while managing the environment sustainably?

· How can energy policies be integrated into development plans most effectively?

Some of these questions are starting to be answered, while others need further research and understanding.

Matrix Drafted

Towards starting to understand the role of energy in achieving the IDTs, a draft matrix has been drawn up which begins to show the links of which we are aware (see figure). This matrix needs further development; we welcome your thoughts and comments on how we can more fully describe the links that exist.

Looking for Case Studies

We are also looking for case studies and examples to illustrate the role that energy can play in helping to achieve development goals in different sectors.

If you know of any examples where energy has played an important role in helping to achieve development goals, or where the lack of consideration for clean, reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy has been detrimental to development, we would also like to hear from you.


Biogas used for cooking, and lighting in India.

Biogas used for cooking, and lighting in India.

Photos by AFPRO.

Comments and more information: Gill Wilkins, Principal Consultant AEA Technology Environment, ETSU, Building 154, Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 OQJ, UK. Ph: +44 (0) 1235 433128 Fax: +44 (0) 1235 432331 e-mail:, where draft papers will be posted for comment.

Energy FOR Poverty Reduction. Draft Matrix: Energy and the International Development Targets:




Directly contributes

Indirectly contributes

A reduction by one half in the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015

· Modern energy supplies are necessary for economic growth
· Clean, efficient fuels reduce the large share of household income spent on cooking, lighting and keeping warm

· Access to reliable energy services enables enterprise development
· Lighting permits income generation beyond daylight hours
· Increased productivity from being able to use machinery

· Employment creation in local energy service provision and maintenance, fuel crops, etc.

Universal primary education in all countries by 2015

· Availability of modern energy services frees girl’s time from helping with survival tasks (gathering firewood, fetching water)

· Good quality lighting permits home study
· Electricity in schools allows evening classes and helps retain teachers, especially if their accommodation has electricity.
· Electricity enables access to educational media and communications in schools and at home, which increase education opportunities and allow distance learning.

· Energy can help create a more child friendly environment (access to clean water, sanitation, lighting and space heating/cooling), thus improving attendance at school and reducing drop out rates.
· Access to electricity provides the opportunity to use electrical equipment for teaching e.g., overhead projector, computer, printer, copier

Demonstrated progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005

· Availability of modern energy services frees young women’s time from survival activities (fuel gathering, cooking inefficiently, fetching water, crop processing by hand, manual farming work)

· Good quality lighting permits home study
· Electricity in schools allows evening classes and helps retain teachers especially if their accommodation has electricity.
· Electricity enables access to educational media and communications in schools and at home, which increases educational opportunities and allows distance learning.

· Reliable energy services offer scope for women’s enterprises
· Street lighting improves women’s safety

A reduction by two-thirds in the mortality rates for infants and children under age 5 and a reduction by three-fourths in maternal mortality - all by 2015

· Indoor air pollution from traditional fuels causes significant numbers of premature deaths amongst children and mothers

· Gathering and preparing traditional fuels exposes women and children to health risks and reduces time spent on childcare
· Modern energy safer (less house fires)

· Electricity enables pumped clean water and purification
· Latrines for biogas production improve sanitation

Access through the primary healthcare system to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than 2015

· Electricity in health centres enables night availability, helps retain qualified staff and allows equipment use (e.g., sterilisation, medicine refrigeration)

· Electricity enables access to health education media

The implementation of national strategies for sustainable development by 2005, so as to reverse current trends in the loss of environmental resources at both global and national levels by 2015

· Traditional fuel use contributes to erosion, reduced soil fertility and desertification. Can become more sustainable through substitution, improved efficiency and energy crops
· Using cleaner, more efficient fuels reduce GHG emissions

· Mitigate increased pollution as economy grows with cleaner fuels and energy efficiency
· Increased agricultural productivity from being able to use machinery

· National sustainability aided by greater use of indigenous renewable energy sources instead of imported fossil fuels as economy grows
· Rural energy services enable non-farm based enterprise and processing of non-timber forest products