Energy Access

“Where households, enterprises and community services have sufficient access to the full range of energy supplies and services required to support human social and economic development”


Key Facts

If progress towards energy access continues at its current pace, by 2030:

  • 990 million people will still not have access to electricity
  • 2.6 billion people will still cook with traditional fuels
  • More than 30 million people will have died due to smoke-related diseases

Agenda for Change

We know that energy access is vital to improving wellbeing, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. At Practical Action we strive to shine a light on energy access needs in developing countries, while working towards improving the supply and uses of different types of energy so that poor people can lead the lives they value.

A family use a lamp in Nepal
The solar lantern lights up a family home in
Bhumlichow, Gorkha district, Nepal

Practical Action believes that access to appropriate energy services and supplies is central to improved wellbeing and our mission to achieve technology justice.

The UN Secretary General made 2012 the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All, expanding this to an entire decade from 2014-2024. This has raised the profile of energy access within the development community, with governments and in the private sector. However, despite promises to focus on the solutions that are important for poor people, without continued pressure these commitments may not turn into reality.

We engage at the national and global level with policy makers, private sector actors and civil society to recognise Total Energy Access (TEA) as a critical concept. TEA embraces the full range of energy services and supplies that poor people want, need and have a right to. We believe that taking this approach will improve the effectiveness of energy programmes and the quality of life for millions of poor people.


Goals for Policy and Practice

  • In light of the inclusion of a dedicated energy access goal within the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), we will continue to press for meaningful change in energy access for poor people. We believe that the goal should cover all aspects of Total Energy Access, and measure progress in terms of the quality of energy services received rather than just the means of supply. We would like to see the adoption of the Global Tracking Framework as the standard adopted and promoted by the energy SDG. This should result in a greater focus on cooking over electricity, and point to decentralised over centralised, grid-based solutions.
  • We will lobby at the international and country level for increased financing for decentralised energy solutions. International Energy Agency modelling indicates that to reach Universal Energy Access by 2030, 55% of new connections and 60% of investment will need to be off-grid. Currently, this ‘balanced portfolio’ approach is not reflected in government, donor or private sector spend. Despite small-scale, decentralised energy solutions often being most appropriate and cost effective, there are serious policy, finance and capacity constraints to scaling-up. We will work in partnerships with others on these issues, for example through the Power for All campaign and with IRENA.
  • We will support the greater co-ordination and recognition of the role of civil society in energy access decision-making and delivery. We will continue to demand greater space for civil society participation at global and national levels in processes such as Sustainable Energy for All. We will support coalitions of civil society organisations working towards these ends, such as the ACCESS network.
  • We will continue to contribute evidence and knowledge. Through publications such as the Poor People’s Energy Outlook and the Poor People’s Energy Briefing series, we will amplify the experiences of those living without energy access and push for their voices to be heard at an international level.

Flagship Projects

Mega Malawi

MEGA Malawi

Community Micro-Hydro Project
Improved cookstove use

Innovating Portable Cookstoves

Results-based finance, Peru
Sustainable Energy

Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities

Malawi and Zimbabwe

Key Energy Publications:


Building Energy Access Markets: A Value Chain Analysis of Key Energy Market Systems

This publication presents a new framework developed by EUEI PDF and Practical Action Consulting (PAC) to systematically and comprehensively analyse and assess energy market systems, with an initial...


Energy SDG Indicators

Measuring what matters in the Energy SDG


Poor People's Energy Outlook 2014

The 2014 edition of the PPEO looks back at three years of analysis and innovative approaches to defining energy access and addressing energy poverty as presented in previous PPEOs, to re-emphasise...


Energy blog posts

  • Integrated Resource Planning and the April Energy Engagement Series
    What happens when we approach energy access from a perspective of how to provide energy services instead of simply focusing on expanding the supply of kilowatt hours? Underserved populations require consideration of latent demand as well as supply options, but to do this, planners often have to change how they approach these issues. At Practical Action and WRI’s most recent Energy Engagement Series event in Washington, DC,  Gilberto Jannuzzi talked about his work in Brazil delivering energy efficiency programs for low income […]
  • From adaptation to mitigation at COP21
    Week 1 – agriculture and adaptation COP21 got off to a rousing start, with some inspirational speeches by heads of state and world leaders. The objective was to inspire and guide the negotiators, however, the promises made appear to have been quickly dampened by national interests resulting in slower than expected progress, and even weakened options. Nairobi Work Programme The first week was dominated by matters concerning agriculture, forests, pastoralism and risk and adaptation. The Nairobi Work Programme on Adaptation […]