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”


PPEO 2017 summary report – Financing National Energy Access: A Bottom Up Approach

Briefing paper summarising key findings and recommendations from the Poor People's Energy Outlook (PPEO) 2017 report. In this edition of the PPEO,...


Renewable Energy Enables Climate Change Adaptation for Smallholders

This policy brief supports Practical Action's 'Planting for Progress' campaign, which focusses on our work with smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe....


Solving the last mile distribution channel: a call to action from the global distributors collective

One billion people lack access to electricity, 663 million people lack access to clean water, 815 million people are chronically undernourished, and...


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


A global spotlight on energy access

The UN Secretary General made 2012 the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All, expanding this to an entire decade from 2014-2024. In 2015, a dedicated energy access goal was included within the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda, and the following year it was enshrined as an important component of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

These commitments, and recognition of energy's fundamental role in other development imperatives including gender equality, health outcomes, economic empowerment, and water and food security, has raised the profile of energy access among the development community, governments and the private sector. However, despite promises to focus on the solutions that are important for poor people, without continued pressure these commitments may not be realised.

To ensure we achieve our commitments to the world's poorest people, we engage at the national and global levels 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 partnership with others on these issues, for example through the Power for All campaign and with IRENA. The Poor People's Energy Outlook 2017 further investigates issues of energy access finance.
  • 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

Energy blog posts

  • Dragon’s Den with a twist: unlocking finance for energy access
    ‘Dragon’s Den’ has been a very popular TV format where entrepreneurs get to pitch their ideas to potential investors, with versions of the show produced in nearly 30 countries. New investments are also needed in energy access. There remains a very large financing gap between the amounts estimated to be needed per year to reach the 2030 SDG goal of universal access to electricity and clean cooking, and finance currently flowing. Various reports documented this over the last year including […]
  • Energy Supporter Objects – The Variety of Energy Technologies and Uses in Refugee Settings
    A blog authored by Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen and Anna Okello. December 2017. A ‘missing link’ in humanitarian energy access Energy is a critical need for refugees and displaced people: millions of displaced people do not have access to energy, and humanitarian agencies and refugees themselves struggle to work with complex energy technology systems and products – as we discuss in the Moving Energy Initiative Report. Recognising this, Practical Action has developed an extensive portfolio of work on energy in humanitarian settings. This […]
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