Nearly 80 per cent of West Africa lacks access to electricity: UNEP

UN report gives enough attention to efficient lighting, ignores objective of electricity-for-all

By Aruna Kumarankandath
Published: Tuesday 19 May 2015


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently released a report that provides tactical solutions to policymakers to accelerate the use of efficient off-grid lighting products.

Titled “Developing Effective Off-Grid Lighting Policy - Guidance Note for Governments in Africa”, the report recommends how the government can seize market opportunities by creating a conducive and developing environment. The report was launched by UNEP in partnership with other organisations.

"On average, 76 per cent of the population in West Africa lacks access to electricity and spends up to 20 per cent of the household budget on kerosene, which is potentially damaging to their health and detrimental to the planet's climate," said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. "Adopting modern, solar powered solutions could provide these households with less expensive, more-efficient and healthier source of electricity, while boosting productivity and job creation," he added.

Millions of households across the globe have already been using options that are not dependent on grid, as per the report that also includes an industry perspective on policy measures promoting the growth of the efficient off-grid lighting market and access to efficient lighting. It further argues that in many nations, electrification via expansion of the electricity grid falls behind meeting the needs of the growing population. By means of off-grid lighting systems, African countries possibly can save from declining use of fuel-based lighting sources along with the greenhouse gas and other emissions.

The report quotes that "It identifies best practices, proven case studies and practical recommendations for establishing a regulatory framework and policy strategies for efficient off-grid lighting promotion, including the four elements of an integrated policy approach to accelerate and ensure a successful transition."

More was needed

Unfortunately, the focus of the report is only providing access to efficient lighting and not providing electricity for all uses. The UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, on the other hand, has three objectives that they plan to achieve by 2030—universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

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