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Access to Energy

Access to electricity and clean cooking fuels are vital for a good standard of living and good health.

Access to electricity

What share of people have access to electricity?

Electricity is crucial for poverty alleviation, economic growth, and improved living standards (these links are discussed later in the entry).1

Measuring the share of people with electricity access is therefore an important social and economic indicator. The concept of "access to electricity" doesn't have a universally accepted definition, but most interpretations revolve around the availability of electricity, safe cooking facilities, and a certain minimum level of consumption. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 'access to electricity' involves more than just electricity delivery to a household. It also includes a requirement for households to consume a certain minimum amount of electricity, which differs based on whether the household is in a rural or urban area, and this threshold increases over time. The minimum threshold is set lower for rural households and higher for urban households.2

At a global level, the share of people with access to electricity has been steadily increasing over the last few decades. In 2000, 2 in 10 people in the world lacked access to electricity; this number has since decreased, with fewer than 1 in 10 lacking access in recent years.

Most of this increase has been driven by growth in low and middle-income economies. In many countries, this trend has been striking.

While this trend has been positive across most regions, there are still some countries where most of the people do not have access to electricity.

In the chart, you can explore electrification rates across the world.

How many people don't have access to electricity?

Global access to electricity has been steadily rising in recent decades.

This progress also holds true when we look at the total number of people without electricity access. In 2015, the total number without electricity fell below one billion for the first time in decades; very likely the first time in our history of electricity production.3

This is shown in the chart: in 1998 more than 1.5 billion didn't have electricity; by 2015 this had fallen below one billion.

This figure is still unacceptably high — and gains in access are moving much too slowly to reach our goal of universal access by 2030. This is particularly true for Sub-Saharan Africa — despite the share of the population with electricity rising steadily, population growth meant that the total number of people without access was on the rise until 2016. Accelerated progress will be needed to ensure this number now continues to fall.

The number of people without access to electricity by region and country

In the chart, we see the total number of people without access to electricity, grouped by world region.

Here we see a regional shift in electricity access over the past few decades: in 2000, nearly half of people in the world without access lived in South Asia. However, this figure has dramatically decreased in recent years. Taking its place is Sub-Saharan Africa; it’s home to three-quarters of the world's population that don’t have access to electricity.

Access to clean fuels for cooking

What share of people have access to clean fuels for cooking?

The use of solid fuels for cooking is an important risk factor for deaths and morbidity from indoor air pollution.

The obvious way to avoid indoor air pollution from solid fuel burning is for households to transition from traditional ways of cooking and heating towards more modern, cleaner methods. This can, for example, be in the form of transitioning towards non-solid fuels such as natural gas, ethanol, or even electric technologies.

In 2020, approximately two-thirds of the world's population had access to clean fuels for cooking, representing a significant increase from about half of the global population in 2000. This improvement underscores the substantial progress made over two decades in enhancing access to more sustainable and healthier cooking options worldwide.

The map shows the share of households with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking across the world. This share has been increasing for most countries at low-to-middle incomes, however, rates of increase vary by country and region.

Access to clean fuels is still very low across Sub-Saharan Africa. Progress has been much more significant in South and East Asia over the last decade.

How many people do not have access to clean fuels for cooking?

In the visualizations here we see the number of people globally with and without clean cooking fuels, and a world map of the number without access.

The total number of people globally without clean cooking fuels has declined very slowly since 2000.

What share of people use solid fuels for cooking?

The burning of solid fuels fills the houses and huts in poorer countries with smoke that kills the world’s poor by causing pneumonia, stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. The solid fuels responsible for this include wood, crop residues, dung, charcoal, and coal. The solution to this problem is straightforward: shift from solid fuels to modern energy sources.

And the following chart shows that the world is making progress in this direction. In 1980, nearly two-thirds of the global population relied on solid fuels. Three decades later, this proportion has decreased, with less than half of the world's population using solid fuels. The chart also shows that it is a problem associated with poverty: In richer Europe and North America the share is much lower than in the rest of the world, and in the high-income countries of the world the use of solid fuels is entirely a thing of the past.

The use of solid fuels is going down in all of the world’s regions. But the success of rapidly developing South East Asia is particularly impressive: Here there has been a remarkable decline in the use of solid fuels, shifting from nearly all of the population to just over half.

How does per capita electricity generation vary across the world?

Whilst access to electricity is an important metric to monitor it is insufficient in itself as a true measure of energy equity. Besides the fact that electricity is only one dimension of energy consumption, access metrics don’t tell us about the amount of electricity that’s generated or used.

It doesn’t tell us much about electricity or energy affordability at the individual or household level. Indeed, many households may only consume the minimum threshold of electricity usage necessary to be considered 'electrified' as a result of personal finance constraints.4

In the map, we see the differences in average per capita electricity generation across the world.

What becomes clear is the large inequalities that exist between countries. In many low-income countries, per capita electricity generation is more than 100-fold lower than in the richest countries.

How does per capita energy consumption vary across the world?

In the map we see differences in per capita energy use; this is inclusive of all dimensions of energy (electricity plus transport and heating). There are several important points to note.

Firstly, significant disparities in energy consumption exist between countries. For example, the average energy use in the United States surpasses that of the average Indian by more than tenfold, is four to five times greater than that of a Brazilian, and more than double that of a Chinese citizen. The contrast is even more pronounced when comparing high-income countries to very low-income nations, where the latter can consume over 30 times less energy.

Secondly, global average per capita energy consumption has been consistently increasing.

This growth in per capita energy consumption does, however, vary significantly between countries and regions. Most of the growth in per capita energy consumption over the last few decades has been driven by increased consumption in transitioning middle-income countries, such as China, India, and Brazil.

Whilst global energy growth is growing from developing economies, the trend for many high-income nations is a notable decline.

What determines levels of energy access?

Low-income households lack access to electricity and clean fuels

The availability (and affordability) of electricity and clean fuels for cooking is strongly related to income. Poor energy access is strongly tied to having a low income.

In the scatterplots here we see the relationship between access to electricity and access to clean cooking fuels measured against average income (GDP per capita). In both metrics, we see a strong positive correlation: energy access is low in poorer countries, and increases as incomes increase.

Rural households lag behind in energy access

Access to electricity has been increasing globally, with most of this increase coming from low-to-middle-income economies. However, access to electricity is not equally distributed between rural and urban demographics.

In the chart, we have plotted the percentage of the rural population with electricity access (on the y-axis) versus the percentage of the urban population with access (x-axis).

Countries that lie below the grey line have lower access in rural populations relative to access in urban areas. Nearly all lie below this line, meaning that for most nations electricity access in urban areas is higher than in rural regions.


  1. Also see: Panos, E., Densing, M., Volkart, K. (2016). Access to electricity in the World Energy Council's global energy scenarios: An outlook for developing regions until 2030. Energy Strategy Reviews, 9, 28-49. Available online.

  2. IEA (2016). World Energy Outlook 2016 – Methodology for Energy Access Analysis. Available online.

  3. Although global electricity access data does not extend further back than the year 1990, I hypothesize that 2015 was the first year since the dawn of industrial electricity production that less than a billion have been without access. The global population was already over 1.4 billion by the time of the first power plant (in 1882). Asia (the world's most populous region) alone was approaching one billion at the end of the 19th century. The rapid development of the world's most populous regions has been focused on the most recent decades in the late 20th and early 21st century. Although the data is not available to confirm this, I would estimate that between 1882 and 1990 there have always been at least one billion people in the world without electricity access.

  4. The minimum levels of consumption necessary to be considered as having electricity access based on the International Energy Agency (IEA) methodology is 250kWh per year for rural households and 500kWh per year for urban households. IEA methodology and definitions are available online.

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Hannah Ritchie, Pablo Rosado and Max Roser (2019) - “Access to Energy” Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

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    author = {Hannah Ritchie and Pablo Rosado and Max Roser},
    title = {Access to Energy},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2019},
    note = {}
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