People Without Electricity Set to Increase in 2022 for First Time in Decades

IEA estimates an investment of $30 billion is required to achieve global access by 2030


The number of people living without electricity is set to rise by nearly 20 million in 2022, reaching nearly 775 million, finds International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest data. The agency estimates that achieving universal global access to electricity by 2030 would require annual investments of $30 billion from now to 2030, of which around two-thirds are needed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Leading causes for the lack of electricity infrastructure include the pandemic, inflation, and the energy crisis that have set back global progress. Around sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without access to electricity is nearly back to its 2013 peak, the agency noted.

The progress in Mozambique, Senegal, and Kenya could decelerate. In Ethiopia, population growth is outpacing new connections, a sharp reversal from the rapid progress before the pandemic.

Bangladesh, home to almost 10% of those without access to stable electricity supply in Asia, is also set to see a slowdown in 2022, especially for new grid connections.

People without access to electricity worldwide, 2012-2022 | Source: IEA


Investment in electricity access in 2019 and Investment required to provide electricity to all by 2030| Source: IEA

The agency found that while grid connections proved resilient in the past two years, new procurement has slowed down, with many utilities lacking funds for energy access projects after they prioritized cushioning their consumers from rising prices. For instance, in Africa, utilities were already in a difficult financial situation heading into the pandemic, with operational losses climbing substantially since then.

Off-grid access solutions are facing stronger headwinds, with inflation hitting consumer demand. Prices of key components used to manufacture solar photovoltaic modules, batteries, and inverters are sharply rising, which has been further exacerbated by local currencies depreciating against the dollar. The cost of solar and hybrid mini grids has increased by at least 20% in 2022 from pre-pandemic levels.

The average market price for a new solar home system is up by 30% since 2020, causing households to opt for smaller or lower quality systems.

These setbacks put the world further behind in meeting targets for universal access by 2030, declared in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 7. As per IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2022, published earlier this month, 660 million people would still be without access to electricity in 2030, 85% of those living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Apart from the energy crisis, rising prices for fuel and food are disproportionately hurting, especially those in the developing world, and people facing chronic hunger are also rising. Countries witnessing growing populations without access will only see an acceleration with the trend, with the most significant increases set to occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

The current energy crisis will weigh heavily on negotiations at the ongoing COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt. The conference is expected to also focus on divesting resources to ensure universal access to secure affordable energy, especially in the developing world where populations without access to electricity are again rising. COP27 Egyptian Presidency has made it clear that accelerating efforts to reach universal access will be a crucial part of their agenda. The timely initiative aims to facilitate technical exchanges and help improve the investment environment for access solutions in Africa.

In its latest World Energy Outlook, IEA said the global crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine could ironically accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy system. Earlier in the year, IEA’s Renewable Energy Market Updates – Outlook for 2021 and 2022 revealed renewable energy is expected to account for 90% of the global power capacity increase in 2021 and 2022.


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