Access to electricity

Electricity access refers to the percentage of people in a given area that have relatively simple, stable access to electricity.[1] It can also be referred to as the electrification rate. Not all countries and areas have equal access to electricity, and the level of access can be indicative of the development level of the country or area in question. This means that electricity access serves as a good proxy for other indicators of wealth and opportunity in a country.

It is estimated that around 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity in their homes,[2] many of these, approximately 95%, being people located in Africa and Asia.[3] As well, most of the people who do not have access to electricity are part of the rural population, with about 84% of people without access to electricity living in rural areas.[3]

Below is an interactive map with data showing the percentage of a country's population that had access to electricity in 2010.[4]

Along with not having access to electricity, a significant number of people do not have access to safe, clean cooking and heating methods (see access to non-solid fuel). Instead, approximately 2.8 billion people rely on the burning of coal, wood or other biomass (animal dung and crop waste) which results in indoor and outdoor air pollution.[2] It is estimated that over 4 million people die yearly from illnesses attributable to air pollution from burning these fuels.[5] Of these deaths, it is estimated that more than 50% are children under 5 who of pneumonia from inhaled soot.[5]

As well, these emissions from burning biomass are important drivers of climate change and the degradation of the local environment.[6]

Although electrification has many benefits, many countries have not yet made the financial commitment to rural electrification. Many countries have yet to increase electrification which could in turn reduce poverty.[7] It is a difficult commitment, and efforts fail when institutions don't get sufficient support to put in this extensive infrastructure.

Benefits of Electrification

Modern energy services are important in ensuring a satisfactory quality of life for people and promoting economic development. Access to energy is central to issues such as security, climate change, food production, and strengthening economies while protecting ecosystems.[6] Increased access to electricity improves education, entertainment, health, comfort, protection, and productivity. In a study done in the Phillipines,[8] it was determined that access to electricity provided families with improved education as children could study more easily after dark. As well, not having to collect fuels to burn saves time for people in the family, particularly the women. As well, increased access to electricity simplified household tasks and improved the productivity of home businesses. Overall, it was estimated that 1.82 years of education were added in electrified households and the monthly benefit was $10.33.

For more information on electricity access, Worldmapper has maps depicting electricity access. As well, Gapminder has helpful charts comparing electricity access to other criteria.


  1. International Energy Agency, 'Modern Energy for All' online: accessed August 17th, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 World Bank. (March 14, 2015). Energy Overview [Online]. Available:
  3. 3.0 3.1 International Energy Agency. (March 14, 2015). Energy Poverty [Online]. Available:
  4. World Bank. (May 4, 2015). Access to Electricity (% Population) [Online]. Available:
  5. 5.0 5.1 World Health Organization. (March 14, 2015). Household Air Pollution [Online]. Available:
  6. 6.0 6.1 United Nations Foundations. (March 14, 2015). Achieving Universal Energy Access [Online]. Available:
  7. Energy Development and Poverty Reduction. (March 14, 2015). Rural Electrification [Online].
  8. 'Rural Electrification and Development in the Philippines: Measuring the Social and Economic Benefits May 2002' by Joint UNDP/World Bank Energy Sector Management Assisstnce Programme (ESMAP) available online accessed: August 17th, 2017.

Authors and Editors

Jordan Hanania, Kailyn Stenhouse, Jason Donev