Energy and Poverty: IEA Reveals a Vicious and Unsustainable circle.

"1.6 billion people today have no access to electricity. 2.4 billion rely on primitive biomass for cooking and heating. What is more shocking, in the absence of radical new policies, 1.4 billion will still have no electricity in 30 years time. This is not a sustainable future," said Robert Priddle, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) as he presented today a new document "Energy & Poverty".

The document contains findings from a ground-breaking new study by the IEA on "energy poverty," its magnitude, characteristics and future trends. The objective of this analysis is to provide hard information about global poverty and energy use, seeking, through greater transparency, to contribute to better choices towards solutions.

The study is one chapter in the next edition of the IEA's biennial world energy projections, the World Energy Outlook 2002, due for release in Osaka, Japan on 21 September 2002. These findings from the study have been made available now because of their direct relevance to the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, where energy is one of the central themes. The summit will take place from 26 August - 4 September in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The IEA notes that four out of five people without electricity currently live in rural areas of the developing world. They are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South and South East Asia. But the emphasis is changing from rural zones to the booming urban areas. In the next thirty years population growth will be concentrated in the Third World mega-cities. This shift will require dramatic new policies by governments, utility companies and aid agencies, alongside efforts to improve the lot of the rural poor.

Another aspect of energy and poverty is that, throughout the developing world, the poor rely on "biomass" - wood, agricultural residues, and dung. This use gives rise to severe health and environmental impacts. Even in thirty years time, biomass is expected to remain the predominant source of energy for heating and cooking in more than half the homes in the developing world. The number reliant on biomass in this way is expected to increase from 2.4 billion today to 2.6 billion in 2030.

Without adequate supplies of affordable energy, it is virtually impossible to carry out productive economic activity or improve health and education. As a result, poor people remain poor. "There can be no economic development without secure affordable energy," said Robert Priddle.