The Devastation of Energy Poverty

The McKinsey Company has recently issued a report, Powering Africa.  The first sentence makes a statement that is obvious—“There is a direct correlation between economic growth and electricity supply”.  It goes on to state that “if sub-Saharan Africa is to fulfill its promise, it needs power—and lots of it”.  The sub-Saharan region is starved for electricity, as are many other emerging economies.  According to McKinsey, no matter what criterion is used—energy access, installed capacity, or consumption, the region’s power sector is seriously underdeveloped.

Without access to commercial energy, countries cannot achieve, much less sustain economic growth.  Although the region’s potential capacity is great, electric power access is severely limited.  McKinsey notes that Countries with electrification rates of less than 80 percent of the population consistently suffer from reduced GDP per capita.  Even countries like Angola and Gabon that have significant natural resources, still have electrification rates under 80 percent.  In short without adequate access to commercial power, prosperity is only a dream.  As some have observed, energy is an economy’s oxygen.

From the standpoint of access, sub-Saharan Africa’s situation is the world’s worst.”  It has 13 percent of the world’s population, but 48 percent of the share of the global population without access to electricity.  The only other region with a similar imbalance is South Asia, with 23 percent of the world’s population and 34 percent of the people without access to electricity.

When all countries without commercial power are taken into account, there are over 1.3 billion people who are living in the most devastating state of poverty imaginable.  They have high disease and mortality rates and no access to potable water.  Infant mortality is incredibly high.

In spite of these conditions that affect about 20% of the world’s population, the developed world is focused on suppressing CO2 emissions globally.  Without access to coal or natural gas for power generation, the condition of the world’s poorest will not improve.  According to McKinsey, it will take until 2040 to achieve electrification rates of 70%-80% because of the challenges to getting power to where it is needed the most.

It has to be the height of arrogance for the climate establishment with its good lifestyle to condemn over 1 billion people to continued poverty, excessive disease and mortality rates so that it can avoid a hypothetical catastrophe sometime in the distant future.  Where is their decency and concern for their fellow man?  If we want a better world, we first have to separate real problems from illusions and then commit to actions that actually make a difference.  That clearly is not happening with the excessive and obsessive focus on climate change.
This article appeared on the FuelFix website at

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