UNDP Around the world

Universal access to modern energy for the poor

Some 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity and a billion more only have access to unreliable electricity networks. About 3 billion people rely on solid fuels (traditional biomass and coal) to meet their basic needs. Access to modern energy services for cooking and heating, lighting and communications, and mechanical power for productive uses is a vast area of unmet need. The energy access  challenge  is particularly acute in the least developed countries, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The poor are particularly disadvantaged.  The urban poor typically have some access to electricity, but its quality is poor, service is unreliable and intermittent, and their connections are often informal.  In rural areas, physical access is often non-existent.  If the rural poor do have access to electricity, it tends to be of inadequate quality and/or quantity from stand-alone systems or poorly run and inefficient mini-grids that are expensive and prone to frequent failure.

The benefits of achieving universal access to modern energy services are transformational: lighting for schools, functioning health clinics, pumps for water and sanitation, cleaner indoor air, faster food-processing and more income-generating opportunities, among others.


UNDP supports access to electricity (on- and off-grid, decentralized whenever possible and based on clean energy technologies), access to clean fuel and devices for cooking and heating and increased access to and use of mechanical power.


Over the last two decades, UNDP has built up an extensive portfolio of projects and programmes in the energy sector.  In the process, it has acquired a wealth of experience and expertise in supporting countries to use, expand and shift towards sustainable energy for development.


Universal access to modern energy services is achievable by 2030. There are no fundamental technical barriers, and proven and innovative solutions exist. The capital investment required for universal energy access represents only around 3 per cent of the total global energy investment. Governments must make universal energy access a top political priority. Practical, effective and large-scale actions are needed to invest in capacity development, mobilize public-private partnerships and massively scale up successful and innovative solutions to overcome extreme energy poverty.