Analyzing the Energy Dimensions of Poverty

The ENE Program is analyzing how improving access to modern energy carriers and technologies in developing countries can potentially improve human health and well-being.

Poor woman lesotho

Poor woman lesotho

An end to energy poverty?

ENE research aims to explicitly assess the current energy use patterns of households in regions with the most acute lack of access to modern energy services, such as the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Pacific Asia, where much cooking still takes place on open fires fueled by wood, dung, or other biomass, and many in rural areas are still unconnected to an electricity supply.

Modeling assessment

In 2010 ENE completed a global assessment of the costs of attaining an almost universal access target for household electricity and clean cooking by 2030 and the ensuing health benefits. The assessment was undertaken through a bottom-up, detailed, and highly heterogeneous analysis of household access to energy and its consumption in the three regions mentioned. The MESSAGE-Access model was used to explore different energy scenarios, cost estimates, policy levers, that could be used to accelerate the household energy transition, and also its potential impacts. The results are visualized in the Energy Access interactive tool.


  • Replacing traditional cooking with clean-combusting fuels and stoves would have positive health impacts on women and children, who are the most affected by household air pollution.
  • There would be substantial time savings for women and children, who are the main ones involved in fuel gathering and cooking. This additional time for women and children could also improve livelihood and educational opportunities.
  • Achieving almost universal access to clean cooking by 2030 would cost up to US$17 billion per year. However, it would avert an average of 0.77–1.68 million premature deaths due to air pollution every year to 2030.
  • This would also mean savings of over 20 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) annually .
  • Achieving universal rural electrification by 2030 would cost about US$ 15 billion per year.
  • This would result in better lighting and provide an impetus for greater livelihood and income-enhancing activities.

Policies needed

  • Fuel subsidies on cleaner energy carriers will be needed.
  • Grants or microfinance that could improve households’ access to cheap credit, to cover the capital costs associated with a switch to cleaner fuels, and allow purchase of new end-use equipment, such as stoves.
  • New rural electrification targets and government commitment and clear roadmaps to achieve these targets.

    Research projects

    Energy and Economic Development

    Access to energy and electricity are fundamental to meeting basic human needs, and they also spur growth in income and improvements in wellbeing. IIASA researchers are studying how access to energy supply affects people’s lives and livelihoods, and how to provide energy services equitably. More

    Energy and Infrastructure

    Developing countries’ demand for infrastructure, including roads, electrical grids, and public water systems, is growing rapidly. Building and maintaining that infrastructure requires energy, but how much?  More

    Household Energy Transitions

    Many people rely on traditional and polluting forms of fuel like wood and coal that contribute to health problems and air pollution. How do people make choices about fuel and appliances, and how can policies encourage people to switch to cleaner fuels? More

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Last edited: 09 June 2016


Shonali Pachauri

Research Group Leader

Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 475


Narasimha Rao

Senior Research Scholar

Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 216

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313