Sep 27, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pandemic stalls progress on power expansion

Global population without electricity access
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Here's another of the many sad spillovers from COVID-19: the pandemic appears to have interrupted years of progress in expanding access to electricity.

Driving the news: "Because the pandemic has slowed the rate of both new grid and off-grid connections, the number of people without access has increased by 2%  in 2021," the International Energy Agency said in a new estimate.

  • Nearly all the increase occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, IEA said in tallying the second consecutive year of increases there.

The big picture: Globally, the number of people without power access has long been on an overall downward slope, from roughly 1.66 billion at the turn of the century to an estimated 768 million this year, per IEA.

  • However, "due to the pandemic, 15 million sub-Saharan Africans who recently gained basic electricity access lost the ability to pay for it," they find.
  • "An additional 10 million customers who had gradually upgraded and expanded their energy supply can no longer afford this level of consumption."

What's next: IEA's commentary calls for increased international support for investment and improved project financing structures, as well as improved national-level planning.

Go deeper: UN warns of "catastrophic" climate change failure without more emissions cuts

Go deeper