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A woman working by solar-powered lamplight in the village of Ambakivao, Madagascar. Photo: Laure Fillon/AFP/Getty Images

Electrification initiative Power Africa has been faulted in a USAID Inspector General report for overstating the impact of its development efforts by counting the delivery of solar lanterns as new electricity connections.

Why it matters: Accurate measures of progress are essential for reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7: to ensure reliable and affordable energy worldwide by 2030. Although global energy access has expanded, strengthening the measures used to track it could help make a more meaningful impact.

By the numbers: Roughly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity at home, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates.

  • Power Africa aims to support newly installed generation of 30 gigawatts (GW) and to establish 60 million new connections by 2030. It recently reached 10 GW across 120 projects and has helped to mobilize more than $18 billion in new investment.
  • But, but, but: The U.S. government initiative included 8.3 million solar lanterns, which can power hardly more than a single light bulb, among the total 10.6 million connections achieved by the end of 2017.

Between the lines: Small systems like solar lanterns are emblematic of the low bar international organizations have set for solving global energy poverty. Even as the household measures they use are low, they do not remotely reflect the energy needed to drive jobs and income growth in the wider economy.

  • The IEA considers energy access to be 50 kWh annually per person in rural areas and 100 kWh in cities. By comparison, the U.S. per person annual average is about 13,000 kWh.
  • The UN has adopted this standard as well, but at best, 50 kWh for a whole year will power a few lights and maybe a low-watt appliance, such as a small fan.

Where it stands: Power Africa has stopped counting lanterns as connections, but the international development community as a whole will have to overhaul the framing of its goals to achieve its ambitions.

  • The World Bank has developed a useful multi-tier framework that captures quality and reliability of power, but this hasn’t yet been rolled out very widely, and doing so regularly in every country might be impractical.

The bottom line: Ending energy poverty requires more than a lightbulb. Energy metrics should reflect this reality too.

Todd Moss is executive director of the Energy for Growth Hub and a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🏄‍♀️: American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

🎾: Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

✊🏿: Costa Rican gymnast pays tribute to Black Lives Matter in Olympic routine

🤖: The robot Olympics

🌡: Heat wave brings scorching temperatures to Tokyo Olympics

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker

American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Carissa Moore of Team USA surfs during the women's Quarter Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan, on Tuesday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: The four-time world champion surfer from Hawaii was touted as a gold-medal favorite ahead of the finals, which were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak. Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 29 mins ago - World

Hong Kong judges return guilty verdict in first security law trial

Activist Tong Ying-kit arrives at the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong in 2020. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg. The 24-year-old had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Why it matters: The law passed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party last year carries the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In a departure from the Asian financial hub's common law traditions, Tong was denied a jury trial.

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