There is a growing consensus among policy‐makers1 that energy access is central to reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, increasing literacy and education, and reducing gender disparity. Improved access to modern energy services promotes all aspects of development – it creates healthier cooking environments, extends work and study hours by providing lighting, provides power to drive cellular communication equipment in remote regions, to run small‐ and medium‐scale rural industries (SMEs) and to pump water for drinking and irrigation. It increases labour productivity and agricultural output by making mechanisation possible. In short, improved access to reliable and continuous energy services in rural areas is indispensable for sustainable rural development and basic living standards via improved productive use and agricultural development, and the provision of essential social services.
Despite the obvious development benefits of energy access, rural energy poverty remains widespread in the developing world, with 1.6 billion people worldwide lacking access to electricity. However, large differences exist between countries, and Africa is especially disadvantaged. Rural electricity access in developing countries ranges from around 2% in Tanzania to 80‐90% in Thailand and Vietnam.