Power from the socket: What we take for granted in Austria is still unavailable to one in 5 people. The United Nations estimates that more than 1.3 billion people must do without electricity worldwide. On the African continent alone, 500 million people live without electricity. To cook their meals, they fuel the stoves with wastewood and dung, mostly without a chimney or adequate smoke vent, which has serious adverse effects on their health. Three billion people worldwide lack access to clean, healthy cooking facilities. In the world’s poorest countries, 90 per cent of household energy is obtained from wood, coal, livestock dung and farming residue.
Access to modern, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy supply is a major key to reducing poverty in developing countries and emerging nations. It is just these countries that face a latent energy crisis, however. Supply constraints, volatile prices for fossil fuels, mismanagement, obsolescent technologies and a lack of planning capacities pose major challenges. These energy crises have a particularly severe impact on rural regions and disadvantaged sections of the population, such as women, children and minorities.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that a third more global energy supply will be needed to meet demand from progressive development by 2035. As power generation from fossil fuels often causes massive environmental pollution, urgent action is needed. Climate change affects the poorest nations in particular, because it can destroy the progress already made.
A separate goal for expanding sustainable energy supply was defined in 2015 under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For years now, the Austrian Development Agency has been committed to better and sustainable energy supply, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Bhutan and Central America: A far-sighted energy policy must promote development while taking such criteria into account as environment-friendliness and social equity. There is great potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency in many developing countries, but this often lies idle due to technical, financial and institutional obstacles.
The Austrian Development Agency therefore helps institutions and companies in developing countries to grasp the opportunities afforded by renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies. A prime aim is to provide access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy services:
- Supporting the establishment of regional centres for renewable energy and energy efficiency in West, East and Southern Africa, in the Himalayas and in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific
- Solar-thermal demonstration facilities and know-how transfer in Southern Africa
- Supporting Austrian companies in investment projects in renewable energy in developing countries
- Grants and training for institutions in Bhutan to implement energy-efficiency measures in the building sector