Power from the socket: What we take for granted in Austria is still unavailable to 1 in 5 people. The United Nations estimates that more than 1.3 billion people must do without electricity worldwide. On the African continent alone, more than 600 million people still live without electricity, with millions more having only intermittent access to power. The consequences of these access gaps are far-reaching, limiting opportunities for quality education and health care. To cook their meals, they fuel the stoves with waste wood and dung, mostly without a chimney or adequate smoke vent, which has serious adverse effects on their health. 3 billion people worldwide lack access to clean, healthy cooking facilities. In the world’s poorest countries, 90 percent of household energy is obtained from wood, coal, livestock dung and farming residue. A reliable and affordable energy supply is key to generating the broad‑based and inclusive economic growth needed to make major inroads into poverty; it can transform the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Access to modern, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy supply is a major key to reducing poverty in developing countries and emerging nations. But it is just these countries that face a latent energy crisis. Supply constraints, volatile prices for most often imported 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 people with handicaps and ethnic or religious minorities. Women and children are also often among those who are adversely affected by lacking energy supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that one third more global energy supply will be needed to meet the growing demand by 2035. As power generation from fossil fuels often causes massive environmental pollution, urgent action is needed. Climate change particularly affects the poorest nations; progress that was already achieved is now in danger to be destroyed.

A separate goal for expanding sustainable energy supply was defined in 2015 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For years now, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has been committed to strengthen better and sustainable energy supply, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Himalaya region as well as the region of the Pacific Community. A sustainable energy policy must promote development while taking criteria such as environment-friendliness and social equity into account in the long run. There is great potential for different sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency in many developing countries, but this potential often goes unused due to technical, financial and institutional obstacles.

The Austrian Development Agency therefore supports institutions and companies in developing countries to grasp the opportunities that renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies bring with them. A primary goal here is to provide access to affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy services. This will be achieved by:

- Supporting the establishment of regional centers for renewable energy and energy efficiency in West, East and Southern Africa, in the Himalayas, the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific region as well as the Global Network for regional Sustainable Energy Centres
- Supporting and cooperating with international organizations committed to sustainable energy, such as SEforALL, UNIDO or the Worldbank
- Solar-thermal demonstration facilities and know-how transfer in Southern Africa
- Supporting companies in investing in sustainable energy projects in developing countries
- Grants and training for institutions in Bhutan to implement energy-efficiency measures in the building sector