There is currently very little analysis of the effect of electrification on household consumption patterns and on energy demand growth in developing countries. Raising electrification rates would benefit poor people in developing countries by improving their access to lighting, education, health and telecommunications. But as low income communities tend to restrict their electricity consumption to these basics, and spend more on, say, heating and cooking, new electrification is unlikely to significantly reduce the demand for fuelwood over the next 30 years. In any case, unless new policies are introduced over that period, a vast number of people will still lack access to electricity. hat means vast populations not just remaining in poverty, but continuing to consume traditional energy sources in an inefficient way. This biomass use will remain significantly high in many countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Central America.
This raises important challenges that international policymaking, on forestry and biodiversity, for instance, must take into account. The message is simple: improved access and more affordable energy are preconditions to alleviating the incidence of poverty, itself a precondition of sustainable development.
©OECD Observer No 231/232, May 2002