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Demand-Side Subsidies in Off -Grid Solar: A Tool for Achieving Universal Energy Access and Sustainable Markets

 

Access to energy has increased significantly over the past decade, though the energy access gap remains significant.

In 2010, 1.2 billion people lacked access to modern electricity globally, and since then, countries
have invested heavily in infrastructure to electrify vast populations. In 2016, 193 countries
adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which SDG 7 promises universal access
to clean and modern energy. The number of people without electricity dropped to 789 million people
globally in 2018. Despite the progress, this electrification gap is significant, and leaders must come
together to accelerate access in pursuit of SDG 7, especially in the hardest-to-reach areas and for the
most vulnerable populations.

Hundreds of millions remain unelectrified in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region represents the largest
access gap, with 548 million unelectrified people as of 2018. Sub-Saharan Africa is also home to 20
countries with the lowest energy access rates. Some countries have massive energy access deficits
to overcome, with 218 million people remaining without access in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, and Ethiopia alone.

Off-grid solar (OGS) has emerged as a viable way to provide clean and modern access to energy.
Since 2010, innovations in technology and business models, coupled with significant private and public
investments, have improved electricity access for 420 million users. Of these, at least 231 million users
have access to Tier 1 energy access and above based on the Multi-Tier Framework for Measuring
Energy Access (MTF). Tier 1 access is the universally accepted minimum level of electrification needed
for energy access under SDG. With this level of access households increase productivity, with up
to 22 percent of households generating additional income using OGS products in a business and 44
percent of households working longer hours. The sector now supports an estimated 110,000 full-time
equivalent jobs in East, West, and Central Africa. OGS also provides other socioeconomic benefits,
with 84 percent of households noting that children study longer, while 90 percent of households feel
healthier and safer by replacing kerosene with OGS products.

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