Paving the Road for Energy for All

Photo source:


The majority of the world’s poor live in Asia and the Pacific region, with over 700 million people having no access to electricity and 1.9 billion still burning primitive fuels for heating and cooking. This widespread energy poverty challenges the gains Asia has made in terms of economic growth – although Asian economies have grown strongly over the past few decades, it is clear that this growth has not been felt by all, especially the rural poor.

To address this widespread energy poverty will take action from all stakeholders – governments, civil society and especially the private sector, which has begun to see the potential market in the huge number of poor households who will pay for access to clean, reliable modern energy. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and its partner multilaterals working in the region, seek to support these diverse efforts to fight energy poverty.

ADB has made it a policy priority to maximize access to energy for all, especially the rural poor who are not served by national energy infrastructure. To this end, ADB launched “Energy for All” to increase ADB’s capacity to support projects that provide energy access and increase ADB’s investment. Energy for All has seen solid results, with ADB investing US$1 billion in access to energy projects in 2011.   Part of this investment are three multi-tranche loans that were approved for India and Pakistan totaling to around US$640 million to provide modern energy access to 6.2 million households.  

But even this level of investment cannot match the estimated need for US $48 billion yearly for the next several decades to create access for all. ADB has recognized that the scale of Asia’s energy poverty is so vast that it will take a concerted effort among partners to identify the best energy access models, replicate them and scale them up to achieve widespread levels of energy access across the region. The ADB-led Energy for All Partnership was created to support the best models for access, and aims to bring access to modern energy to 100 million people by 2015.

ADB is also the lead organization in Asia and the Pacific region for the United Nation’s “Sustainable Energy for All” campaign which blends clean energy targets with a primary goal of universal energy access by 2030.

Ending energy poverty in our region will require partnerships, support for business models, and priority to energy access in national policies. ADB has supported and will continue to support these actions to make access for all a reality.

Andres Kawagi Fernan is a Communications Assistant with the Energy for All Partnership Team at the Asian Development Bank.