Energy is a basic for human development. Little wonder Goal 7 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) targets the provision of reliable, affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. The targets within this goal are massive considering that billions of people worldwide living without access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services.
According to the 2013 World Energy Outlook report, it was estimated that 1.2 billion people – 17% of the global population – did not have access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion people – 38% of the world’s population – relied on the traditional use of fuelwood for cooking, mostly using inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated spaces.
In scaling household energy poverty in Nigeria, it is important to mention the 2012 energy development index (EDI) report that ranked Nigeria 66th of the 80 countries evaluated with an EDI of 0.11. This was lower than other African countries like Egypt 0.68 (ranked 10th) and Ghana 0.22 (ranked 50th) but higher than Burkina Faso 0.07 (ranked 75th) and Liberia 0.05 (ranked 79th). More worrying is a 2014 report by Augusto & Co which adjudged Nigeria as having the lowest per capita electricity consumption in Africa.
Nigeria’s current energy profile does not represent a country that is pushing for economic diversification; considering that most economic and household activities are less profitable and/or impeded without adequate, reliable and competitively priced modern electricity. All in the 21st century when many societies take modern energy services for granted.
In the words of Mary Robinson, of the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice, ‘this lack of access to energy is an intolerable failure of human solidarity.’
People who lack access to affordable and modern energy services are more often than trapped in the vicious cycle of deprivation, lower income and limited access to improving their living conditions; giving rise to the concept of energy poverty which is a source and consequence of poverty.
But beyond limiting income generation and enshrining poverty, lack of access to clean energy for cooking disproportionately affects the health of women and girls who are primary household energy manager and contributes to global deforestation and climate change.
As an existential and globally accepted concept, Energy Poverty is commonly defined as the lack of access to modern energy services include electricity and clean cooking facilities. It refers to the situation where the wellbeing of a significant portion of the population is negatively affected by low consumption of energy as a result of low purchasing power, use of dirty or polluting fuel and/or excessive amount of time spent on collecting the fuel to meet needs.
Thus energy poverty is used to express the lack of access to modern energy facilities on the one hand and portion of household income spent on providing modern energy services on the other.
In developed nations, households that spend more than 10% of total household income are classified as energy poor. The argument is that when energy bills exceed 10% of income, it begins to impact on the general welfare of the household. Consequently, households intentionally deprive themselves of other basic goods and services for energy supply.
In contrast, such a measurement for energy poverty may not fully define the scale of energy poverty in Nigeria as with many other developing countries.
Energy poverty in Nigeria is better scaled in terms of lack of access to modern energy services than the inability of households to spend less than 10% of household income for adequate supply of modern energy services.
Scaling energy poverty in Nigeria comes in the form of erratic power supply; total darkness for 45% of the people; use of kerosene lantern for lighting; cooking with inefficient wood stoves; traveling miles on foot to fetch fuelwood; low electricity consumption per capita and in the powering of homes with noisy, air polluting generator majority of the time.
Such poor energy access has direct and damning consequences on Nigeria’s achievement of the targets set in SDG 1 ‘no poverty’; SDG 3 ‘good health and wellbeing’; SDG 7 ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy’; SDG 9 ‘industry, innovation and infrastructure'; SDG 12 ‘sustainable consumption and production’ and SDG 13 ‘climate action.’ In fact, there is an energy cost to meeting all 17 SDGs target.
With Nigeria being a signatory to the global goals for sustainable development (which aims to foster PROPERSITY for all PEOPLE in a safe PLANET), ending energy poverty is not only necessary but mandatory. With success depending on our ability to optimise local capacities, harness indigenous resources, and deploying the best available technologies from around the world.
This article was first published on Nigeria Businessday Newspaper of 10th April, 2017