Energy Poverty



Some 1.2 billion have no access to power. Photo c/o


Imagine young children in far flung areas walking several miles to get to school, studies at night using kerosene lamps and spend their free time from school fetching water from the nearest source. Think of tired workers, particularly our farmers who cannot extend their productive hours due to lack of electricity in their areas.

Sadly, many of our fellowmen and others from other countries suffer the above scenarios given the prevalence of energy poverty. Some 1.2 billion people in this world are without access to electricity.[1]

In the Philippines, energy poverty remains a problem. In fact, we have one of the lowest national electrification rates in the region as of 2013 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) at 79%. Our neighbors such as Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei are at 100% while Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia are at 99%, 97%, 87%, and 81%, respectively. We are at the bottom of the list, just higher than Cambodia at 37% and Myanmar at 32%.[2] We may have one of the highest economic growth in the region in recent years, but we still have a long way to go in providing electricity to all.

It is widely known that electricity is necessary for any economic growth and will improve the lives of the 21 million Filipinos who live in the dark.[3] A study published by Philippine Institute of Development Study showed that rural households and rural-based economic agents directly benefit from having electricity given that they can expand their productivity and economic ventures at home. [4]Access to electricity allows families to operate their livestock and poultry farms, efficiently store their produce and food for their family’s consumption, and venture into micro-small enterprises like food processing. Such activities provide food and additional income for the household. After all, electricity is a significant determinant of agricultural productivity.

The absence of electricity, too, poses a health risk since those without power are forced to rely on solid fuel for cooking like charcoal and fuel wood. Unfortunately, using solid fuel is a health hazard and IEA estimates that roughly 4.3 million premature deaths are due to household air pollution from the use of solid fuels for cooking.[5] In fact, cook stove smoke is the single largest environmental threat according to research.[6] The Global Burden of Disease study showed that some 3.5 million die annually from respiratory diseases caused by burning of dung, brush, and wood for fuel use. The research also noted that deaths from the emission of the material above are more than twice than the recorded deaths from AIDS or Malaria.

It is then essential to provide clean and sustainable power if we want to help our needy countrymen especially since the poorest of this nation are from the agricultural sector and more than half of our population do not have access to clean cooking facilities.[7] World Bank Vice-President Rachel Kyte sums it best “Access to energy is absolutely fundamental in the struggle against poverty….It is energy that lights the lamp that lets you do your homework, that keeps the heat on in a hospital, that lights the small businesses where most people work. Without energy, there is no economic growth, there is no dynamism, and there is no opportunity.”[8] Indeed, we need to move fast to address energy poverty.



[1] World Economic Outlook 2015 data base

[2] World Economic Outlook 2015 data base. International Energy Agency


[3] World Economic Outlook 2015 data base. International Energy Agency

[4] The Impact of Infrastructure on Agricultural Productivity by Gilberto M. Llanto (2012)

National Geographic



[6] National Geographic Blog

[7] World Economic Outlook Database; Traditional use of biomass for cooking

[8] Quoted in National Geographic “Five myths about Energy Poverty”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s