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Today, 1.3 billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity.  According to the International Energy Agency, more than four-fifths of these people live in rural areas and more than 95 percent live in sub-Saharan African or developing areas in Asia.

Why does this matter?  Here are five reasons:

Powering Education: Electricity provides heating, cooling, and lighting so students can learn.  Schools can stay open later, providing a space for students to study and teachers to prepare.  According to a recent report from Practical Action, 90 million students in sub-Saharan Africa, 94 million students in South Asia, and 4 million students in Latin America attend school without electricity.

Powering Health Care: Health care workers and facilities need electricity to refrigerate vaccines, sterilize and power equipment, and provide light for emergency procedures that can’t wait until daytime, like when a pregnant woman goes into labor at night.  The World Health Organization recently found that in 11 sub-Saharan African countries reviewed, on average 26% of health care facilities had no electricity, rising to 58% in some countries.

Powering Business: Businesses need electricity to turn on the lights, run machinery, and power communications technologies.  According to ONE, 70% of businesses in sub-Saharan Africa cite the lack of access to reliable power as a major constraint.

Powering Agriculture: Electricity enables farmers to increase productivity by improving the production, processing, and storage of crops.  For example, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, yields from irrigation can be more than double yields from rain-fed agriculture, but many poor farmers must rely on the rain, in part because of lack of access to electricity.

Powering Communities: Electricity helps strengthen communities.  For example, lighting makes communities safer at night, and electricity can pump and filter water, so clean drinking water is available.

To promote social and economic development, we must expand access to energy.  At the same time, we face a climate crisis that if left unchecked could undo many development gains.  Sustainable energy solutions provide an answer to both problems.

As part of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the UN Foundation launched the Energy Access Practitioners Network in 2011 to spur the market toward universal energy access by emphasizing community- and household-level electrification via mini- and micro-grids and remote applications.

Since its inception, the Practitioner Network has grown to around 1,500 members representing some 850 organizations from 191 countries, including small and medium enterprises, equipment manufacturers, distributors, project developers, financial institutions, investors, and others involved or interested in scaling up the delivery of modern energy services. To learn more, visit

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Care about education, maternal health or #jobs? Then you should also care about access to electricity. Here’s why: