Despite global progress, more than 750 million people worldwide still lack access to electricity. Without reliable power, refrigerators can’t safely store food or vaccines, hospitals can’t power medical devices and schools can’t keep the lights on so children can learn.

The relationship between development and energy access is a two-way street: electrification can accelerate growth, but development must also generate a strong, continued demand for energy. Countries need a paradigm shift to develop their energy systems. Without such a shift, modern and inexpensive electricity services will remain out of reach for the rural poor, and millions more will continue to grapple with unreliable power, insufficient supply and frequent outages.

WRI is helping change this supply-side energy access model by championing an inclusive, demand-driven approach. We work with local governments, technical experts, national policymakers and service delivery organizations to address this energy-development nexus. We also work with service delivery organizations, development institutions, businesses, funders and governments to extend affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity needed to power development across unserved and underserved areas.

With our flagship tool Energy Access Explorer, we leverage the power of satellite imagery alongside local data sets to visualize energy supply and demand, equipping electricity planners, investors, development practitioners and clean energy entrepreneurs with the information they need to close the electricity access gap. Off-grid developers, for example, can see where customers live and where demand for electricity may be high, while development finance institutions can pinpoint regions where electrification funding would achieve the highest impact.

Partnering with public and private sector leaders around the world, WRI advances inclusive, bottom-up solutions that link electrification to sustainable development priorities. Our Energy for Development Initiative helps organizations delivering health, education and agricultural services articulate their power needs, utilize clean energy technologies to advance their work and attract investment in renewables. We also support clean energy entrepreneurs in East Africa by identifying the barriers they face in accessing capital, connecting them with global impact investors and highlighting the positive impacts they are making within their communities, from increasing incomes to improving quality of life.

Photo Credit: UK Department for International Development/Flickr