Reliable, affordable, modern energy powers sustainable development, helping countries reduce poverty, catalyze economic growth and improve human well-being. As of 2020, however, more than 18 million Ugandans (58% of the total population) continue to live without access to electricity (ESMAP), limiting the country’s potential for economic growth and human development. Providing open access to reliable and up-to-date spatial information on resources, infrastructure and demand for productive use of energy is critical toward bridging the access divide and achieving the SDG goal of universal access by 2030.

WRI developed the Energy Access Explorer (EAE) to target this information gap. The EAE is an online, open-source, interactive platform that uses mapping to visualize the state of energy access in unserved and underserved areas across the globe. It analyzes credible public data to make the connection between the demand and supply of energy. Individuals can also create custom analyses to identify and prioritize areas where energy markets can be expanded. In addition to Uganda, the Energy Access Explorer also offers data and analysis for Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

The EAE platform recently added several critical datasets, including Meta’s Relative Wealth Index (RWI) and High Resolution Population Density data, which are available publicly on the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) through the Data for Good Program at Meta. RWI predicts the relative standard of living for over 100 countries and territories using privacy protecting connectivity data, satellite imagery and other novel data sources.

These datasets join a wealth of existing data on EAE, including information on infrastructure (power plants, electricity grid), resources (e.g. solar and wind energy), demographics (population density) and productive uses of energy (schools and healthcare facilities).

The integration of the Relative Wealth Index offers detailed information on households’ ability to pay for energy services, empowering EAE users to better understand economic conditions when designing projects. This data is often insufficiently captured in census and survey reports, which are infrequent and lack the spatial granularity needed to identify consumers at the village or farm level. In EAE, the Relative Wealth Index contributes to the Energy Access Potential Index, showing areas with the greatest potential for enhancing energy access in the short-term. It also influences the Assistance Need Index, helping to inform donor-driven interventions intended to bridge access divides for the most vulnerable populations.

The example below shows how an off-grid equipment or services provider can generate a high-resolution, multi-criteria analysis with the RWI to identify priority locations for expanding off-grid energy markets. Taking into account Meta’s population density and relative wealth datasets, the platform targets areas with high potential demand. On the supply side, users can apply a filter (>2km) from the distribution network to focus on off-grid areas, while also using global horizontal irradiation (GHI) to show the potential for solar power deployment. Together, these disparate datasets combine to form analytical output tailored to the user’s goal — in this case, identifying new markets for off-grid solar development.

Graphic depicting how supply and demand lead to energy access potential in Uganda
Source: Energy Access Explorer

The deployment of EAE has been possible through collaboration with key stakeholders throughout the energy access ecosystem. This includes governments, international donor organizations, the private sector and data providers like Meta at the national and global level. Together, this collaboration has made powerful tools like EAE accessible to stakeholders across a wide range of organizations and geographies.

“It is amazing to see the possibilities the Energy Access Explorer offers for energy access planning in Uganda…being an open-source, open data tool, it is accessible to virtually anyone that has access to a computer,” said Robbert Hoeboer, member of the energy sector GIS working group and GIS adviser to Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. “Therefore, it can be used by a wide variety of stakeholders and is not limited to high-level decision makers. I see great potential for the use of the EAE for energy access planning in Uganda, especially through its ability to plan at sub-national administrative levels. This allows for decentralized energy access planning at the district level and makes it a powerful instrument for the Parish Development Model (PDM)."

To learn more about the Relative Wealth Index and other datasets on Energy Access Explorer, visit