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The Understand Energy Learning Hub is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Global Energy Access

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Fast Facts About
Global Energy Access

Access to modern energy services is fundamental for economic growth and human development. It is one of the Sustainable Development Goals laid out in 2015 by the United Nations (SDG 7). Access considers two dimensions:

  1. Electricity: Access advances education, health, productivity, security, comfort, and entertainment. It also facilitates higher-value economic opportunities.
  2. Clean cooking fuels: Access improves the lives of women and children by dramatically reducing health impacts related to indoor air pollution, decreasing the exposure to risks associated with collecting traditional biomass, and increasing available time that can be devoted to other economic activities.


Share of Global Population
Without Access

10% (754.5 million people)
lack access to electricity

Change in Global Access

⬆ 11% increase in people with access to electricity
(727 million additional people)

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Clean Cooking Fuels

Share of Global Population
Without Access

30% (2.4 billion people)
lack access to clean cooking fuels

Change in Global Access

⬆ 18% increase in people with access to clean cooking fuels
(825 million additional people)

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  • Important for modern quality of life, reduced indoor air pollution, and human health
  • Economic growth, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas
  • Improved education and economic activity that results from increased electricity access
  • Distributed electricity solutions facilitate access in more remote areas
  • Decreases exposure to physical risks for women associated with the collection of fuelwood


  • Poverty and high vulnerability to income shocks


  • Development and expansion of electrical grid infrastructure is capital intensive and expensive
  • Lack of stable demand and consumer base

Clean cooking fuels:

  • New clean fuel systems can change food taste and preparation methods
  • Traditional stoves have other benefits such as heating, protection from insects, and fuel flexibility
  • Solutions not always designed with community input and aligned with cultural traditions
  • Difficulties with adoption of and adherence to new cooking systems

Climate Impact:

Low gradient
  • 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to lack of access to electricity and clean cooking fuels, as households burn solid fuel (biomass + coal) for cooking, heating, and lighting

Environmental Impact:
Low to Medium

Gradient from green to yellow to orange to red, with rectangle around the green and yellow portion.
  • Unsustainable harvesting of fuelwood contributes to deforestation
  • Household air pollution from burning solid fuels was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2020, including over 237,000 deaths of children under the age of 5

Updated June 2023

Before You Watch Our Lecture on
Energy Access and Energy Use in Development

We assign videos and readings to our Stanford students as pre-work for each lecture to help contextualize the lecture content. We strongly encourage you to review the videos and readings below before watching our lecture on Energy Access and Energy Use in Develpment.

  • Energy for Human Development (Executive Summary). The Breakthrough Institute. November 16, 2016. (5 pages)
    Considers the relationships between energy systems, economic growth, human development, environmental protection, and climate change.
  • More Than a Light Bulb. Center for Global Development. April 12, 2016. (1 min)
    Provides a brief and compelling argument for a new standard of energy access that would signify meaningful transformation in households and national economies.
  • Climate Change Has Worsened Global Economic Inequality. Stanford Earth Matters. April 22, 2019. (4 pages)
    A new Stanford University study shows global warming has increased economic inequality since the 1960s.

Our Lecture on
Global Energy Access

This is our Stanford University Understand Energy course lecture on universal energy access. We strongly encourage you to watch the full lecture to understand the significant roles that energy access and energy use play in human and economic development and to be able to put this complex topic into context. For a complete learning experience, we also encourage you to watch / read the videos and readings we assign to our students before watching the lecture.

Presented by: Sally Benson, PhD; Professor of Energy Science and Engineering, Stanford University; Senior Fellow at The Precourt Institute for Energy and at The Woods Institute for the Environment
Recorded on: December 12, 2023   Duration: 65 minutes

Table of Contents

(Clicking on a timestamp will take you to YouTube.)
00:00 Introduction 
04:45 What is Meant by Sustainable Energy for All? 
19:07 Sustainable Development Goals 
29:37 Countries with Pervasive Energy Poverty 
34:47 Energy Access 
52:21 Access to Clean Cooking Fuels 
59:10 Energy Access for Productive Uses 
1:02:22 Global Population Growth

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Additional Resources About
Global Energy Access

Stanford University

Fast Facts Sources
Share of Global Population Without Access to Electricity: 2020 (SDG7Database, IEA, March 30, 2022)
Change in Global Access to Electricity: 2015-2020 (SDG7 Database, IEA, March 30, 2022)
Access to Electricity by Region: 2020 (World Development Indicators, World Bank, 2023)
Share of Global Population Without Access to Clean Cooking Fuels: 2020 (SDG7 Database, IEA, March 30, 2022)
Change in Global Access to Clean Cooking Fuels: 2015-2020 (SDG7 Database, IEA, March 30, 2022)
Access to Clean Cooking Fuels by Region: 2020 (World Development Indicators, World Bank, 2023)
Impacts on Health of Indoor Air Pollution: 2020 (Household Air Pollution, WHO, November 28, 2022)
More details available on request.
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