Energy Access Targets Working Group

April 20, 2015

With at least a billion people worldwide living without electricity, and many millions more held back by blackouts and high costs, improving energy access is increasingly a top priority for governments, business leaders, and citizens across the developing world. With Power Africa, SE4All, and the inclusion of a universal energy access target in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the international community is responding to these growing demands. It is thus imperative that modern energy targets and indicators are set in a meaningful and practical way.

Final report

Energy access is necessary for improved cooking, heating, lighting, refrigeration, communications, and more that are all directly related to important health, education, and income goals. However, success for any broad goal requires setting the right specific target with which to measure progress. Unlike standardized measures with a 0-1 answer like infant mortality or primary school enrollment, energy access is not as simple as having a power line connected to a household. Modern energy access entails less a physical connection to a grid than the availability of reliable and affordable energy services necessary to sustain a dignified life. Current definitions of access, such as the IEA’s 100kWh/person/year threshold, would only provide enough electricity to power a single 60W lightbulb.  This far understates the amount of electricity and energy services that a growing class of the world’s poor expect and demand.

Any meaningful energy access goals, in the SDGs and elsewhere, must reflect both this latent demand for modern energy and an allowance for future growth to that level. And because the push for energy access involves long-term infrastructure investments, aiming too low has potentially harmful consequences. This working group brings together the latest research and policy expertise to recommend a set of improved targets, indicators, and policies to ensure this moment for universal energy access is not wasted.

The first working group meeting was convened on March 17, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Working Group Members (affiliations listed for identification purposes only)


Mimi Alemayehou, Black Rhino Group
Todd Moss, CGD


Nicolina Angelou, ESMAP, World Bank
Yaw Ansu, Africa Center for Economic Transformation
Morgan Bazilian, World Bank
Yael Borofsky, MIT
Steve Brick, Clean Air Task Force
Jonah Busch, CGD
Afua Djimi, Black Rhino Group
Emily Huie, ONE Campaign
Ben Leo , CGD
Vijay Modi, Columbia University
Scott Morris, CGD
Philippe Niyongabo, African Union
Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute
Queen Nworisara-Quinn, Kupanda Capital
Alex Rugamba, African Development Bank
Kathryn Russell, ONE Campaign
Bill Savedoff, CGD
Kartikeya Singh, Fletcher School, Tufts University
Peter Teague, Breakthrough Institute
Johannes Urpelainen, Columbia University
Catherine Wolfram, Energy Institute at Haas, UC Berkeley
Davida Wood, World Resources Institute

Research support:

Priscilla Atansah, CGD
Madeleine Gleave, CGD