LONDON - The proportion of the world's population with access to electricity will rise over the next 20 years but more than a billion people will still be without power in 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.
The IEA, which advises 28 industrialized countries on energy policy, said most of the people still living without power in 2030 would be in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with four out of five of these people in rural areas.
The agency's annual World Energy Outlook said that if governments made no change to existing policies, 1.3 billion people, or 16 percent of the world's population, would still lack access to electricity in 2030, despite widespread prosperity and more advanced technology.
Around 85 percent of the people now without access to electricity live in rural areas, where lack of heating fuel, mechanical power and reliable lighting can increase crime, health risks and poverty.
Increasing access to electricity is absolutely fundamental part of addressing poverty and achieving development, particularly in marginal ruralized areas where energy poverty is most extreme, said Robert Bailey, head of climate change at Oxfam.
UN-Energy, an energy-focused department within the United Nations, has said lack of modern fuel and electricity in most developing countries entrenches poverty, constrains the delivery of social services, limits opportunities for women, and erodes environmental sustainability.
Since the IEA began analyzing energy poverty in 2002, the number of people without electricity has fallen by an estimated 188 million, despite a massive growth in world population.
This decrease was driven by greater urbanization and government programs aimed at improving access to electricity.
The biggest energy poverty reduction was in China and East Asia, where booming economies saw the number of people without electricity access fall to 195 million in 2008, from 241 million in 2001.
China has improved power access, providing electricity to 99 percent of its population or 1.3 billion people. Around 8 million people are still without power in China, the IEA says, but it expects access to be at 100 percent in 2030.
However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the total number of people without electricity has grown by 78 million since 2001 and the IEA projects this to rise by a further 18 percent, to a total of nearly 700 million people by 2030.
Due to rising population in Sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of people without electricity was expected to fall to 53 percent by 2030, from 71 percent in 2008, the IEA said.
In 2008, 22 percent of the global population were without electricity, this was expected to fall to 20 percent in 2005 and to 16 percent by 2030, according to the IEA's projections.
(Editing by Christopher Johnson)