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Report: Millions Worldwide Still Without Electricity

FILE: Thelelwa Simelane looks on as her daughter eats by candle light in Klipspruit, Soweto, South Africa, May 18, 2023. Power wires connect her house to the grid, but the source, state-owned utility Eskom, is highly unreliable with frequent outages.

GENEVA - A full 675 million people worldwide still lack access to electricity, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report published Tuesday by several international organizations.

The world has seen "a recent slowdown in the global pace of electrification," World Bank vice president for infrastructure Guangzhe Chen said in a joint statement on the report's release.

While the number of people living without electricity has been cut in half in the past decade, from 1.1 billion in 2010, 675 million people were still doing without in 2021, the report said.

Around 80 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the electricity access deficit has remained basically unchanged since 2010.

The report, from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, cautioned that the world remained off track to ensure clean and affordable energy access for all by 2030.

That mark was set as one of the so-called "Sustainable Development Goals" agreed to by all U.N. countries in 2015.

The electrification report highlighted progress elsewhere, though, in particular the increased rate of using renewables in the power sector, but warned this progress was "insufficient" to reach the U.N.-set targets.

"While the clean energy transition is moving faster than many think, there is still a great deal of work needed to deliver sustainable, secure and affordable access to modern energy services for the billions of people who live without it," Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in the statement.

Citing IRENA data, the report also cautioned that public financial flows supporting clean energy in poorer countries had been decreasing even before the COVID pandemic hit.

It also found that the current mounting debt levels and rising energy prices were worsening the outlook for meeting the target of ensuring universal access to clean cooking methods and electricity within the next seven years.

That would be bad news for global health.

According to the WHO, 3.2 million people die each year from illness caused by the use of polluting fuels and technologies.

"We must protect the next generation by acting now," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.

"Clean cooking technologies in homes and reliable electricity in health-care facilities can play a crucial role in protecting the health of our most vulnerable populations."

Current projections show that without scaling up efforts further, the world is on track to see 1.9 billion people still living without access to clean cooking methods and 660 million without electricity access in 2030.