Energy is fundamental to modern living and the driver of competitive and prosperous economies.


No country in human history has reached high-income status without significant energy consumption. Modern energy is a necessary input to economic activity everywhere, while its absence is a binding constraint on income and development. Global efforts to fight energy poverty need to raise their ambitions and provide energy that can drive economic development and lift people out of poverty.


Metrics and goals drive policymaking at every level of government. Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) calls for modern energy for all, but the primary metric it uses is the household electricity access rate. The threshold for “access” is just 50-100kWh per person per year. This level of consumption is enough to power a few lightbulbs for a few hours a day, to charge a mobile phone, and to occasionally run a small fan– not nearly sufficient to drive economic activity or increase incomes. Basic energy access is an important first step, but ultimately it sets the bar far too low for modern energy.

Our Approach

We propose a new threshold, the Modern Energy Minimum, to complement the current access indicator for tracking SDG7 progress. The new minimum raises the bar to 1,000 kWh per person per year, with at least 300 kWh at home and 700 kWh consumed in the wider economy. This better captures energy consumption that will drive economic growth. Adopting the Modern Energy Minimum as an additional energy poverty indicator will raise global ambitions and ensure that international efforts to end energy poverty ultimately result in meaningful development outcomes.

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