New paper published on: Measuring “Reasonably Reliable” access to electricity services


860 million is the official number of inhabitants of the Earth who have no access to electricity yet. This is an estimate for 2019, and the present figure is below 800 million: a comforting downtrend.

We know, however, that the access measure indicates existence of a connection to an electricity grid and not availability of an adequate service: the difference may be substantial.

Various estimates have been put forward along the years, to provide a good indicator of a real electric service. Now a new study “Measuring Reasonably Reliable access to electricity services” (see our Publications section) provides a much higher number: those who do not benefit from a reasonably reliable electricity supply are 3.5 billion, i.e. one half of world population and four times the access estimate.

The most interesting aspect of this study is construction of an indicator encompassing the traditional datum on access plus a measure of frequency and duration of interruptions, which should not exceed given thresholds. A “reasonably reliable” supply is defined as not imposing the average customer more than 12 outages per year and a duration of total outages exceeding 12 hours per year (in industrialised countries, the order of magnitude is one outage and one hour per year).

By choosing stricter or looser requirements, higher or lower values of the exclusion indicator will be obtained, and discussion is open. In any case, this composite indicator will provide a better measure of the improvement under way and of its speed, assuming that it is possible to calculate it often enough.

The main discrepancy between the access and the composite indicator is found in countries ravaged by war of guerrilla: here an acceptable service is not even provided to most connected customers, as we can expect.

The new indicator will be useful in analysing individual regions and countries. Such progress in measurement is fundamental for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals.

The authors warn that the composite indicator is likely bias towards optimism, since utilities often underreport outages due to lack of technology or because they have an incentive to do so.

An opposite bias, in the direction of pessimism, is however possible if data collection does not fully cover the increasing share of independent generation of electricity for self-consumption of consumers having no connection to the grid. Just to make an example, Bangladesh is reported having installed 4 million Solar Home Systems covering 12 per cent of total population.

To download the paper please ckilk HERE