Smoke kills

Click to go to the 2010 World Energy Outlook

Cooking will soon kill more people in developing countries than malaria, tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. That’s the shocking message from a chapter on energy poverty in the 2010 World Energy Outlook, released today.

Our colleagues at the International Energy Agency combined their projections of traditional biomass use with WHO figures on mortality. They estimate that if nothing is done, household air pollution from the use of biomass in inefficient stoves would lead to over 1.5 million premature deaths per year, over 4000 a day. Many of them are young children who are at home all day, breathing in the pollution from the stove.

Access to modern energy services, and better stoves, would change this. The IEA point out that 1.4 billion people in the world today don’t have access to electricity (other than costly batteries). That number will drop by 2030 thanks to general economic expansion, but only to 1.2 billion.

The Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015 is unlikely to be met unless an additional 395 million people are provided with electricity, and a further 1 billion with clean cooking facilities. That would require an annual investment of $41 billion a year over 2010-2015, or 0.06% of global GDP. To achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030 would cost $36 billion a year.

Another way of looking at it is that adding under 2% to electricity tariffs in OECD member countries would raise enough money to bring electricity to the entire global population within 20 years, while in the past year, the prospective cost of the additional global energy investment to 2035 to curb greenhouse-gas emissions has risen by $1 trillion because of the caution of the commitments made at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference.

More generally, the world energy outlook to 2035 hinges critically on government policy action, and how that action affects technology, the price of energy services and consumer behaviour. For instance, consumption subsidies to fossil fuels in 2009 cost $312 billion, compared with  $57 billion in support given to renewable energy.

Removing fossil-fuel consumption subsidies could make a big contribution to meeting energy-security and environmental goals, including mitigating carbon-dioxide and other emissions. However, as  Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA said this morning at the launch of the Outlook,  “The Copenhagen Accord and the agreement among G20 countries to phase out subsidies are important steps forward. But, these moves still fall a very long way short of what is required to set us on the path to a truly sustainable energy system”.

Useful links

International Energy Agency

OECD work on green growth

OECD work on development

Patrick Love

2 comments to “Smoke kills”

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  1. Yvonne - 15/11/2010 Reply

    The lack of electrical fuel is a problem. The so called Third World needs it badly and pehaps we should help organize a sustainable power system for some of these countries. We are too scared of providing Nuclear Power though, as as we are uneasy about their efficiency in producing, maintenace and disposal of waste products. Let alone the security of the sites.

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