Electricity Access from Space
Published on 05 December 2022
Using UNDP’s technical knowledge, together with the expertise of academia and the technological advancements from the private sector, it's possible to create reliable and up to date statistics for the effective design and roll-out of electrification strategies.
Identifying electricity access gaps at a hyperlocal level
UNDP, in partnership with University of Michigan, has used high-resolution satellite imagery to complement household derived information on electricity access at subnational level for more than 100 countries. By monitoring and comparing how strong the night-time light of a specific settlement is in relation to other areas around the globe, the approach uses a statistical model to calculate the likelihood of a human settlement to be electrified. Unlike household surveys, satellite data allows to rapidly capture the evolution, quality and frequency of electrification. Based on this approach, the number of people that lacks access to reliable electricity services overpasses 1 billion – a much larger figure than the official count of 675 million lacking electricity access. This suggests that not all those classified as having access actually benefit from electricity.
The lack of electricity access observed by satellites corroborates trends and evidence from across the energy sector: most of the world’s poor live in areas that are more remote, less densely populated, and more rugged than well-electrified areas – such as Sub-Saharan Africa. This region hosts about 572 million people living without reliable access to electricity — nearly 57% of the global population living in the dark. Progress must be significantly accelerated and better targeted to meet the electricity demands of the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
Future Electricity Scenario
Currently, an estimated 1 billion people – approximately 12% of the world’s population – live without reliable access to electricity. Situation is even more dramatic in rural areas, given that 78% of this contingent are located in areas with no reliable energy services. If no action is taken, the access will not keep up with the population growth and will reach 89% by 2030, leaving the rural and poorest areas still with a large part of its population unserved.
To target those furthest left behind, UNDP has partnered with IBM to improve its electricity access forecasts. Using UNDP’s technical knowledge and IBM’s artificial intelligence and geospatial analytics, the forecasts can provide a solid baseline dataset for evaluating the progress of electrification and enabling comparative analysis at various spatial scales to better guide policy and investment decisions.