'15M Pinoys have no access to electricity'

By Ted P. Torres, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 20 2011 07:20 AM | Updated as of Oct 20 2011 07:02 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Over 15 million Filipinos still have no access to electricity, joining roughly 170 million more in the East Asia-Pacific region, according to a recent study by the World Bank and the Australian Agency for International Development.

The same report said the Philippines is also one of the Asian countries still relying heavily on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and wood for lighting needs in the rural areas.

The Philippines, along with Cambodia, Indonesia and the Pacific Island nations, continue to have large numbers of household without access to electricity and, more worrisome, have not had high rates of increase in access in the last decade, the report added.

On the other hand, China, Thailand and Vietnam are close to attaining universal electricity access with more than 95 percent of their households having access to electricity.

Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia and the Philippines are classified as having medium access to electricity.

In terms of the national grid, the report explained that these countries are “maintaining momentum of programs, and jumpstarting programs that have stagnated,” the joint report said.

In terms of off-grid or independent access to power sources, the same four countries are reportedly “solidifying existing efforts and making necessary reforms to serve communities and households in remote areas.”

The off-grid areas are ideal for renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, tidal and hydro.

“In East Asia Pacific, people at the bottom billion still face energy poverty and lack access to modern energy solutions,” said John Roome, the World Bank’s director for sustainable development for the East Asia Pacific region.

“With every second household in the region still depending on solid fuels for cooking, the indoor air pollution is a major health risk factor and women and children are especially vulnerable,” he added.

The report said over one billion people in the region still rely on the unsafe, uneconomical and unhealthy solid fuels for cooking.

It further stated that indoor air pollution is a major health risk factor related to over 650,000 premature deaths in East Asia Pacific every year, directly related to solid fuels for cooking.

“Women and children are especially vulnerable to this exposure which, in the case of particulate matter in indoor smoke, can reach up to 20 times the safety levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),” it added.

The World Bank urged the governments in the region to work simultaneously to: achieve universal electricity access by accelerating both grid and off-grid programs; reducing costs through appropriate policies and technical innovations; improving reliability, and providing timely service to all households; and, increase access to clean cooking fuels (natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and biogas) and advanced cooking stoves, particularly in poor rural areas.

The combined investments required for “universal access” to electricity, modern cooking fuel, and advanced cooking stoves are estimated at $78 billion over the next two decades.