The World Bank Group has committed to achieving universal access to electricity by 2030 under the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative. This is a daunting challenge: more than 1 billion people do not have access, and another 1 billion have chronically inadequate or unreliable service. The investment needed to provide access would be about $37 billion per year. By comparison, in recent years, low-access countries received an average of $3.6 billion per year for their electricity sectors from public and private sources, including $1.5 billion per year from the World Bank Group.

The scale of the SE4All challenge requires the Bank Group to reposition itself as a global solutions provider in this sector, going well beyond the confines of its own direct support for access. IEG's evaluation points to the urgency for the Bank Group's energy practice to adopt a new and transformative strategy to help country clients orchestrate a national, sustained sector-level engagement for universal access.


Lessons from successful country examples point to some common principles of success. Analysis of countries' electrification experiences shows that they succeeded through their own homegrown styles, and that neither the public sector nor the private sector alone can marshal the capacity, financing, quality, and policy for achieving universal access.

 The common principles, regardless of specific institutional structures, are:

  • Planning the rollout of national electricity access needs to be comprehensive and synchronized, integrating grid and off-grid means and bringing development partners together in a framework of many partners, one team, one plan.
  • Financial viability of the electricity sector and its agents depends on clear institutional roles and accountability, and may require appropriately targeted subsidies.
  • Affordability, equity, and inclusion need to be addressed by targeting the poor and those in remote and inaccessible areas.
  • Government vision and its engagement in all the above issues is the crucial binding factor.



IEG offers four recommendations:

  • Engage decisively and intensely on countries with low electricity access.
  • Move from a predominantly project-by-project approach to a greater use of a sector-wide organizing framework and process for mainstreaming the sustained engagement needed to implement rapid access scale-up.
  • Design an engagement strategy to enable low-access countries to mobilize sector-level investment financing on the scale required.
  • Improve the evidence base related to electricity access and its alignment with the corporate goals of promoting shared prosperity and ending extreme poverty.


Volume II of the report, Together for Energy: How Partnership Programs Support Energy Access, reviews the role and effectiveness of Bank Group partnership programs that contribute to the energy access agenda: the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid, Lighting Africa, and the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program.