How can subsidies accelerate universal energy access?

Date: Thursday, 22 October 2020
Where: Online
Solar energy panel on a hut.

Availability of off-grid lighting solutions, such as solar systems, is limited in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the upfront costs are beyond the means of many households (Photo: Azuri Technologies via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Access to affordable, reliable and clean energy remains one of the greatest development challenges. This event on Thursday, 22 October 2020 explored the role that subsidies as a form of public finance can play in achieving universal access to energy.

If universal access to energy is to become a reality in the next decade, additional efforts to increase public finance are required. Making progress on energy access and transitioning to renewable energy should also form a central part of countries’ recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Subsidies are necessary to achieve universal energy access. They are needed to bridge affordability gaps and the higher costs involved in ensuring that the poorest and most remote communities are not left behind. In rural areas especially, many communities cannot afford even the most basic modern energy services.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of addressing inequalities in access to energy, including electrification of health care facilities and clean cooking.


Juliette Tunstall (, IIED's internal engagement and external events officer