Electricity and modern fuels are needed to achieve each of the MDGs. They can empower farmers to produce and store more food, allow children to study at night, save lives with refrigerated vaccines and medical care during difficult pregnancies, enable safe drinking water, and reduce pollution.
While access to modern energy services is critical to the MDGs, to date it has been a silent partner, often neglected in policy and practice. Today, 1.3 billion people have no electricity, and another billion have it only intermittently. More than double that number -- nearly 3 billion people -- still use firewood, charcoal and animal waste for cooking and heating. In many countries, women bear the physically demanding and time-consuming burden of gathering fuel and water, sometimes at great personal risk. The World Health Organization says that exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires is one of the top five threats to public health in developing countries, causing nearly 2 million premature deaths annually.