Impact Summary: No country has reached high-income status without modern energy to power its businesses, industry, hospitals, and homes. Yet global energy goals like Sustainable Development Goal 7 define electricity access at just 50-100 kWh per person per year at home – only enough to power a few lightbulbs. Reaching such targets is a good first step but won’t be enough to boost livelihoods or drive economic growth. We designed and proposed a new threshold, the Modern Energy Minimum, to raise the bar to 1,000 kWh per person per year, covering power used at home and in the wider economy.
Today, our Modern Energy Minimum is helping direct billions of dollars of new investments through the Global Energy Alliance for People and the Planet (GEAPP) and has been endorsed by African energy ministers as a core principle for achieving a just and equitable energy transition.
Why It Matters
What gets measured, gets done. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) calls for “affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.” This global goal to end energy poverty is immensely important. But we believe that the primary tracking indicator is too low (just 50-100 kWh per person per year) and too narrow (only household electricity). Power to run a few lightbulbs or to charge a mobile phone is a vital first step that everyone deserves. But it’s not nearly enough. The spirit of SDG7 requires power for business, industry, hospitals, and homes at a level that can create jobs, raise incomes, and expand opportunity in vibrant modern economies.
What We Did
The Rockefeller Foundation shared our belief that aiming higher could do more to reduce poverty and boost livelihoods. Working closely with the Foundation, we convened a group of leading scholars to design and propose the Modern Energy Minimum, a new threshold of 1,000 kWh per person, with at least 300 kWh being consumed at home and 700 kWh in the wider economy. The new metric captures electricity consumption that can drive economic growth. Adopting the Modern Energy Minimum as the next step in the fight against energy poverty will raise global ambitions and deliver more meaningful development outcomes.
In addition to sharing the idea with dozens of policymakers, funders, and advocates in one-on-one meetings, events, and across our social media, we:
- Presented the Modern Energy Minimum at the G20 Webinar Series “Achieving Global Energy Access Goals in the Decade of Action” (April 2022).
- Hosted Ashvin Dayal, senior vice president of power and climate at the Rockefeller Foundation, on our High Energy Planet podcast about the power of philanthropy to raise global energy ambitions that reduce poverty and protect the planet (May 2022).
- Promoted the Modern Energy Minimum through the 17 Rooms initiative of the Brookings Institution to put it on the radar for those who will be shaping the next round of the SDGs.
- Briefed African leaders at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in Kigali, Rwanda (May 2023).
- Created a short video explaining what 1,000 kWh actually means for real people.
First win: The GEAPP launches with the Modern Energy Minimum as part of its core messaging and criteria for how to direct more than $10 billion of major new energy finance investments.
The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) launched at COP26 in 2021, using our Modern Energy Minimum in its core messaging and criteria for how to direct more than $10 billion of major new energy finance investments from private philanthropy, government, local entrepreneurs, and the private sector.
GEAPP promises more than $1 billion in aligned investments from the Rockefeller Foundation, Bezos Earth Fund, and the IKEA Foundation, and nearly $9 billion in aligned investments from African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the British International Investment, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and the World Bank.
Countries below the 1,000 kWh Modern Energy Minimum is the primary eligibility criterion for investments “to improve people’s lives through an inclusive and just transition to renewable energy for all.” The threshold is also a core part of GEAPP’s impact monitoring.
Second win: 10 African ministers endorse the Modern Energy Minimum as the new metric for just, equitable energy transition
Ministers and high-level representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe met during the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Forum in Kigali, Rwanda in May 2022 to establish principles for a just and equitable energy transition in Africa. Their official communique has just seven points, including:
“3. Pursue a modern energy minimum of 1,000 kWh per capita consumption.”
While communiques are aspirational, it’s a clear signal that governments are officially embracing bolder energy goals.
Bottom line impact → Today, the Modern Energy Minimum is directing billions of dollars in new energy financing and is among the core principles African leaders see as necessary to achieving a just and equitable energy transition in Africa. It’s raising the bar on global energy goals, and aligning investment efforts toward energy to spur growth and economic opportunity.
- Todd Moss, Energy for Growth Hub, who chaired the working group
- Ashvin Dayal, Rockefeller Foundation
- Damilola Ogunbiyi and Glenn Pearce-Oroz at SEforAll
- Members of the working group, including Rose Mutiso (Energy for Growth Hub), Morgan Bazilian (Colorado School of Mines), Moussa Blimpo (University of Toronto), Lauren Culver (World Bank), Meera Mahadavan (UC-Irvine), Vijay Modi (Columbia), Bob Muhwezi (UMass-Amherst), Varun Sivaram (Columbia), Jay Taneja (UMass-Amherst), Mark Thurber (Stanford University), Johannes Urpelainen (Johns Hopkins SAIS), Michael Webber (UT-Austin)
Learn more about the Modern Energy Minimum.
- Let’s aim for the modern energy minimum (video)
- High Energy Planet podcast with Ashvin Dayal, senior vice president of power and climate at The Rockefeller Foundation on redefining energy and development progress
- Raising Global Energy Ambitions: The 1,000 kWh Modern Energy Minimum