Energy for Growth Hub
Impact Story May 01, 2023

The Fridge Goes Viral as an Illustration of Global Energy Inequality

Better Metrics and Data
Shaping Energy Transitions

Impact summary: Energy use is one of the most jarring examples of global inequality. Finding memorable images that resonate can clarify the gap between ambition and reality, change the window of acceptable responses, and — ideally — motivate more aggressive action. The Fridge is our best example. 

What We Did

When Todd Moss bought a refrigerator for his family outside Washington, DC, back in 2013, the yellow efficiency tag reported that the appliance would use 459 kWh per year. Todd realized (💡!) that was more electricity than most people in African countries use in a whole year.

He created a quick graphic, comparing his fridge’s power use to per capita consumption in six African countries and posted it on the Center for Global Development’s blog. That simple graphic struck a nerve and began circulating in major media outlets and campaigns. It’s a big part of why Todd created the Energy for Growth Hub.

Outsize influence: Todd’s fridge lives on in the media, campaign messages, and philanthropy.

The Fridge has been reposted by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, Brad Plumer in Vox, by USA Today, and Bill Gates on twitter. It’s been recreated by the Economist, Vox, and Foreign Policy, and is going viral again. Even Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg invoked the fridge versus people contrast in the Guardian.

Why does The Fridge graphic continue to resonate? It drives home the point that all people deserve to take reliable electricity for granted. The Fridge illuminates the inexcusable gap between energy haves and have-nots, and screams for immediate solutions.

Bottom line impact → A crisp data graphic with a deeply relatable point makes both the problem and scale of energy inequality immediately clear. That’s why journalists, advocates, and policymakers continue to use it as a tool in the fight to make energy abundance a reality for everyone.

Key Players

  • Todd Moss, Executive Director, Energy for Growth Hub

Learn more about how the fridge data led to the creation of the Energy for Growth Hub.

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