Electricity has become an essential part of our lives reducing poverty while also improving health and sustainability.
A generalized lack of access to electricity in wide regions of the world confronts the principles outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights promoting an “adequate standard of living to promote health and well-being of himself and of his family” (3).
The social implications of lack of energy access can be understood from a theological, philosophical as well as from a geopolitical perspective:
From a theological point of view, lack of access to energy degrades human dignity which is considered a gift of God to every man and woman. As an image of God (Gn 1,26) every human being is precious and as such its dignity needs to be respected and promoted. Access to energy can thus be considered a human right applicable to the entire humanity. Given the current development or renewable power and battery storage technologies which currently presents lower costs than conventional power sources (4), this consideration does not necessarily enter into conflict with the preservation of nature, god’s creation which we are all called to protect (5).
From a philosophical point of view,the lack of access to electricity becomes a restriction on people’s freedom, human development and self-determination. The access to electrical energy is nowadays essential to many activities such as education and finding multiple sources of information, without access to electricity how can students to either read read the blackboard at school or do homework in the evening, it is also essential for public participation, how could otherwise how can people in rural areas be informed etc. These points are directly connected to liberal philosophical thinking, which has strongly influenced the conception and grounds of human rights.
From a geopolitical perspective, the exclusive use of energy technology or sources can also become a geopolitical issue, restricting the development of people and also in some cases causing or reinforcing the domination of one country over another to the point of becoming an instrument of intrusion in other countries’ sovereignty. Consider One clear example is the geopolitical power that oil and gas exporting nations or the power of technology advanced nations have in other countries.
(1) Source: World Bank.
(2) Cooking with solid fuels is estimated by the WHO to cause over four million premature deaths per year.
(3) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations General Assembly, 1948.
(4) Scale-up of Solar and Wind Puts Existing Coal, Gas at Risk, 2020, BloombergNEF.
(5) Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home.