The Fight for Light: Improving Energy Access Through Digital Payments

The role of inclusive digital ecosystems in achieving universal energy access

The Sustainable Development Agenda and the accompanying 17 Goals (SDGs) would represent the greatest increase in human welfare in history. Ending poverty and hunger, achieving universal access to education, health care, energy, and water; targets that would have seemed inconceivable in recent memory are now within reach. Yet meeting this ambitious agenda will require new paradigms for connecting markets and people that have been historically overlooked. Digital payments are at the core of the most successful new models for reaching last-mile customers, enabling businesses and governments to link under-served households with essential services.

This report examines new business models and government initiatives for energy access that rely upon digital payments. While numerous solutions exist to meet the needs of the more than one billion people who still lack access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy options, one of the key challenges is in how to expand efforts to rural areas, where a lack of traditional grid expansion has denied many households opportunities for advancement. The study demonstrates how, by incorporating digital payments into existing energy services, off-grid innovators, progressive utilities, private investors, and government agencies have all found ways of bringing light to some of the darkest corners of our world. Key findings in the report suggest that: 

  • If the world is to achieve universal energy access, the expansion of digital payments and the development of inclusive digital payments ecosystems will be critical. As a mounting body of evidence now demonstrates, digital payments have the capacity to drive financial inclusion, create new economic opportunities particularly for women, increase transparency across the private, public, and development sectors, and support economic growth by driving major cost savings, efficiencies, and higher productivity.
  • Decoupling economic growth from the growth of greenhouse gas emissions will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, if cash remains the dominant method of transaction, particularly in developing countries.

About this Publication

By Tellez, C., Waldron, D. & Chaintreau, W.