Energy poverty ? No, energy luxuriance

I recently was triggered a few times by the term: ‘Energy Poverty’ in all kinds of reports and tweets [1-4] . Usually referred to as having little access to oil, gas and coal, in what is then called the poorer part of the world.

But does that exist, energy poverty? After all, energy poverty is compared to those who burn abundant fossil fuels, thereby causing a climate disaster. In fact, its more realistic to speak of ‘oil addiction’ in a small part of the world : the richest 1 billion people – out of 7.5 billion – are responsible for 50% of all energy use.

It’s a two-speed world: a world of industrialization, and a world of those who haven’t , or in fact have been used (plundered ) as storehouses for the others industrializing. And as a result, got stuck in an energy balance from before that industrial and fossil revolution. While we now know that we all have to go back to that situation: living from renewable energy only. As millions of non industrialised people still do today, who have to live on a daily portion of wood, to get it warm or to cook on.

Of course we say we they should have access to more energy, the countries that are not fossil-addicted, Since if we would deny that it puts ourselves in a bad daylight, since in fact it is not energy poverty that is the problem, its is us, as energy guzzlers, that is the problem.

In other words, its the difference between those who hang the laundry on the clothesline and let the wind do its work, and those who purchase a circular economy produced dryng machine , linked to a wind turbine. It is not a sign of poverty to dry the laundry on a clothesline, it is a sign of extravagancy if you do that with a tumble dryer and expect the government to build a wind turbine to provide you with (renewable) energy. With all the associated consequences in terms of energy and materials impacts.

Energy poverty is a term that has been coined by those who indulge in forbidden energy (‘fruits’), and try to assuage their shame by shouting that others should start having access to forbidden energy excessively as well.

Oh yes, we rephrase it differently these days: ’they’ are also entitled to a wind turbine. Thinking that would solve everything…

While at the same time we , the industrialised countries, build the pipelines connecting to Russia. Just to have a backup in the form of fossil natural gas. Just in case it might not work out well with that renewable energy. And the Netherlands is completely hypocrite, it closes its own natural gas fields, because of some small earthquackes in their gas field area, and then starts importing gas. And then make hydrogen out of it and claim they have the ‘green solutions’. How blasé can you be.

And then discuss energy poverty? In other words, to declare the own standard of guzzling energy consumption to be the ‘normal’?

It is actually the other way around, we , the rich, the industrialised, should in fact be forced into that same ‘energy poverty…’!

The real problem is that we, the guzzlers, have to learn to live without those fossil fuels. Because we cannot afford that. And in principle we can’t afford the use of solar panels, such as we are installing now: because in fact we cannot afford that either, they are made with fossil fuels, which is what we want to phase out. (and it wont reduce CO2 levels [5]) .

So that would bring us immediately on the same level: the energy needy and the energy wasters. And then what is energy poverty…?

If you no longer have wood to cook your food, and no energy or fuel or wood to heat your house, then it really becomes poverty. Which could happen if ou live in relative cold regions. Since that as well is an enormous luxury, or waste, if you think you can live in places that require an enormous amount of energy to survive .

What would then be an amount of energy that we could use as a minimum, for everyone equally that is? In thebasics, that is energy that stems from one’s own work. And that work power in turn depends on the sun, for food growing. In fact, it is solely solar energy that we have to live from. [6] . Everything else is from within the Earth system, and thus by definition depletes. Energy even by definition is always lost in a process, that is, becomes unusable. If the energy comes from within the system evaluated , the power runs out anyway. The sun is the only constant supply.

That brings us to a fair share as being the incomig solar radiation per year divided by the number of people. And then also only that part that can be captured by land. Since , apart from a little passive heating and daylight, we have little options for use of direct solar radiation, at least in the actively usable sense. It will be mainly indirect, in a converted and stored form. And the amount available for each is what can be captured on 1.8 usable hectare , since that whats available per capita on earth.

The real poverty line therfor is when you have less to spend than that fair share. But not more either. If you have more it is again extreme energy addiction, at the expense of others.

Which is also one of the problem I have with the SDGs: the Sustainable development goals by the UN. [7] These implicitly assume a much too high living standard average per person .That simply cannot be achieved, certainly not since we have set climate targets, and therefore have to continue without fossil fuels.

Of course, I realize that this is a difficult message, the urgency of the question is still not yet high enough . So, by definition, we will first have to get to a kind of emergency state, before we are prepared to drop any of that luxury. Nevertheless, we could and should start by framing things correctly, and not talk about energy poverty, if that means external energy, but about ‘excessive energy wealth’. In other words, its a inequality gap, just as is the case in financial economy, but in a in a reverse sense that is. And that energy gap is much more significant than the income gap, Although in principle the economical gap is again also the cause of the energy gap.

[1] tno energy poverty in NL…


[2] eu energy poverty in eu…


[3] Habitat : Energy access is not equally distributed around the globe: it is estimated that the almost 3.5 billion with limited access are responsible for less than 10% of the total household final energy demand, while 1 billion people with energy consumption levels at or above European standards is responsible for half of global energy consumption.


[4] According to 2018 IEA World Energy Outlook there are currently 1 billion people in the world – 13% of the total population – with no access to electricity, mostly in Africa and South Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that approximately 600 million people – 57% of the population – live without electricity, against the 350 million people – representing 9% of the population – who lack access in developing Asia.






Author: ronald rovers