According to the World Bank, over 1.1 billion people have no access to electricity, and a billion more only have intermittent access. These people rely on costly, outdated technologies that are harmful to their health, and hinder their opportunities for social and economic advancement.

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What does it mean to live without energy access?

Imagine life without electricity. No light at night, no power to charge a cell phone and stay connected, no TV or radio to stay informed. No easy way to keep a business open after dark, or for children to study in the evening. And no refrigeration at home or in the health clinic to keep food, vaccines, and medicines safe.

Now think of the solutions people without electricity resort to -- polluting kerosene lamps, candles, and smoky, inefficient cookstoves. Walking hours and spending precious resources to charge a cell phone or buy batteries. Living with limited access to information, education, livelihoods and basic healthcare.

The IFC estimates that individuals without reliable access to safe and clean energy spend $37 billion annually on polluting and smoky kerosene and other rudimentary forms of lighting, often paying the most as a proportion of their household income for inadequate, dangerous, and unhealthy energy sources that kill many women and children prematurely.

Clean and affordable modern energy revolutionizes lives — improving health, saving time, enabling education, decreasing vulnerability to violence, and empowering women. Sustainable energy enables businesses to grow, generates jobs, and extends work hours.

Unlike other medical procedures, childbirth cannot wait until morning: in 2010, an estimated 287,000 women died of complications from pregnancy and childbirth.

Reliable electricity is essential to powering emergency medical equipment, storing blood and vaccines, and performing basic health procedures, especially after dark. Ensuring universal access to modern energy services in health facilities in developing countries has been recognized as an essential requirement for improving health and well-being, especially for women and children.

The World Health Organization recently found that only 28 percent of healthcare facilities and 34 percent of hospitals in 11 surveyed sub-Saharan African countries have what can be called "reliable" access to electricity.

Energy access enables children to use small sustainable lighting solutions like solar lamps to study at night, and do well in school, increasing their chances for a better future.