Electricity access and social sustainability in Mozambique

Daniela Salite, Matthew Cotton, Joshua Kirshner

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The demand for access to electricity in developing countries is rapidly increasing as intergovernmental organisations, national governments, and business leaders recognise the social and economic value of infrastructure investment. The institutions that govern energy investment and planning recognise a ‘trilemma’ of system development: low-carbon energy sources are needed to meet global climate change mitigation goals, while also meeting service reliability demands and energy security measures alongside maintaining service affordability, particularly for residents on the lowest incomes in rural, urban, and peri-urban communities. Integrating traditional, centralised grid networks based upon large-scale generation technologies (in the case of Mozambique, this includes hydropower from the Cahora Bassa Dam) with decentralised off-grid renewables such as solar projects in rural communities is a significant technical and governance challenge. Energy providers are tasked with a social mandate to deliver good quality electricity at an affordable price to consumers while widening access to underserved populations.

Providing access to clean and reliable energy sources is embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 7 as one of the preconditions for socioeconomic development, poverty reduction, and human wellbeing (Pueyo and Maestre, 2019; UN Energy, 2005). International development practitioners and policy networks recognise the tangible benefits of electricity as a form of energy service provision. These tangible benefits include lighting and powering appliances at domestic, private, and institutional levels and increased telecommunications coverage, which collectively provide new personal and business development opportunities, healthcare and food safety benefits, and improved leisure and night-time education prospects (UN Energy, 2005). They also minimise the health risks and ecological impacts associated with black-carbon fuels such as charcoal, which diminish air quality within residential buildings (Anenberg, 2017) and lead to deforestation (Sedano et al., 2016).

In order to enhance electricity sector performance, many sub-Saharan African countries have implemented significant governance reforms. It is necessary, however, to evaluate whether such reforms facilitate expanded social access to electricity, whether they improve service quality, public utility, and financial stability, and whether they lead to broader social and environmental sustainability goals. In this policy brief, we assess these dimensions related to the case of Mozambique, a country where major progress has been made to increase population-wide access to electricity from around 6% in 2004 (Chambal, 2010) to 32% in 2019 (EDM, 2020a). Though policy progress is significant, challenges remain, particularly in rural areas, where only around 6% of the population have electricity access (EDM, 2018a).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford Policy Management
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameEnergy Insight


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