Why is it so difficult to reach the last mile in electricity access? Lessons from Colombia
Non-technical summary: Lessons from last mile electrification in Colombia: Examining the policy framework and outcomes for sustainability
6 July 2021
- Title: Lessons from last mile electrification in Colombia: Examining the policy framework and outcomes for sustainability
- Publications/funder: Energy Research & Social Science
- Date accepted: 02/07/2021
- Authors: Estefany Garces, Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL); Dr Julia Tomei, UCL ISR; Carlos J Franco, UNAL; Isaac Dyner, Universidad Jorge Tadeo, Colombia.
As highlighted by UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, access to electricity underpins social and economic development. However, achieving this Goal – even in middle income countries – remains elusive. Colombia has been seeking to deliver universal access to electricity since the mid-1990s and, while the country has made remarkable progress – reaching 97% electrification in 2019 – around 2 million people still lack access to electricity. Reaching this ‘last mile’ is a challenge for any country as households are often located in remote, hard-to-reach places, and tend to be characterised by low incomes and low electricity demand. In Colombia, the situation is made more complicated by the country’s 50-year civil conflict, which has left these last mile communities politically and economically isolated. In this paper, we examine the challenges facing the delivery of electricity to last mile communities in Colombia. We draw on interviews with experts to examine the policy, legislative and financing framework for electrification, as well as field visits to three last mile communities. We illustrate the positive impacts that electricity access brings to people’s lives, but also that ensuring supply is sustainable can present ongoing challenges. Finally, we suggest some changes that may enable Colombia to deliver its electricity access goal.