MEASURING ACCESS TO ENERGY: Tracking Progress out of Energy Poverty at the Household Level.

The Multi-Tier Framework approach serves as a basis for our SDG7 survey and impact analysis.


Why is it important to monitor access to energy and collect energy access data?

Access to energy has gained significant interest from governments and development agencies, particularly since the call for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) by the Secretary General of the United Nations in 2012. One of the key goals of SE4ALL is to achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030. Achieving that goal will require a concerted international effort, substantial new investment, the deployment of new technologies, and a wide range of interventions targeting underserved populations. The success of such interventions depends in part on the ability to assess the level of access to energy, which can help inform policy, investment, and planning and enable effective project monitoring. The rapid expansion of access to energy requires both accurate assessment and tracking of progress, entailing large-scale data collection at the household level. As a result, suitable data collection and assessment tools are required.

What are the challenges in measuring energy access?

There are two initial challenges in defining and measuring energy access: the absence of a universal definition of energy access and the difficulty of measuring any definition in an accurate manner. Such difficulty lies in the multidimensional nature of access to energy: multiple sources of energy, delivered through a range of diverse on-grid and off-grid technologies, need to be captured. Furthermore, energy is used in a wide spectrum of applications, ranging from lighting to communication and entertainment, air circulation, refrigeration, cooking, heating, and so on. The practice of “fuel stacking”—the parallel use of multiple fuels, particularly for cooking—complicates data capture, because it goes beyond the simple concept of an “energy ladder,” and data on simultaneous use of multiple energy sources are scarce. Finally, energy is not only needed at the household level, but is also essential for productive enterprises in every sector, as well as for community institutions (such as schools, hospitals, and public buildings).
To date, access to electricity has typically been measured based on access to a household electric grid connection, while access to modern cooking solutions has been defined as cooking with clean nonsolid fuels. The first SE4ALL Global Tracking Framework report released in May 2013 used such binary metrics to determine starting points against which progress toward universal energy access could be measured, as available data did not generally allow for more complex analysis. These binary metrics, although convenient, fail to capture the multidimensional nature of energy access. Thus, a new approach is needed.


The Multi-tier Framework (MTF) approach to energy access was developed under an Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP)-financed project at the World Bank called Defining and Measuring Access to Energy for Socio-Economic Development. Developed through a set of studies in collaboration with academics and practitioners, the MTF aims to track energy access and energy poverty along all relevant dimensions, including capacity, duration, quality, affordability, legality, availability, convenience, health, and safety. In the MTF, each household is ranked in a Tier (from 0 - the lowest - to 5), according to the available electricity sources, appliances, and cooking solutions.
(Bhatia & Angelou, 2015)

What indicators are assessed in the MTF?

Energy (electricity and cooking solution) access is measured based on the following indicators:            
  • Capacity (Electricity)
  • Duration & Availability (Electricity & Cooking Solutions)
  • Reliability (Electricity)
  • Quality (Electricity & Cooking Solutions)
  • Affordability (Electricity & Cooking Solutions)
  • Convenience (Cooking Solutions)
  • Legality (Electricity)
  • Health & Safety (Electricity & Cooking Solutions)
Depending on the indicator, the response may be binary (yes or no) or have multiple choices.

What are the different tiers in the MTF?

The different tiers in the MTF represent the levels of energy access of the household/business/institution.
Each tier reflects the ability of the available energy supply to cater to specific energy applications. For example, for household electricity supply, Tier 1 encompasses basic lighting and phone charging, whereas Tier 2 includes television and electric fan usage. In Tier 3, the use of bigger electrical equipment (such as washing machines or food processors) is possible, while Tiers 4 and 5 enable usage of heavier and continuous applications such as air conditioning and space heating.

How does the tier-ranking work?

Once every indicator has been assessed, the overall tier for the household, business, or institution is calculated by determining the lowest tier of any of the indicators.
For example, if a household reliably and legally obtains adequate electricity 12 hours per day, but that electricity is not affordable, the energy access tier for that household remains Tier 2.

Why is it important to collect energy access information using the MTF approach?

Normally, there is limited data available from household surveys to measure energy access using the MTF approach, which prevents organizations from effectively assessing and monitoring progress out of energy poverty. It is important to collect a wide range of information on access to different types of energy infrastructure and services at the household level, following the MTF framework, in order to get a complete picture of the household energy access status. The HEDERA Impact Toolkit allows organizations to do this easily at minimal cost.


The energy access assessment methodology used in the HEDERA Impact Toolkit is based on the Progress out of Energy Poverty Index (PEPI). The PEPI builds upon the MTF, measuring all dimensions of energy access. Tailoring the framework and survey for the microfinance industry, the PEPI has been designed to track the progress towards SDG7 at the household level.
The HEDERA Impact Toolkit combines the MTF, the PEPI, and a microfinance-driven crowdsourcing of field data, drastically reducing costs for energy needs assessment, baseline assessment, and monitoring.


N. Realpe Carrillo, Assessment of household energy access: the Progress out of Energy Poverty Index (PEPI) toolkit for the microfinance sector. PhD Thesis, TU Berlin, 2017
Bhatia, Mikul; Angelou, Niki. 2015. Beyond Connections: Energy Access Redefined. ESMAP Technical Report;008/15. World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO
Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report © 2019 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank