News and Announcements / News and Announcements

Global Leaders Launch Groundbreaking Commission to Eliminate Energy Poverty Among 840 Million People Worldwide

The Rockefeller Foundation today announced the launch of the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP). The Commission will drive a new agenda to provide electricity to hundreds of millions in pursuit of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Commission is co-chaired by Ernest J. Moniz, Professor of Physics & Engineering Systems Emeritus MIT, and former U.S. Secretary of Energy; President of the Rockefeller Foundation and former USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv J. Shah; and Africa Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

To make this effort possible, the Foundation has given a grant to The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). MITEI’s research team has developed an inception report, released this week that frames salient issues in the sector and serves as a starting point for the Commission’s work.

BELLAGIO, September 12, 2019Today, The Rockefeller Foundation announced the launch of the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP) to address one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: the lack of access to electricity for almost a billion people across the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The GCEEP is an acceleration of The Rockefeller Foundation’s work on energy poverty and will fast-track sustainable power solutions, investments, and partnerships that will deploy globally over the next decade.

The launch announcement follows the first full convening of Commissioners at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy, on September 10. The Commission will operate under the joint chairmanship of The Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, and the Africa Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

About 840 million people live without energy access today, and according to The World Bank 650 million people will still lack access to energy in 2030, falling far short of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Ninety percent of these 650 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We cannot end poverty without ending energy poverty,” said Shah at the launch of the Commission. “Despite recent progress, the world is not on track to solve this problem by 2030. Now is the time to unleash the full potential of distributed energy by integrating the strengths of grid and off-grid systems in order to enable large-scale public-private partnerships.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz underscored this vision. “Access to electricity has increased dramatically in the past two decades, thanks to massive public and private investment in grid infrastructure,” said Moniz, who is also special advisor to the MIT president and the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus at MIT. “To reach those who remain beyond the reach of the grid will require not only redoubled investment, but also innovative thinking and cooperative action on the part of a host of individuals and institutions. Our Commission brings together an extraordinary group of leaders with unique talents and knowledge and a determination to finish the job.”

The Commission intends to forge a robust, actionable consensus that lays out viable pathways for accelerating energy access quickly and cost-efficiently. It is comprised of heads of development banks, utilities, and off-grid firms, along with senior academics, industry leaders, and investors.

“Economies cannot develop in the dark,” said Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. “Close to 600 million people still don’t have access to electricity in Africa, and the majority live in rural areas. Grid expansion alone will not be enough to electrify these populations, but with a combination of distributed energy solutions and smart-grid expansion we can achieve universal, economically impactful electrification.”

The Commission will be supported by the work of a research team led by GCEEP Secretary and MIT Energy Initiative Deputy Director Robert Stoner and MIT visiting professor Ignacio Perez-Arriaga. The research team is focused on identifying and addressing the barriers to achieving universal, economically impactful electrification.

“Energy poverty is the end result of the failure of a complex system that spans physical infrastructure, advanced technologies, markets, policy, and regulation. Ending it requires finding generalizable solutions that make all parts of the electricity systems of low access countries reliable and affordable for everyone,” said Stoner. “Our research team will work closely with commissioners to develop creative actionable ideas.”

The GCEEP launch event also featured the release of an inception report developed by the MITEI research team to frame the salient issues in the sector today and serve as a starting point for the Commission’s work. During the course of its grant, MITEI will identify an implementable roadmap to end energy poverty with solutions that would provide affordable, sustainable, and reliable energy for all.

The co-chairs will next meet at a panel event during the United Nations General Assembly in New York at The Rockefeller Foundation’s offices on September 25.

For more information on the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty and its work, as well as a full list of commissioners, please visit


About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, policy and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, the Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas and conversations. For more information, visit

Media Contacts
The Rockefeller Foundation
Eric Gay
+1 917 912 6190

Aftan Snyder
+1 202  446 1180