“An estimated 1.6 billion people in the world today still don’t have access to commercial energy services,” was a sobering statistic presented by François Ailleret, launching the World Energy Council’s “2000 statement”.

(Energy for tomorrow’s world – acting now; available at www.worldenergy.com). According to Secretary General Gerald Doucet, the 2000 statement, which updates a 1993 report, is dedicated to “overcoming energy poverty wherever it occurs.” The new book presents three goals to be achieved by 2020: energy accessibility, defined as provision of modern energy services for which payment is made; energy availability, defined as quality, reliability continuity of supply; and energy acceptability, in terms of public acceptance and the environment. It also sets out the actions needed to achieve these worthy goals.

Underlying the WEC agenda is the problem of inequality: “Slightly more than one billion people in the industrialised countries (about 20 per cent of the world’s population) consume nearly 60 per cent of the total energy supply whereas just under five billion people in developing countries consume the other 40 per cent of the total energy supply.” Unfortunately experience tells us that markets are not good when it comes to addressing inequalities and need a little help. “Clearly market mechanisms and decentralised decision-making have failed to channel investment and technology to develop energy resources in a way that ensures all energy needs are met and environmental priorities are respected,” said Ailleret. We must agree with WEC, which increasingly seems to be taking on the role of conscience of the energy industry, that “new policy departures and remedial actions” are needed, and now rather than later.