Global electricity access goals not being met

A report released this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that despite significant progress in recent years, the global energy targets set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030 are not being met.

The report tracks the global, regional and country progress on three key targets:

  • Ensuring universal energy access; 
  • Doubling progress on energy efficiency 
  • Substantially increasing the share of renewable energy by 2030. 

It assesses the progression made by each country on these targets and provides a snapshot of how far they are from achieving SDG7.

The report found that continued effort is required if affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is available for everyone by 2030, especially the world’s poorest populations.

The number of people living without electricity has dropped to roughly 840 million from 1 billion in 2016, and 1.2 billion in 2010. India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Myanmar are among countries that have made the most progress since 2010.

Percentage of population with access to electricity (%) Source: Tracking SDG7 (2019)

However, unless further changes are made, 650 million people will still be left without access to electricity in 2030. Nine out of 10 of them will be living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some of the key findings:

  • The share of renewables in final energy consumption increased modestly, from 17.3% in 2014 to 17.5% in 2015. Yet only 55% of the renewable share was derived from modern forms of renewable energy. 
  • Based on current policies, the renewable share is expected to reach just 21% by 2030, with modern renewables growing to 15%, falling short of the substantial increase demanded by the SDG7 target. 
  • Rapidly falling costs have allowed solar and wind to compete with conventional power generation sources in multiple regions, driving the growth in the share of renewables in electricity to 22.8% in 2015.
  • Global energy intensity decreased by 2.8% from 2014 to 2015, double the rate of improvement seen between 1990 and 2010.
  • In the least developed countries, the proportion of the people with access to electricity more than doubled between 2000 and 2016. 
    In 2016, 3 billion people (41% of the world’s population) were still cooking with polluting fuel and stove combinations. 
  • The use of renewable energy for heating purposes has barely increased in recent years and stood at 24.8% in 2015, of which one third was from modern uses.
  • Since 2010, China’s progress in renewable energy alone accounted for nearly 30% of absolute growth in renewable energy consumption globally in 2015.
  • Brazil was the only country among the top 20 largest energy consumers to substantially exceed the global average renewable share in all end uses: electricity, transport and heating.
  • The UK’s share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption grew by 1% annually on average since 2010 – more than five times the global average ~ however, even though the UK’s share in renewable energy has grown, a recent consultation by HMRC proposed a tax hike of 15% for those who wish to install energy saving materials.

Unfortunately we are not yet on track to achieve SDG 7 by 2030, even though considerable progress has been made by the declining costs of renewable energy technologies and active government efforts in certain regions.

A rapid and drastic transformation of the energy sector is needed. Investment in and careful planning of electrification needs to be stepped up in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the world needs to see increased political momentum in expanding access to clean solutions.

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