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733M People Without Access to Electricity Globally as COVID-19 Slows Progress: 2022 SDG7 Tracking Progress Report

COVID-19 sets back previous gains in universal energy access with Sub-Saharan Africa paying the highest price. Renewable energy was the only energy source that grew through the pandemic.

While the number of people with access to modern energy increased to 91 percent in 2020, from  81 percent in 2010, the number of those living without electricity stands at 733 million with another  2.4 billion without access to clean cooking, according to the latest ‘Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report’.

A majority of those without electricity reside in Sub-Saharan Africa where the share of the global population without electricity jumped to 77 percent in 2020 from 71 percent in 2018.  The largest unserved populations live in Nigeria (92 million people), the Democratic Republic of Congo (72 million), and Ethiopia (56 million).

Given the current rate of progress, the report envisages that the world will reach only 92 percent electrification by 2030 and emphasizes on the need to increase the number of new connections to 100 million a year to reach universal access by 2030.

Role of Decentralized Renewable Energy in Accelerating SDG7 Goals  

The report acknowledges the need to drastically scale up efforts toward achieving universal energy access and highlights the vital role of decentralized energy systems in expanding access, especially in rural areas. The report notes that despite the COVID-9 disruptions, renewable energy was the only energy source that continued to grow.

According to the report, the share of Total Final Energy Consumption (TFEC) from renewables was 17.7 percent  (2019). It has been estimated that to be on track to reach net-zero energy emissions by 2050, the share should reach well over 30 percent by 2030. 

Financing a Sustainable Future

The international financial flow to developing countries in support of clean energy research and development and renewable energy showed a  23 percent decrease from the $14.2 billion in 2018 to $10.9 billion (2019)  which was a 25 percent decline from the 2010–19 average. Overall, the level of financing remains below what is required to reach SDG7, particularly in the most vulnerable and least developed countries. 

Investment opportunities need to be scaled up as international financial assistance is critical for achieving SDG7 and currently, mobilization of the financial resources are concentrated in a few countries.

“International public financing for renewable energy needs to accelerate, especially in the poorest, most vulnerable countries. We have failed to support those most in need. With only eight years left to achieve universal access to affordable and sustainable energy, we need radical actions to accelerate the increase of international public financial flows and distribute them in a more equitable manner, so 733 million people who are currently left behind can enjoy the benefits of clean energy access,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency.

SDG7 Policy Briefs 2022: Addressing Energy’s Interlinkages with Other SDGs

The ‘SDG7 Policy Briefs 2022: Addressing Energy’s Interlinkages with Other SDGs,’ recommends a  holistic framework that can quantify the interconnectedness of energy and other SDGs and thereby bolster the foundation for evidence-based decision-making.  It calls for robust policy designs and financial support to solve the problem of energy access, especially in energy-deficit nations.

Tracking global progress for SDG 7 targets requires high-quality, reliable and comparable data for informed and effective policymaking at the global, regional, and country levels. The report stresses on the importance of having standard monitoring reporting systems to know where we stand and how to get back on track. This is especially important for developing countries, particularly least developed countries (LDCs), to inform their national energy policies and strategies to ensure no one is left behind.

The Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2022, provides the most comprehensive look available at the world’s progress towards global energy targets on access to electricity, clean cooking, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and of the SDG7 Policy Briefs 2022, focus on the interlinkages of energy with other SDGs. 

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and partners launched the two publications on June 1, 2022. The theme of the event was, ‘Addressing energy’s interlinkages with other SDGs.’ Watch the launch event on UN WebTV.

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