2017 was a busy year for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and our partners in driving action to deliver universal energy access by 2030. Yet significant challenges remain if we’re to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 at the speed and scale needed. New data and evidence released throughout the year provides crucial insight on where leaders must focus their efforts.

Here are our 7 key highlights from this year that show how SEforALL and our partners are advancing progress on global energy goals.

1.  The scores are in: RISE report launch

The new RISE (Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy) report, which we launched in February with the World Bank, benchmarked sustainable energy policies in over 100 countries.

The report showed that an increasing number of developing countries – including Mexico, China, Turkey, India, Vietnam, Brazil, and South Africa – have robust policies in place to support energy access, renewables and energy efficiency.

At the launch of the report, Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), said: “RISE offers policymakers and investors the most detailed country-level insight yet into how we can level the playing field for renewable energy worldwide. Smart policy can be an accelerant of this transition.”

RISE is the first global policy scorecard of its kind, grading 111 countries in a traffic light style system across three areas: energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Find out more by visiting the interactive RISE website to see how each country stacks up.

2.  A clarion call to leaders: 2017 Global Tracking Framework

With only 13 years to go to meet 2030 targets, this year’s Global Tracking Framework delivered a wakeup call to global leaders on accelerating action to support energy access. Launched at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum, the data shows the current pace of progress on three global energy goals – access to electricity, renewable energy and efficiency – is not moving fast enough.

The report, produced by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency as part of the Sustainable Energy for All Knowledge Hub, found that while most countries are not doing enough, some are showing encouraging progress, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda. The results underscore that accelerating progress towards universal access is possible with the right policies, robust investments (both public and private) and innovative technology.

Data showed that to meet Sustainable Energy for All objectives, renewable energy investment would need to increase by a factor of 2-3, while energy efficiency investment would need to increase by a factor of 3-6. Estimates suggest that a five-fold increase would be needed to reach universal access by 2030.

You can also read an op-ed from Rachel Kyte, Ask your leaders "Why are you not acting now" on sustainable energy?, in Reuters here.

3.  Going further, faster – together: 2017 Sustainable Energy for All Forum

The third Sustainable Energy for All Forum took place at the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn, New York.

More than 1,000 high-level representatives from government, business, civil society and international organizations from 110 countries came together under the Forum theme “Going Further, Faster – Together” towards global energy goals and progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Over 60 sessions were held during the three days, with conversations and activity focused around the urgency and action needed to get us on track to achieve our goals. From new off-grid reports, to the announcement of Shine: Investing in Energy Access, a new campaign bringing together the faith, development, and philanthropic sectors to mobilize new forms of capital – the Forum was the platform for 10 announcements from SEforALL and partners.

Watch the highlights from the 2017 Forum, or find out more about our plans for next year’s event May 2-3 in Lisbon, Portugal.

4.  With temperatures soaring, we need Cooling for All

As record temperatures of 129 degrees were recorded in Iran last summer, SEforALL and the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program launched Cooling for All - a new initiative to identify the challenges and opportunities of providing access to affordable, sustainable cooling solutions for all.

Cooling for All focuses on how we embed growing cooling demands that can reach everyone within a clean energy transition, and in turn, support faster progress to achieve the goals of the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment* negotiated in 2016 in Rwanda.

With populations and temperatures rising, growing cooling demand risks creating a significant increase in energy demand, that if not managed through super-efficient technologies or clean sources, could cause further climate change impacts from rising emissions.

Cooling for All creates a direct intersect between three internationally agreed goals: the Paris Climate Agreement; the Sustainable Development Goals; and the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment.* The amendment aims to limit consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas used widely in air conditioners and refrigerators.

Cooling for All has already made significant progress, including the formation of an esteemed Global Panel announced at the UN General Assembly in September and plans for a report on the challenges of sustainable cooling access due out for release in mid-2018.

Action on reducing HFCs has significant momentum, too. In November, Sweden became the 20th country to ratify the Kigali Amendment. The treaty, which calls for curbing HFC use by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years, will be entered into force in January 2019.

Follow the latest online using #CoolingForAll.

5.  Energizing Finance report series

Also at the UN General Assembly, SEforALL and partners launched new research that, for the first time, tracks and analyzes finance flows for electricity and clean cooking access in 20 countries across Africa and Asia with significant access gaps.

The new Energizing Finance report series reveals that current finance flows for energy access and clean cooking will also miss 2030 targets, but the data also shows that by scaling and refining finance strategies, we can reach more people, more affordably, with sustainable energy.

Produced in partnership with the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, Climate Policy Initiative, E3 Analytics and Practical Action Consulting, the series of four reports look at: the amount and type of international and domestic finance flowing to these countries for energy access, including a deep dive on domestic finance flowing in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya; how effectively and quickly that finance is being disbursed for projects; and the finance needs and challenges of solar enterprise and other renewable energy businesses operating in these countries.

It also shone a light on the role of partnerships, with Amadou Hott, Vice-President, Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth from the African Development Bank (AfDB) who authored the report looking at gaps and lags in disbursements, commenting: “we need transformative partnerships between the public and private sector to improve energy access planning and increase investment in the preparation and implementation of energy access projects, including innovative access solutions such as off-grid.”

Read the press release or visit the Energizing Finance page, with an overview on all the reports of the series, here. You can also follow #SDG7Finance for more.

6.  Why Wait? Seizing the energy access dividend

Tangible benefits of accelerating electricity access in developing countries where 1 billion still lack power were made clear in the Why Wait? Seizing the Energy Access Dividend report – urging for much greater use of decentralized renewable energy as a quicker, less costly option.

The report, released at COP23 by SEforALL and Power for All, in partnership with Overseas Development Institute, presented a first-of-its-kind approach to developing a framework for understanding and quantifying the financial, educational and environmental dividends for households through accelerated access to decentralized electricity, such as solar home systems and clean energy mini-grids.

The data shows that rural and vulnerable populations in developing countries could miss out on multiple wide-ranging benefits if they are forced to wait years, or even decades, to get access to electricity through first-ever power from electric grids instead of through quicker to deploy decentralized renewable energy solutions

“Decision makers are faced with competing priorities against finite resources,” SEforALL CEO Rachel Kyte, said in the press release. “Why Wait” provides powerful evidence on the development gains that can be achieved by focusing on integrated energy strategies that advance energy access. Denying those gains by not prioritizing solutions to energy access risks holding back whole generations.”

The full report is available online here, with all our updates on social media under #SDG7Dividend.

7.  A People-Centered approach to energy access

Another new global effort to accelerate ending energy poverty for the most marginalized was launched last month at COP23 by SEforALL and its partners.

The People-Centered Accelerator - a voluntary partnership led initiative that aims to advance social inclusion, gender equality and women’s empowerment in sustainable energy – was announced during Gender Day with over 40 partner organizations from across government, civil society, private sector, finance and non-government organizations.

The Accelerator aims to gain and improve clean energy access for those who will not be reached by business as usual approaches. This work will focus on unlocking finance, both private and public, strengthening collaboration and connections between stakeholders concerned with energy, gender and social justice, and increasing women’s full participation in sustainable energy solutions.

Ajaita Shah, CEO and Founder, Frontier Markets, a founding Accelerator partner that supports clean energy solutions in rural India spoke at the launch: “We must place women at the centre of energy access to achieve deeper, wider impact. Investing in women is crucial not only for economic development, it is the key to productive household change to combat the barriers to energy access, sustainability, and scale.”

The launch side-event at COP was broadcast live on the SEforALL Facebook page, or follow the conversation online using #SDG7AllEqual.


For more updates, follow SEforALL on Twitter here.