2018 in review: Seven SEforALL highlights

By Beth Woodthorpe-Evans, Media Relations Specialist

2018 was another busy year for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and its partners in driving action to meet Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) -- universal and sustainable energy access -- by 2030.

Yet significant challenges remain if we’re to deliver universal energy access at the speed and scale needed to meet SDG7 on time. Just under one billion people globally are still living without electricity and three billion lack access to clean fuels for cooking.

Despite these challenges, data and evidence released by SEforALL and partners throughout the year provided crucial insights on where leaders should focus their efforts, so we can all go further, faster and together in making more progress in 2019.

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


The Sustainable Energy for All Forum took place this year in Lisbon, Portugal, under the theme of “Leaving No One Behind’. The Forum focused on addressing the key challenges in delivering universal energy access to meet SDG7 targets.

Over 800 participants from nearly 100 countries attended the Forum, with 10 Ministerial-level speakers joined by CEO’s, investors and civil society leaders.

Speaking via video in his opening address, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, told delegates: “Far more needs to be done to advance renewable and efficient energy in all sectors. From industries to transportation, from cities to rural areas…Let us invest in the future, not the past.”

To underscore the urgency needed in addressing the energy access gap, the Forum was the launch platform for the new Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report – a global scorecard on energy access progress. The report, which assessed the status of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access to clean cooking and electricity, showed that the world as a whole remains off track to meet 2030 energy targets at the current pace. But there was also progress in countries where political leadership and finance is being prioritized. Read the SEforALL blog on the report here.

At the Forum, SEforALL and Energia, released a new report, Equity, Energy and Economic Empowerment: 6 Global Trends Critical to Closing Gender-Related Energy Access Gaps. A new “Faces of Energy” website with Energia was also launched just ahead of the Forum to provide the first-ever interactive global view on gender and socially inclusive sustainable energy efforts.

SEforALL also signed partnership agreements with Total, the French energy group; Danfoss, a global leader in cooling technologies, and the Islamic Development Bank.

Read our blogs on the Day 1 and Day 2 proceedings in Lisbon.


In July, SEforALL released Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All the first ever report to quantify the risks and opportunities of the global cooling challenge.

Chilling Prospects revealed there are over 1.1 billion people globally who face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling. Cooling access supports the ability of millions to escape poverty, keep children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious, and economies productive. The report highlighted that access to cooling is a fundamental issue of equity.

Closing cooling access gaps is essential for economic growth and development for many countries, and especially vulnerable populations. Findings based on an analysis of 52 vulnerable countries in hot climates showed that nine countries have the biggest populations facing significant cooling risks, and a growing middle class, where limited purchasing options mean they may only be able to afford to buy less expensive and less efficient cooling devices – risking a spike in global energy demand with profound climate impacts. Read the report, including our recommendations, in full here.

In 2019, look out for the launch of the new Cooling for All Secretariat as we continue our work to support sustainable cooling access for all.


The Energizing Finance: Understanding the Landscape 2018 report was released in November. It showed that the finance flows required to close electricity and clean cooking access gaps remains dramatically short of what is needed, threatening to leave the world’s most vulnerable people behind.

This second report in the Energizing Finance series was produced in partnership with Climate Policy Initiative. It analyzes finance flows for electricity and clean cooking access in countries across Africa and Asia with the biggest access gaps. Its findings are meant to enable finance institutions and policymakers to develop and implement sustainable energy strategies that can be scaled and refined to reach more people, more affordably.

$52 billion is needed annually to achieve universal electrification, but finance commitments for electricity in 20 “high-impact” countries, which represent 76% of the global population without electricity access, averaged just $30.2 billion annually.

For the second year in a row, finance tracked for clean cooking revealed a deeply confronting challenge: commitments tracked in the 20 countries that represent 81% of the global population without access actually decreased 5% to an average of just $30 million, compared to the estimated annual investment needed of at least $4.4billion.

One of the concerns to emerge from the report was finance for coal-powered energy is increasing. In the countries tracked, annual commitments for coal plants almost tripled, growing from $2.8 billion to $6.8 billion. The potential impact of this increase poses a clear challenge to climate goals, the air we all breathe and the ability to bring energy to those that need it, at the speed promised.

“The good news is that renewables offer us a powerful opportunity to provide reliable and affordable clean electricity both through the grid and off-grid,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.

Read the report in full, and watch Rachel Kyte on CNBC Africa.


This year’s UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development included the first formal review on progress towards SDG7 goals by 2030.

Joined by heads of state, government ministers, business leaders and energy entrepreneurs, SEforALL hosted an in-depth discussion at the HLPF, co-sponsored by the governments of Ethiopia, Senegal and the United Kingdom, to support this formal review and discussions at the United Nations.

The event, “SDG7: Leaving No One Behind,” featured speakers who discussed challenges and shared success stories in delivering affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to vulnerable populations living in developing regions.

Speaking at the event, Sweden’s Environment Minister, Karolina Skog, called for a global energy system “based on a combination of renewable energy sources, decentralized and small-scale solutions, increased grid distribution capacity and energy efficiency measures.” She also emphasized “equal access to energy between men and women and promoting women’s participation and leadership in the energy sector.”

Senior government officials from Togo, Saint Lucia and Palau, business and philanthropy representatives also joined the event and discussed their efforts to achieve universal energy access goals.

Read our HLPF recap here.


Seven global leaders in the sustainable energy movement were honored in July at Seven for 7, a celebration by SEforALL and Ashden to recognize individuals who are leading and driving action on SDG7. While data indicates progress in closing energy access gaps is not on track, Seven for 7 highlighted there are many examples of success that, if replicated at speed and scale, will help deliver SDG7 on time.

Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, gave a keynote address. "The solutions for Sustainable Development Goal 7 are so close, yet so far. We don't have time to waste and this is another opportunity to make that clarion call to start the movement at scale."

The honorees came from India, Tajikistan, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Europe and the United States, and represented various sectors including finance, government, business and entrepreneurs.

For a recap on all the winners, read our news article here.


SEforALL participated in the 2018 United Nations climate change summit, COP24, which took place in Katowice, Poland in December. The COP closed with a set of implementing guidelines for the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, aimed at keeping global warming well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

During the COP, SEforALL hosted a side-event to highlight the latest findings from the Energizing Finance: Understanding the Landscape report. Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy (SRSG), led energy-related dialogues and participated in a number of key events, including moderating the formal COP24 stock-take on Pre-2020 implementation and ambition. The role of ambition will play a major role next year in supporting climate action. To help this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, to engage Governments at the highest levels.

Watch Rachel Kyte share her reasons for stepping up to delivering an energy transition for all in her video with our partners, Connect4Climate.


SEforALL participated in two major sustainable energy events in Africa in 2018.

In March, the three-day Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa in Kigali, Rwanda focused on actions needed to advance sustainable energy development, the investment needs of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and urban energy challenges.

In November, the ECOWAS Sustainable Energy Forum was held in Dakar, Senegal under the theme “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in West Africa: from Plans to Action.” The event brought together businesses, policy makers, international organizations and entrepreneurs to discuss concrete action and promotion of sustainable energy in West Africa. SEforALL formally launched the Energizing Finance report at the event.

On the sideline of the event, the SEforALL conducted the first meeting of the Electrification Accelerator program that brought together representatives from partners within the SEforALL network to develop plans to support faster progress in overcoming electrification challenges, predominantly in Africa. More details on this project will be released in early 2019.


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