Five key takeaways from the new Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report
Despite the importance of reliable, affordable and clean energy for the achievement of all development goals and climate ambition, the world is falling short on meeting UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 - ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, according to a new report released today.
The latest Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report shows global, regional and country progress on the three SDG7 targets of access to electricity and clean cooking, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The report reveals electricity access is up from last year’s report, with 89% of people around the world now connected to some level of electricity. However, this means 840 million people in the world still do not have access, and 573 million of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The number of people who do not have access to clean cooking has barely moved since the SDGs were agreed in 2015, or in the two decades before, with almost 3 billion people without clean cooking solutions - 2 in every 5 people on the planet.
In this time of climate emergency, the incremental progress on the rate of improvement of energy efficiency, slower than that which is needed, means the cheapest way to reduce global warming emissions is still not at the heart of countries’ development plans.
Speaking on the release of the report, Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), said: “This Tracking SDG7 report shows incremental progress. This means that despite this extraordinary moment in our history, when we are able to affordably capture earth’s abundant renewable energy, we are yet to be able to ensure access to energy for everyone. Without affordable, reliable and clean energy we cannot meet people’s rights and expectations of a dignified, safe and prosperous life. This is a huge challenge for today and we have to do better.”
“The report shows us that we’re not only off track, but the urgency to address these challenges is still missing. At a time when climate change impacts are already being felt, especially by the most vulnerable, and with action being demanded by school children on the streets, we have to double down on lowering the energy intensity of our economies, fast. Today, we are running to stand still.”
“Each year, the tracking report reveals a stubbornly consistent and shameful number - 3 billion people lack access to clean cooking. We need to push a reset button on efforts around clean cooking. We need solutions at scale for affordable clean fuels for a market of 3 billion people with women at the core of the customer base. Invest in these women and they will ensure that we have clean air, healthy children, slowing rates of deforestation and resilience to climate impacts. Too long a silent problem, we cannot look away now during a climate emergency and health crisis.”
The five key points from the 2019 report:
- Access to electricity is growing, but not fast enough: More than 150 million people gained access to electricity since last year’s report, but that still leaves 840 million without access, down from just under a billion in 2016 and 1.2 billion in 2010. Countries who have made significant progress are countries who have made access a political priority – including putting a greater focus on integrated electrification planning and embracing both on-grid and off-grid solutions. Access must also be productive access, which is energy that allows people to contribute to the local economy, have access to adequate healthcare, and enough power to enable education – far more than just lighting.
- We need a reset moment on clean cooking: 2.9 billion people remain without access to clean cooking as of 2017, residing mainly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This inaction condemns a new generation of women and children to indoor air pollution, threatens significant deforestation, and stalls the growth of economies because of public health and environmental impacts. A growing challenge is how we accelerate the annual increase of people gaining access to outpace population growth, particularly in rapidly-growing Africa.
- Energy efficiency is becoming more inefficient: Progress on efficiency is also slowing. This is particularly frustrating given efficiency remains our cheapest, easiest step to decarbonize the global economy, clean the air we breathe and expand energy access. Data shows the largest energy intensive economies are seeing improvements in energy intensity slowing or even come to a standstill, and more concerning is that some countries are moving backwards.
- The renewable revolution needs to be revitalized: Renewable energy is key to closing access gaps, especially for those remote communities the grid will not reach. Yet, the renewable revolution appears to be slowing down at a time when it needs to speed up. Modern renewables are not growing fast enough, despite the clear business case, available technology, and future generations demanding more loudly clean energy solutions to address the climate emergency. To meet SDG7, we need a substantial increase in the share of renewables across the three end uses of electricity, transport and heat.
- We cannot leave Africa behind: The African continent is home to several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and is a market of opportunity. Yet, this new data shows a growing risk of the region being left behind in both electrification and clean cooking access, jeopardizing its economic potential and prosperity. One out of two people in Sub-Saharan Africa – 573 million people – still do not have access to electricity – a number that has even gone up since the last report. Population growth continues to outpace annual growth in access to clean cooking, resulting in a growing number of people without access – risking Sub-Saharan Africa getting further and further behind in closing this gap.
This is the fifth edition of the report, formerly known as the Global Tracking Framework (GTF). The 2019 Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report is produced 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).
SEforALL will be producing a series of in-depth blogs on the report, looking at the findings on electrification access, clean cooking access, renewable energy and energy efficiency in more detail.