Sustainable energy for all – how are we doing?

Sustained action will be needed to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030.
Published: Mon 11 Jul 2016

A key preoccupation of the global energy sector, alongside the energy transformation, is the attainment of energy services for the approximately 1.1 billion people currently without access.

Initiated through the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative and now embodied as Sustainable Development Goal 7 (one of 17 SDGs), the goal is to achieve universal access by 2030. In addition, SDG7 goals include substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency. [Engerati-Towards Sustainable Energy For All By 2030]

Towards universal access

According to the first progress report towards the SDGs, the proportion of the global population with access to electricity has increased steadily, from 79% in 2000 to almost 85% in 2012. But still 1.1 billion people remain without access.

The recent global progress in this area has been driven largely by Asia, where access is expanding at more than twice the pace of demographic growth. Of those gaining access to electricity since 2010, 80% are urban dwellers. However, access still remains low in Oceania (28.7% in 2012) and in sub-Saharan Africa (35.3%).

The proportion of the population with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking also increased, from 51% in 2000 to 58% in 2014, although the progress has been limited since 2010. Nevertheless, the absolute number of people relying on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, such as solid fuels and kerosene, has actually increased, reaching an estimated three billion people. The limited progress since 2010 falls substantially short of global population growth and is almost exclusively confined to urban areas.

Increasing the share of renewable energy

The share of renewable energy (including hydropower) in the world’s total final energy consumption has increased slowly, from 17.4% in 2000 to 18.1% in 2012. Nevertheless, modern renewable energy consumption, which excludes solid biofuels used for traditional purposes, grew rapidly, at a rate of 4% a year between 2010 and 2012, and accounted for 60% of all new power generating capacity in 2014.

In absolute terms, about 72% of the increase in energy consumption from modern renewable sources between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, mostly from Eastern Asia.

The technologies making the largest contribution have been hydropower, wind and solar energy; together they account for 73% of the total increase in modern renewable energy between 2010 and 2012.

Doubling energy efficiency

Energy intensity, defined as total primary energy supply divided by GDP, indicates the amount of energy that is used to produce one unit of economic output. Globally, energy intensity decreased by 1.7% per year from 2010 to 2012. This compares with a decrease of 1.2% per year over the period from 1990 to 2010. As a result, global energy intensity, which stood at 6.7mj/US$ purchasing power parity in 2000 fell to 5.7 by 2012.

The proportion of the world’s energy use covered by mandatory energy efficiency regulation, which has almost doubled over the past decade, from 14% in 2005 to 27% in 2014, was a factor. Still, current progress is only about two thirds of the pace needed to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

Among end-use sectors, industry was the largest contributor to reduced energy intensity, followed closely by transportation. About two-thirds of the savings in energy intensity between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, with Eastern Asia as the largest contributor.

Going further, faster

The report notes the substantial data gathering and analysis requirements for monitoring progress with the SDGs and also that the indicators are still being refined. While as yet there is no data on targets for SDG7, it is clear that there is no room for complacency and that sustained high level of effort will be necessary if the goals are to be achieved.

In order to drive action for SDG7, SE4All last month launched a 5-year strategy, titled ‘Going Further, Faster’. The organization is currently developing ‘heat maps’ to help focus resources where they can have most impact.

Under the strategy, SE4All will work to mobilise the investment needed to achieve the objectives, estimated to be at least US$1 trillion annually – a tripling of current flows. [Engerati-Sustainable Energy For All Requires $1trn Annually] A pipeline of bankable projects will be developed, as will an enabling policy climate, ways to address investor risk and financing approaches that can unlock the right type of capital at the right time.

Other key points of the strategy include:

• Catalysing action on energy access through both grid connections and decentralised solutions

• Encouraging governments to take an ‘energy efficiency first’ approach in policy planning

• Helping leaders to scale up renewable energy by leveraging the work of partners and celebrating success stories

• Helping leaders to make the right choices on energy policy and action.

SE4All proposes to take an inclusive, people-centred approach, ensuring that the voices of the energy poor are heard. It also will provide a space where new partnerships can be created and solutions explored.

Further reading

UN: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

UN: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Statistical Annex

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