Tardy progress of reliable energy a cause for alarm

568 million people in Africa have no access to electricity

By Sudeep Sonawane
June 10, 2022.

Custodians of Sustainable Development Goals [7] last week urged policymakers to safeguard gains and “remain committed to working towards affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all”.
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] jointly released The 2022 edition of Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report.
World not on track
The joint report summarises the world’s achievements to provide universal access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy by 2030 to all. The report sounds pessimistic on the rate of progress. “The world is still not on track to achieve the SDG 7 goals by 2030. Progress is slow in the most vulnerable countries,” report authors say.
They point to disruptions caused by the pandemic over the last three years for the tardy progress. “Not only is the world not on track to reach SDG 7 under current and planned policies, some targets are even farther away than they were”.
The Covid-19 pandemic remains a major cause in slowing progress towards universal energy access. Globally, 733 million people still have no access to electricity, and 2.4 billion people still cook using fuels damaging to their health and the environment. At the current rate of progress, 670 million people will remain without electricity by 2030 – 10 million more than projected last year.
The report shows the impacts of the pandemic, lockdowns, disruptions to global supply chains, and diversion of fiscal resources to keep food and fuel prices affordable, have affected the pace of progress towards SDG 7.
The Russia-Ukraine War further accentuates the impact of the pandemic on global energy, report authors say. Nearly 90 million people in Asia and Africa who previously gained access to electricity can no longer afford to pay for their basic energy needs.
Sub-Saharan Africa lags
Africa remains the least electrified region in the world with 568 million people without electricity access. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without electricity jumped to 77 per cent in 2020 from 71pc in 2018 whereas most other regions saw declines in their share of the access shortages.
While 70 million people globally gained access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, this progress was not enough to keep pace with population growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the supply chain disruptions inflicted by the pandemic on global trade and business, there was growth in renewable energy, the report says. These positive trends in renewable energy left behind many countries that chronically need electricity. A drop [US $10.9 billion in 2019] in global financial flows for the second consecutive year, further hampers the work.
Sustainable goals include energy efficiency targets. From 2010 to 2019, global annual improvements in energy intensity averaged around 1.9pc. This is well below the levels needed to meet targets. To catch up with lost ground, the average rate of improvement would have to jump to 3.2pc.
To add impetus to energy access to all task, last year a United Nations panel on energy assembled governments and stakeholders to speed up action to achieve a sustainable energy future.
SDG7 is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals set up by the UN General Assembly in 2015. It aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

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