Energy access goals need greater effort in post-COVID-19 world: Report

Report calls SDG 7 progress of last few years regarding access to electricity insufficient; says pandemic will make things worse

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 29 May 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the already slow progress of work on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) No.7 — affordable and clean energy — according to a recent report.
The report Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report was released by the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. The United Nations-mandated SDG 7 is aimed at ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

The pandemic has hit the world hard, resulting in plummeting oil prices, disrupted supply chains and the limited ability of many households and businesses to pay for electricity services, according to the report. It added that the pandemic is certain to affect the energy transition and progress toward SDG 7.

Calling the progress of the last few years regarding access to electricity “insufficient”, the report said the pandemic could make things worse.

According to the report, the global electrification rate progressed steadily from 2010 to 2018, rising to 90 per cent of the world’s population in 2018 from 83 per cent in 2010.

But the effort made since 2016 has not been sufficient, the report said. Between 2016 and 2018, electrification grew by just 0.82 percentage points per year.

However, it is believed that to achieve the target of universal access of electricity by 2030, the world needed to do electrification with an increase of 0.87 percentage points a year. This was required to be done before COVID-19 era, the report stated.

In 2018, India was among top three countries with largest deficits regarding access to electricity. Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and India had the three largest deficits: 85 million, 68 million and 64 million people respectively.

The 20 countries with largest access deficit, 2010-2018. Source: Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report

The world is also lagging in providing access to clean cooking. Around three billion people didn’t have the access to clean cooking options in 2017, according to the report.

The share of the global population with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking increased to 63 per cent in 2018 from 56 per cent in 2010. It translated into around 2.8 billion people without access to clean cooking option.

But this number has been largely unchanged over the past two decades, the report said, adding that it was because population growth outpaced the number of people gaining access to clean cooking solutions.

The world needed progress with three percentage points to achieve the goal of universal access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking since 2010, the report said. But it progressed at an annualised average of just 0.8 percentage points.

The latest data on SDG 7 progress, before the onset of the pandemic, demonstrated that there was a need to accelerate efforts towards targets at urgent basis. COVID-19 has only made the situation worse, the report said.

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