Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is crucial to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals – from poverty eradication via advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialization to mitigating climate change. Energy access, however, varies widely across countries and the current rate of progress falls short of what will be required to achieve the Goal. Redoubled efforts will be needed, particularly for countries with large energy access deficits and high energy consumption.

An increasing proportion of the population have gained access to electricity, but 1.1 billion people still live without it

The proportion of the global population with access to electricity increased steadily, from 79 per cent in 2000 to 85 per cent in 2012. Recent progress was driven largely by advancements in Southern Asia, South-Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Despite these improvements, 1.1 billion people are still without this essential service. In particular, over 65 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are living without electricity. Of those gaining access to electricity worldwide since 2010, the vast majority (80 per cent) are urban dwellers.

Proportion of the population with access to electricity by region, 2000 and 2012 (percentage)

More than 40 per cent of the world’s people still rely on polluting and unhealthy fuels for cooking

From 2005 to 2014, the proportion of the global population with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking, such as gas and lectricity, increased from 54 per cent to 58 per cent. Advancements have been slow in some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where access remains very low. Limited progress since 2010 falls substantially short of global population growth and is almost exclusively confined to urban areas. As a result, the absolute number of people relying on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking has actually increased, reaching an estimated 3 billion people.

Proportion of the population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technologies for cooking, 2005 and 2014 (percentage)

Use of renewable energy is growing only modestly, but modern renewables comprise a large and expanding share

The share of renewable energy—derived from hydropower, solid and liquid biofuels, the wind, sun, biogas, geothermal and marine sources, and waste—in the world’s total final energy consumption increased marginally, from 17.4 per cent in 2000 to 18.1 per cent in 2012. However, modern renewables, which exclude solid biofuels, grew at a rate of 4 per cent a year between 2010 and 2012. The contribution of renewables to the electricity sector has been growing significantly. Modern renewables accounted for 60 per cent of all new power-generating capacity in 2014. In absolute terms, about 72 per cent of the increase in energy consumption from modern renewable sources between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, mostly Eastern Asia.

Renewable energy share in total final energy consumption, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2012 (percentage)

Global economic growth is being decoupled from energy use, but not quickly enough

Energy intensity—calculated by dividing total primary energy supply by GDP—reveals how much energy is used to produce one unit of economic output. Global energy intensity improved by 1.3 per cent per year from 2000 to 2012, falling from 6.7 megajoules per unit of GDP (2011 US dollars PPP) in 2000 to 5.7 in 2012. A contributing factor was the proportion of energy use covered by mandatory energy efficiency regulation, which almost doubled in the last decade (from 14 per cent in 2005 to 27 per cent in 2014). Still, progress is proceeding at only two-thirds of the pace needed to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. Among end-use sectors, industry was the largest contributor to reduced energy intensity, followed closely by transportation. About 68 per cent of the savings in energy intensity between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, with Eastern Asia as the largest contributor.

Energy intensity measured in terms of primary energy and gross domestic product, 2000 and 2012 (megajoules per 2011 US dollars PPP)