The world continues to advance towards sustainable energy targets. Nevertheless, the current pace of progress is insufficient to achieve Goal 7 by 2030. Improvements in energy efficiency, for example, will need to accelerate to reach the climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hundreds of millions of people still lack access to electricity, and slow progress towards clean cooking solutions means that the health of 2.4 billion people is at risk. Huge disparities in access to modern sustainable energy persist, leaving the most vulnerable even further behind. In some countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened or reversed advances already made. Rising commodity, energy and shipping prices have increased the cost of producing and transporting solar photovoltaics modules, wind turbines and biofuels worldwide, adding uncertainty to a development trajectory that is already far below Goal 7 ambitions. Achieving energy and climate goals will require continued policy support and a massive mobilization of public and private capital for clean and renewable energy, especially in developing countries.
Progress in electrification has slowed, with the challenge of reaching those hardest to reach
The global electricity access rate increased from 83 per cent in 2010 to 91 per cent in 2020. Over this period, the number of people without electricity shrank from 1.2 billion to 733 million. However, the pace of progress has slowed in recent years, due to COVID-19 and the increasing complexity of reaching those hardest to reach. In 2018–2020, the electricity access rate rose by an average of 0.5 percentage points annually compared to 0.8 percentage points in 2010–2018.
In 2020, over three quarters (77 per cent) of the global population without electricity lived in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in rural areas. Due to economic pressures imposed by the pandemic, up to 90 million people connected to electricity in Africa and developing countries in Asia could not afford to have an extended bundle of services that year. If current trends continue, only 92 per cent of the world’s population will have access to electricity in 2030, leaving 670 million people unserved. A major push is needed to reach those living in least developed and in fragile and conflict-affected countries.
Proportion of population with access to electricity, 2010 and 2020 (percentage)
* Excluding Australia and New Zealand.
Intensified efforts are needed in least developed countries to jump-start access to clean cooking fuels and technologies
Between 2010 and 2020, the proportion of people with access to clean cooking fuels and technologies increased by 12 percentage points, reaching 69 per cent. This means that an estimated 2.4 billion people still relied on inefficient and polluting cooking systems in 2020. Much of the progress was concentrated in five countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Excluding those countries, the global access rate remained unchanged over this period. While more than half of those without access live in Asia, 19 of the 20 countries with the lowest proportion of the population with access were LDCs in Africa. If current trends continue, only 76 per cent of the global population will have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies by 2030. The adoption of clean cooking solutions can reduce health risks from household air pollution, support a green and healthy recovery and fuel economic growth in low- and middle-income countries.
Share of population with access to clean cooking systems, 2020 (percentage)
Note: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
Meeting global energy and climate objectives will require a major push in the deployment of renewables, with massive finance mobilization
The share of renewables in total final energy consumption reached 17.7 per cent in 2019, 1.6 percentage points higher than in 2010. However, total renewable energy consumption increased by a quarter over this period. The electricity sector continues to see the fastest progress: the share of renewables in that sector increased from 19.7 per cent in 2010 to 26.2 per cent in 2019. That said, the electricity sector represented only a fifth of global final energy consumption in 2019. The heat sector represents half of this global consumption, but progress there was negligible: the share of modern renewables totalled 10.1 per cent in 2019, a gain of less than 2 percentage points from 2010. Renewable energy used in transport reached 3.6 per cent in 2019, up from 2.6 per cent in 2010. Traditional uses of biomass – such as the burning of wood for heat – remained stable, still representing more than a third of total renewable energy use in 2019. Effective climate action will require
strengthening policy support in all sectors and implementing effective tools to further mobilize private capital, particularly for developing countries.
Share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption and by end use, 2010 and 2019 (percentage)
The target for global energy efficiency remains within reach, but only with significant investment on a systematic scale
Improving energy efficiency is fundamental to meeting global climate goals. The 2030 target calls for an annual improvement in energy intensity of 2.6 per cent, a doubling of the rate observed between 1990 and 2010. Global primary energy intensity – defined as the ratio of total energy supply to GDP – improved from 5.6 megajoules per US dollar (2017 purchasing power parity) in 2010 to 4.7 in 2019, with an average annual improvement rate of 1.9 per cent. To meet the Coal 7 target, and make up for lost time, energy intensity improvements until 2030 will need to average 3.2 per cent a year. The target remains within reach, but only with significant investment in cost-effective energy efficiency improvements on a systematic scale. Regional progress varies due to differences in economic structure, energy supply and electrification. The only region that has reached the target so far is Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, with an annual average rate of 2.7 per cent in 2010–2019, driven by strong economic growth.
Average annual growth rate of primary energy intensity, 1990–2010 and 2010–2019 (percentage)
*Excluding Australia and New Zealand
International public financing for renewable energy had already slowed before the pandemic, despite the growing urgency of climate change
International public financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy decreased for the second year in a row. They amounted to $10.9 billion in 2019, down by nearly 24 per cent from the previous year. The five-year moving average also decreased for the first time since 2008, from $17.5 billion in 2014–2018 to $16.6 billion in 2015–2019. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may mean another drop in 2020.
Loans captured over 52 per cent of commitments in 2019. Grants comprised almost 17 per cent, signalling an increase in debt-free instruments to support developing countries. Another up-and-coming instrument is shares in collective investment vehicles, such as investment funds, which grew to $191 million in 2019, up by 91 per cent from 2018. LDCs received 25.2 per cent of commitments in 2019 compared with 21 per cent in 2018, but the amount decreased from $3.0 billion to $2.7 billion.
International financial flows to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy, by type of technology, 2000–2019 (billions of US dollars at 2019 prices and exchange rates)