For 759 Million People, Power Still a Distant Dream

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In recent years, the world saw much progress in electricity but 759 million people still live without power with about half of them living in fragile and conflict affected settings, according to a recent report.

Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report noted that the SDG target of universal access by 2030 was unlikely to be met with COVID-19 pandemic seriously disrupting electrification efforts. The International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), World Bank, and World Health Organization (WHO) jointly brought out the report.

The report points out that more than one billion people had access to electricity over the last decade. However, COVID 19 made basic electricity services unaffordable for 30 million more people, the report stated. It said that majority of people in Africa, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia had the biggest electricity access deficits.


Meanwhile, International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol stressed the need to mobilise and scale up investment to ensure that energy access progress continues in developing economies. He mentioned that an amount of 40 billion dollars was need annually for providing electricity access and clean cooking solutions to people who are deprived of them.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General Francesco La Camera noted that renewable energy was reliable, cost-effective and resilient during the pandemic. The progress towards achieving climate objectives and SDG7 needs to move with accelerated pace and equitable manner, Francesco La Camera said.

The report clearly shows regional disparities and the access deficit is particularly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa. This region accounts for three-quarters of the global deficit. The report also mentioned that Latin America, the Caribbean, South Eastern Asia and Eastern Asia are fast approaching universal access. This means 98 percent of their population are having access to electricity.


The Energy progress report said that 66 per cent of the global population had no access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in 2019. This meant that about three billion people or one-third of the global population had no access. Since 2010, the global access rate to clean cooking solutions grew annually by one percent. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most deficit region. Here, about 900 million people or around 85 percent of the population lacked clean cooking access. The region accounted for 35 per cent of the global deficit.

The report calls for rapid action to scale up clean cooking. If not, the world will fall short of the universal access target by almost 30 percent, the report said. Of the top 20 countries with greatest number of people lacking access to clean fuel and technologies for cooking, ten are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, six in Eastern Asia and South-eastern Asia and four in Central Asia and Southern Asia. The Energy progress report also mentioned that China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan increased their combined access rate by 2 percent during 2010-2019. However, the progress in low- and middle-income countries remained unchanged during the period.

Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank Mari Pangestu opined that addressing energy access and climate change required an inclusive energy transition.


The report stated that COVID-19 pandemic led to an estimated 7 percent year-on-year expansion of renewable electricity Generation. In contrast, renewable energy share for transport and heat declined in 2020. The report stated that coal, gas and oil still met three-quarters of global heat demand. The authors called for greater ambition and stronger policy support.


The report mentioned that Global primary energy intensity (indicator of how heavily the world’s economic activity uses energy) – improved by 1.1 percent in 2018. This was the lowest average annual rate of improvement since 2010. The annual improvement until 2030 will now need to average 3 percent to meet SDG 7 goal. Central, Southern, Eastern and Southeastern Asia regions saw a rapid increase in economic activity, the report mentioned. Energy intensity in South-east Asia grew 3.1 percent between 2010 and 2018. Western Asia, Northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean (0.8 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (1.4 percent) saw the lowest rates of energy intensity.


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