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COVID-19 Intensifies the Urgency to Expand Sustainable Energy Solutions Worldwide

According to the new Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report released today by 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), significant progress had been made on various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes a notable reduction in the number of people worldwide lacking access to electricity, strong uptake of renewable energy for electricity generation, and improvements in energy efficiency. Despite accelerated progress over the past decade, however, the world will fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030 unless efforts are scaled up significantly.

The annual SDG 7 tracking report includes the official dashboard of global, regional, and national progress on four key energy targets: 

7.1:  Ensuring universal access to electricity and clean cooking solutions
7.2:  Substantially increasing the share of renewable energy
7.3:  Doubling progress on energy efficiency
7.A: Increasing international collaboration in support of clean and renewable energy

The preparatory process of the 2020 edition--6th edition of this report--was chaired by IRENA. This year's edition introduces tracking for a new indicator, 7.A.1, on international financial flows to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy.

Key Findings

  • Access to electricity: Since 2010, more than a billion people have gained access to electricity, connecting 90% of the planet’s population in 2018 as a result. Yet 789 million people still live without electricity, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Clean cooking: Almost 3 billion people remained without access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking, residing mainly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the 2010 to 2018 period, progress has remained largely stagnant, with the rate of population growth outpacing increase in access to clean cooking since 2012 in some countries.  
  • Renewable energy: The share of renewables in the global energy mix reached 17.3% of final energy consumption in 2017, up from 16.3% in 2010. Renewables consumption (+2.5 percent in 2017) is growing faster than global energy consumption (+1.8 percent in 2017), continuing a trend in evidence since 2011. While renewables have seen an unprecedented uptake in the electricity sector over the last decade, the use of renewables in heating and transport sectors is lagging far behind potential.  
  • Energy efficiency: Global primary energy intensity improved by 1.7% in 2017. That is better than the 1.3% average rate of progress between 1990 and 2010, but still well below the original target rate of 2.6%, and a marked slowdown from the previous two years. 
  • International financial flows: International public financial flows to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy doubled since 2010, reaching $21.4 billion in 2017. These flows mask important disparities with only 12% of flows in 2017 reaching those most in need (least developed countries and small island developing states). Enhanced international cooperation is essential to bridge the gap

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