NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: Global Access To Electricity Growing Slowly


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    Monday, June 10, 2019

    TODAY’S STUDY: Global Access To Electricity Growing Slowly

    2019 Tracking; The Energy Progress Report On The Sustainable Development Goal

    May 2019 (IEA-IRENA-UN-World Bank-World Health Organization)

    Executive Summary


    According to the latest data, the world is making progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), but will fall short of meeting the targets by 2030 at the current rate of ambition. The SDG Target 7.1 is to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services (7.1.1 focuses on the proportion of the population with access to electricity and 7.1.2, on the proportion relying primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking). Target 7.2 is to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Target 7.3 is to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

    In recent years, pronounced progress in expanding access to electricity was made in several countries, notably India, Bangladesh, and Kenya. As a result, the global population without access to electricity decreased to about 840 million in 2017 from 1.2 billion in 2010 (figure ES1). Those still lacking access are increasingly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Meanwhile, the population without access to clean cooking solutions totaled almost 3 billion in 2016 and was distributed across both Asia and Africa. The widespread use of polluting fuels and technologies for cooking continues to pose serious health and socioeconomic concerns.

    Renewable energy accounted for 17.5% of global total energy consumption in 2016. The use of renewables (i.e., sources of renewable energy) to generate electricity increased rapidly, but less headway was made in heat and transport. A substantial further increase of renewable energy is needed for energy systems to become affordable, reliable, sustainable, focusing on modern uses.

    Finally, with respect to energy efficiency, global primary energy intensity was 5.1 megajoules per U.S. dollar (MJ/USD) (2011 purchasing power parity) in 2016. Energy efficiency improvements have increased steadily in recent years, thanks to concerted policy efforts in major economies, including China. However, the global rate of improvement in primary energy intensity still lags behind SDG target 7.3, and estimates suggest that improvements slowed in 2017 and 2018.

    Additional effort will be essential in ensuring progress toward not only SDG 7 but also the broader Sustainable Development Agenda. In particular, SDG 7 and climate mitigation (SDG 13) are closely related and complementary. According to scenarios put forward by both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), energy sector investment related to all SDG 7 targets will need to more than double in order to achieve these goals. Between 2018 and 2030, annual average investment will need to reach approximately $55 billion to expand energy access, about $700 billion to increase renewable energy, and $600 billion to improve energy efficiency.

    This report identifies best practices that have proven successful in recent years, as well as key approaches that policy makers may deploy in coming years. Recommendations applicable to all SDG 7 targets include recognizing the importance of political commitment and long-term energy planning, stepping up private financing, and supplying adequate incentives for the deployment of clean technology options. The following sections review progress in electricity access, access to clean cooking solutions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.


    Thanks to significant efforts across the developing world, the global electrification rate reached 89% in 2017 (from 83% in 2010), still leaving about 840 million people without access. The progress amounts to an average annual electrification rate of 0.8 percentage points, and newly gained access for more than 920 million people since 2010.

    The electrification trend began to accelerate in 2015. An additional 153 million people were electrified yearly between 2015 and 2017, at an annual rate of more than 1 percentage point. However, the momentum remained uneven across regions; difficult-to-reach populations, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many remain without access.

    Electrification efforts have been particularly successful in Central and Southern Asia, where 91% of the population had access to electricity in 2017 (figure ES2)1 . Access rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Eastern and Southeastern Asia, climbed to 98% in 2017. Among the 20 countries with the largest populations lacking access to electricity, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Myanmar made the most significant progress since 2010.

    Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the largest access deficit: here, 573 million people—more than one in two—lack access to electricity. The region is also home to the 20 countries with the lowest electrification rates (figure ES3). Burundi, Chad, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger were the four countries with the lowest electrification rates in 2017.

    Progress in electrifying inner cities has been slow, and most informal settlements are still supplied through fragile distribution networks. The rural access rate of 79% in 2017 was lower than the urban access rate of 97%. To reach remote areas, off-grid solutions are essential; these include solar lighting systems, solar home systems, and—increasingly—mini-grids.

    SDG target 7.1 calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services. Reliability and affordability remain challenging elements in many countries, even as the number of household connections increases. In 2017, one-third of access-deficit countries faced more than one weekly disruption in electricity supply that lasted over four minutes. A basic, subsistence level of electricity consumption (30 kilowatt-hours per month) was unaffordable for 40% of households in about half of these countries. Access also has a gender dimension. In key access-deficit countries analyzed under the World Bank’s Multi-Tier Framework for Energy, found significant variability in household access rates based on gender of head of household.

    If the rate of progress in expanding access to electricity remained at the same level as that between 2015 and 2017, universal access could be reached by 2030. However, connecting the last of the unserved populations may be more challenging than past electrification efforts, since many such populations live in remote locales or overburdened cities. A projected 650 million people are likely to remain without access to electricity in 2030, and 9 out of 10 such people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Key strategies for closing this gap will include data-based decision-making and advanced policy-planning frameworks, private sector financing, versatile solutions that include decentralized renewables, and efforts to both extend rural electrification and cope with urban densification.


    The share of the global population with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking increased from 57% [51, 62] in 2010 to 61% [54, 67] in 2017. However, because population growth is outpacing annual growth in access, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, the population without access to clean cooking remains just under 3 billion (figure ES4).

    Between 2010 and 2017, the percentage of the population relying on clean cooking solutions grew by an annual average of 0.5 percentage points [-0.5, 1.6]2 , though annual progress slowed in 2008. During this period, global improvements were driven by gains in the regions of Central and Southern Asia and Eastern and Southeastern Asia, which posted average annual increases of 1.2 and 0.9 percentage points, respectively. To reach universal clean cooking targets by 2030 and outpace population growth, the annual average increase in access must rise to 3 percentage points, from the rate of 0.5 percentage points observed between 2010 and 2017…


    In 2016, the share of renewables in total final energy consumption increased at the fastest rate since 2012 and reached almost 17.5%. Renewables are essential in the drive towards universal access to affordable, sustainable, reliable and modern energy, except for the traditional uses of biomass (e.g. for cooking) which is linked to significant negative health impacts. In 2016, the share of modern renewables (that is, excluding these traditional uses of bioenergy) in total energy consumption reached 10.2%, up from 8.6% in 2010, while the share of traditional uses of biomass declined to 7.3% from 7.9%.

    Of the three end uses of renewables—electricity, heat, and transport—the use of renewables grew fastest with respect to electricity (figure ES7), driven by the rapid expansion of wind and solar technologies.

    The share of renewables in electricity consumption increased by 1 percentage point to 24% in 2016. This was the fastest growth since 1990, more than double that of 2015. It was driven by three key developments: (i) drought recovery in Latin America and an associated increase in hydropower generation, (ii) China’s record-level wind capacity additions in 2015, which became fully operational in 2016, and (iii) rapid expansion of solar capacity in China and the United States. Hydropower remains the largest source of renewable electricity, accounting for 68% in 2016. It is followed by wind, bioenergy, solar, and geothermal.

    The share of renewables in heat remains the highest among the three end uses. That share surpassed 24% in 2016, an increase of 0.5% year on year. However, most of the share reflects traditional uses of biomass. Only 9% of heat was generated from modern renewables in 2016.

    The share of renewable energy in transport remains lowest: it increased by 0.1% year on year to reach 3.3% in 2016. Biofuels constitute the majority of renewable energy used for transport in the United States, Brazil, and the European Union. Electricity generated from renewable sources also grew, linked to rail and the rapid increase of electric vehicles.

    The top 20 energy-consuming countries in 2016 were responsible for three-quarters of global energy demand and two-thirds of global renewable energy consumption. In the six countries where consumption of renewables was above the global average, the trend was led by traditional uses of biomass (in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan), modern biomass (in Brazil), or hydropower (Canada).

    Strong policy support and the increasing cost-competitiveness of solar photovoltaic and wind technologies are projected to bolster the deployment of renewable electricity across all regions. However, according to long-term scenarios developed by both IEA and IRENA, global renewable energy consumption needs to accelerate substantially to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

    Despite remarkable progress over the past decade, renewables still face persistent financial, regulatory, and sometimes technological barriers. Policies have focused on renewable electricity so far, and fewer countries have implemented policies for renewables use for heating and transport. To foster an enabling environment, it is important that various policies work in tandem to integrate renewables into energy systems and directly support their deployment in all end uses. To ensure that the renewables-based energy transition is inclusive in all respects, gender considerations need to be mainstreamed in energy sector policies, education and training programmes, and private sector practices.


    Rates of improvement in global primary energy intensity—defined as the percentage drop in global total primary energy supply per unit of gross domestic product—were more sustained in 2010-2016 (falling by more than 10%) than they had been in 1990-2010 (figure ES8). Global primary energy intensity was 5.1 MJ/USD (2011 US dollar at purchasing power parity) in 2016, a 2.5% improvement from 2015. Yet this lags behind the annual rate of improvement to 2030 targeted by SDG 7.3, which now exceeds 2.7% and it is estimated that further declines in the rate of improvement have been observed in 2017 and 2018, with the rate of improvement in 2018 falling to a mere 1.3%.

    To realize the significant cost savings to be gained from improved energy efficiency, more needs to be done. Concerted policy efforts, technology change, and changes in economic structure will contribute to improving global primary energy intensity. Recent progress has been more sustained than historical trends. In 2010-2016, the annual rate of primary energy intensity improvement accelerated in 16 of the world’s 20 economies with the greatest energy demand. China saw the most significant improvement, with India, Indonesia, Japan, and the United Kingdom also recording strong progress…


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