IEA (2020), SDG7: Data and Projections, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/sdg7-data-and-projections
Energy access policies continue to bear fruit, with 2019 data showing important progress. The number of people without access to electricity dropped from almost 860 million in 2018 to 770 million in 2019, a record low in recent years. In India, the government announced having reached full electricity access in 2019, and effective policies have been implemented in a number of countries in Africa. Nonetheless, past progress is being reversed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, while the number of people without access to electricity has steadily declined since 2013, it is now set to increase in 2020, pushing many countries farther away from achieving the goal of universal access by 2030.
Our latest country-by-country assessment shows that in 2019, the number of people without electricity access had dropped to 770 million, a record low in recent years. However, progress remains uneven, and 75% of the population without access now live in sub-Saharan Africa, a share that has risen over recent years.
Almost 1.2 billion people have gained access to electricity in developing Asia since 2000, with 96% of the region having access to electricity in 2019 compared with 67% in 2000. Around two-third of this progress has occurred in India, where the government announced that more than 99% of the population had access to electricity in 2019, thanks to the ambitious Saubhagya Scheme launched in October 2017. The government is now targeting a 24/7 supply of electricity and such accelerated progress can serve as a case in point to inspire efforts in other areas of the world.
In Africa, the number of people gaining access to electricity doubled from 9 million a year between 2000 and 2013 to 20 million people between 2014 and 2019, outpacing population growth. As a result, the number of people without access to electricity, which peaked at 610 million in 2013, declined progressively to around 580 million in 2019. Much of this recent dynamism comes from a small number of countries leading the progress, in particular Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia. In Kenya, the access rate rose from 20% in 2013 to almost 85% in 2019. The majority of progress over the past decade in Africa has been made as a result of grid connections, but a rapid rise has been seen in the deployment of off-grid systems. Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia accounted for around half of the 5 million people gaining access through new solar home systems in 2018 (up from only 2 million in 2016), as analysed in the 2019 Africa Energy Outlook.
However, the health crisis and economic downturn caused by Covid-19 is compounding the difficulties faced by governments as they look to alleviate energy poverty and expand access, pushing countries farther away from achieving universal access. Shifting government priorities, supply-chain disruptions and social distancing measures have slowed access programmes and hindered activities in the decentralised energy access area. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to three-quarters of the global population without access to electricity, has been particularly hard hit, and recent progress achieved in the region is being reversed by the effects of the pandemic: our first estimates indicate that the population without access to electricity could increase in 2020 for the first time since 2013. Mobilising development finance institutions and donors is critical to ensuring that energy access progress continues.
Proportion of population with access to electricity, 2000-2019
The economic difficulties and risks arising from the Covid-19 crisis are moving many areas further away from the goal of achieving universal access. In the scenario where today’s current and announced policies continue (what we call the Stated Policies Scenario, or STEPS), there is a slowdown in progress in 2020 and 2021 due to the crisis. This means that by 2030, there are around 660 million people who do not have access to electricity - approximately 35 million more people than in our projections from last year for the World Energy Outlook-2019 under the STEPS. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda lead the progress and manage to achieve universal access by 2030 through the effective and ambitious policies and programmes they had already put in place prior to the crisis. In 2030, 50% of the global population without access is concentrated in seven countries – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Pakistan, Tanzania, Niger and Sudan.
Nevertheless, the uncertainties arising from the Covid-19 crisis pose many risks to progress in gaining access by reducing the ability of households to pay for energy services and weakening the financial situation of governments and energy companies. If the economic rebound were to be slower, as in the Delayed Recovery Scenario, then an additional 100 million people would not have access to electricity in 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, would see the access situation worsen, with the number of people without access to electricity increasing to 630 million, or more than 80% of the global total.
If governments and donors wish to avoid such a reversal of recent progress, they will need to put access at the heart of recovery plans and programmes. In the Sustainable Development Scenario, we consider that strong policy support and international co-operation enable a ramping up of progress on electricity access as part of international and national recovery plans, and achieve universal access to electricity by 2030 alongside access to clean cooking, in line with SDG 7.1. This scenario requires around $35 billion to be spent annually from 2021 to 2030 on generation and electricity networks through smart and efficient integrated delivery programmes, and making full use of decentralised solutions. This is three-times more than in the STEPS, and almost two thirds of the required investment should go to sub-Saharan Africa.
Proportion of population with access to electricity, 2000-2030
The least expensive way to achieve universal electricity access in many areas appears to be renewable energy sources: in addition to increasing grid-connected electricity generation from renewables, declining costs of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) for stand-alone systems and mini-grids is key in helping deliver affordable electricity access to millions. This is especially the case in remote rural areas in African countries, home to many of the people still deprived of electricity access. Decentralised solutions as a whole are the least-cost way to provide power to more than half of the population gaining access by 2030 according to our Sustainable Development Scenario.