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Recent progress

Today 770 million people live without access to electricity, mostly in Africa and Asia. The Covid-19 crisis put an end to several years of continued progress and worsened the already low energy purchasing power of households in developing countries. Our preliminary data suggest that the number of people without access to electricity changed little between 2019 and 2021, after falling an average of 9% a year between 2015 and 2019. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without access increased in 2020 for the first time since 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without access to electricity rose to 77% from 74% before the pandemic.

Share of population with access to electricity

IEA produces its own estimates for access to electricity based on administrative data collected from Ministries of Energy. This data may differ from the official SDG7.1.1 reported by the World Bank in the Tracking SDG7 Report, which uses survey data.

In Africa, the number of people each year gaining access to electricity almost tripled from 8 million between 2000 and 2013 to 24 million people between 2014 and 2019, outpacing population growth. As a result, the number of people without electricity, which peaked at 613 million in 2013, declined progressively to around 572 million in 2019. Much of this dynamism came in a small number of countries, in particular Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia, while more than 40% of Sub-Saharan African countries do not yet have official electricity access targets.

Africa’s increase in the number of people without access contrasts with Asia, where the rollout of grid connections and distributed electricity access solutions was supported by more concerted policies and easier access to financing. While the gains in Asia slowed down during the pandemic, they still proved more resilient than in Africa.

Almost 1.2 billion people have gained access to electricity in developing Asia since 2000, with 97% of the region having access in 2020 compared with 67% in 2000. Around two-third of this progress occurred in India, where the government says more than 99% of the population was hooked up in 2019, thanks to the ambitious Saubhagya scheme. The government is now targeting to improve the quality of access by focusing on 24/7 supplies. 

Outlook for electricity access

To achieve full access by 2030, 100 million people must be connected each year. However, the world is not currently on track to reach this goal. In the IEA Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) – a more conservative benchmark that looks at existing or announced policies – some 672 million are projected to remain without access in 2030, 85% of whom will be in Africa. On the other hand, many developing countries in Asia are well on track to achieve near universal access by 2030.

Achieving full electricity access by 2030 requires annual investment of just over USD 35 billion, or only 2% of current global energy investment. However, current investments in power access are well below this. Financing represents one of the major barriers to achieve global access since many of the projects require public support via concessional and blended finance structures, while low demand potential in some remote areas can deter private capital.

The IEA Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario (NZE) illustrates a trajectory to achieve full access to electricity by 2030. Slightly more than half of the people gaining access in the NZE by 2030 do so through decentralised solutions, including mini-grid and stand-alone systems, which are 90% based on renewable solutions.

After 2030, grids will reach most of the population that initially gained access through off-grid solutions, emphasising the importance of grid-compatibility for the off-grid systems being built today. Under this scenario, only the most remote users will not have a grid connection by 2050.