Recent progress

For the first time in decades, the number of people around the world without access to electricity is set to rise in 2022, reaching 760 million people. Recent crises stemming from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have increased the number of people without access to electricity back to 2019 levels. This growth is seen mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 80% of people lacking electricity access. Recent IEA data and analysis suggest that in 2023 progress in access to electricity could be starting again with the number of people without access decreasing, even if still slower than pre-pandemic levels.

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 sub-Saharan Africa, those without access had peaked in 2013, as efforts to extend access outpaced population growth. But as a result of the pandemic and the energy crisis, the number of people without electricity is almost back to historic highs, increasing from 580 million in 2019 to reach 600 million in 2022. Today, less than a fifth of African countries have targets to reach universal electricity access by 2030. An additional 45% of the continent has set access to electricity targets, yet these are less ambitious than the goals under SDG 7.

The increase in the number of people in Africa without access contrasts with Asia, where the rollout of new connections solutions was supported by more concerted policies and easier access to financing. While the gains in Asia slowed down dramatically since the pandemic, they proved more resilient than in Africa. Almost 1 billion people have gained access to electricity in developing Asia since 2010, with 97% of the region having access in 2022 compared with 79% in 2010. Most of the progress occurred in India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. These countries extended access to more than 99% of the population in recent years thanks to ambitious government policies and programmes such as the Indian Saubhagya scheme. 

Outlook for electricity access

To reach SDG 7.1.1, around 110 million new connections are needed each year from 2022. With the pace seen in recent years this target remains far off track.

According to our latest data, some 660 million are projected to remain without access in 2030, of which 85% or about 560 million people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. Considerable efforts are needed in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, which together represent almost half of the global population without access to electricity in 2030. On the other hand, many developing countries in Asia are nearly on track to achieve near universal access by 2030, leaving only 70 million will remain without access in 2030 in the STEPS.

The investment required to reach universal access by 2030 is projected to be USD 30 billion each year on average. This includes costs for generation, electricity networks, and decentralized solutions. However, current investments are well below this level. Access to finance is often more challenging for the least developed countries where the access gap is largest. International support is essential, with concessional finance playing a key role in lowering the perceived risk for private investors. However, national governments must also implement robust electrification plans and allocate capital to access projects accordingly.

The IEA's Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario (NZE) shows a pathway to achieve SDG 7.1.1. Where more than half of the population gaining access by 2030 do so at first with off-grid solutions such as mini-grids and stand-alone systems, representing 31% and 25% respectively. Almost 90% of new connections are based on renewables in the scenario.

Achieving universal access under the NZE scenario calls decision makers to accelerate access related development plans and programs that address affordability issues, supporting decentralised solutions and productive use of energy, and national electrification plans. People gaining access with lower energy services extends their access level over time.