Combining ambitious climate policy with significant action to achieve energy access and cleaner air

The adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 marked a new level of political recognition of the important link between energy and development. For the first time, universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy was included as a target – collectively known as Sustainable Development Goal 7, or SDG 7. The IEA is a one of five lead custodian agencies for tracking SDG 7 and is responsible for SDG 7.2 on renewable energy and SDG 7.3 on energy efficiency.

Achieving these goals is central to the IEA’s scenarios. They are canonised in the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE), which depict a pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The NZE incorporates key energy-related Sustainable Development Goals for energy access for all and improved air quality, considering the need to rely on available, affordable technologies to reach universal access by 2030. The NZE goes on to reach global net zero GHG emissions by 2050, with advanced economies reaching net zero earlier to allow more time for developing regions to address hard to abate emissions.

Read on to explore the IEA's latest data and analysis on Sustainable Development Goals 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3.

Access to electricity

To date, 760 million people lack access to electricity worldwide

For the first time in decades, the number of people without access to electricity in the world has increased in 2022, due to the combined impact of energy crisis and Covid-19 pandemic. This increase is dominated by sub-Saharan Africa which counts for about 80% of people living without electricity. Recent IEA data and analysis suggest that in 2023 progress resumes but still below 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.

Access to clean cooking

Around 2.3 billion people live without clean cooking solutions today

In 2022 an estimated 2.3 billion people lacked access to clean cooking globally of which about 40% were in Sub Saharan Africa and 55% in developing Asia. The number of people still cooking with traditional biomass, coal, and kerosene in 2022 has increased each year since 2020 due to the pandemic and the energy crisis. The setbacks have primarily been driven by surging fuel prices, particularly for LPG. With current policies, achieving universal access by 2030 is by far not on track. Efforts need to accelerate dramatically. The IEA released A Vision for Clean cooking Access for All providing a feasible pathway to achieving universal access by 2030.

Share of population with access to clean cooking

IEA uses the World Health Organisation (WHO) Household Energy Database for people without access to clean cooking for historic numbers (up to 2019). WHO has kindly agreed to allow the IEA to republish this data here. For 2020 values and projections, the IEA uses the World Energy Model and official energy balances to estimate.

Modern renewables

The share of modern renewables reached over 12.5% of total final energy consumption in 2020

According to official SDG7.2 data, of which the IEA is the official custodian, in 2020 the share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption went to 12.5% with the single largest 1-year gain on record. This increase in the indicator was driven by important additions of renewable capacity but was also affected by lower energy demand levels due to lockdowns and restrictions linked to the pandemic. Because of those pandemic-related effects, this is did not repeat in 2021, but preliminary IEA data suggest that renewable power has had another record year in 2022, with supportive policies in many countries accelerating uptake as part of their plans to increase energy security amid the current energy crisis. However, more efforts are needed to reach the targets set out in SDG 7.2, particularly on renewable heating and fuels.

Modern renewable share in total final energy consumption

This indicator is derived from energy data sourced on a joint dataset built by the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Statistics Division.

Energy intensity

2020 saw a slowdown in energy intensity improvement, mainly due to the pandemic

The rate of improvement in energy intensity declined to 0.6 percent in 2020 vs. an average of 1.8 percent in the last decade. This was largely because of Covid-19–induced lockdowns and travel restrictions, and the radical shifts in the global economy that year. Improvement needs to reach 3.6 percent on average now to be on track to SDG7 targets. In 2021, the low improvement trend continues as a strong rebound of energy demand outpaced improvements, but the energy crisis is expected to have contributed to improving this metric to 2% in 2022 as surging energy costs and security concerns have brought a stronger focus on energy efficiency.

Energy intensity measured in terms of primary energy and GDP

This indicator is derived from energy data sourced on a joint dataset built by the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Statistics Division. GDP data is sourced from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database.