Nuclear Power and Secure Energy Transitions: From Today's Challenges to Tomorrow's Clean Energy Systems

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The adoption of the new 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 achieving SDG 7, and is responsible for SDG 7.2 on renewable energy and SDG 7.3 on energy efficiency.

Acheving these goals is central to the IEA’s scenarios. Historically, they have been canonised in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) in the World Energy Outlook 2021. However, there is growing global consensus around the need to reach net zero energy emissions by mid-century to limit global warming to 1.5oC, a pathway depicted in the IEA’s Net Zero Emission by 2050 scenario (NZE). 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 quickly, and then transferring to lower carbon solutions subsequently. The NZE goes on to reach global net zero emissions by 2050, with advanced economies reaching net zero earlier to allow more time for developing regions to address hard to abate emissions. The NZE pathway for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals is included in this update.

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

We estimate the number of people without electricity access rose slightly to about 770 million in 2021, breaking the downward trend in the years prior the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the increase was in sub-Saharan Africa, which was already home to 74% of the global population without access prior to the pandemic - four in five people without access now live in sub-Saharan Africa.

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

Over 2.5 billion people do not have access to clean cooking facilities, relying instead on solid biomass, kerosene or coal as their primary cooking fuel. This figure has gradually decreased from 2.9 billion in 2010. Nonetheless, current policies, especially in certain regions, are far from sufficient to achieve universal access by 2030, even before the additional challenges brought by Covid-19. Efforts need to accelerate dramatically. 

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

In 2019, the share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption rose by less than half a percentage point to 11.5% of total final energy consumption, having steadily but slowly increased since the early 2000s. Nonetheless, acceleration is needed to reach the targets set out in SDG 7.2.

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

Target 7.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals requires global energy efficiency improvement to improve at 2.6% a year, a doubling of the rate seen between 1990 and 20101. Global energy intensity improvements stepped up in the early part of this decade, but the 1.5% improvement in energy intensity of the global economy in 2019 lies well below the SDG 7.3 target.

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.

Notes and references