SDG7: Ensure Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All
Access to modern energy is fundamental for development and poverty reduction, yet many countries in Asia and the Pacific are struggling to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy resources to meet their increasing energy demand. This poses significant economic, environmental, and social challenges. Affordable and clean energy services are a crucial input to supporting the provision of basic needs such as food, lighting, use of appliances, water, sanitation, essential health care, education, communication and transport. They are also a necessary input into income generation and productive activities such as agriculture, industry as well as poverty alleviation, and reduction of inequality.
Recognition of the synergies between energy and many facets of development are increasing along with the demand for more sustainable energy production, distribution and use. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have set global targets for energy development that, if achieved, will serve to increase and expand socio-economic benefits while reducing environmental impacts.
ESCAP is committed to supporting member States in defining sustainable development priorities within the scope of energy and to contributing to the implementation of Sustainable Energy for All and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 7.
Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” and has targets to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, all by 2030.
The goal of energy access is wide-ranging, covering not only electrical services but also thermal energy needs for cooking and heating.
The Global Tracking Framework 2017: Regional Assessment Report provided a look at the progress made in three critical areas of sustainable energy at the regional and country levels, providing an overview of long-term trends since 1990, and focuses on the most recent period. The key drivers behind progress are reviewed and major challenges in achieving energy access, efficiency, and renewable energy objectives are identified.
Tackling the multiple energy-related challenges necessitates a transition in the way energy is generated, transmitted and consumed. Major components of this transition are enhanced energy efficiency, increased renewable energy in the energy mix, improved energy access and better connectivity across the region. While the energy sector in many countries is slowly being transformed, the pace of the change needs to accelerate.
Energy transition is not only essential to reach the targets of SDG7, but indeed, many of the other SDGs can benefit from the spillover effects of affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Moreover, fulfilling the commitments made in the Paris Agreement requires a rapid energy transition in the Asia-Pacific region. The energy transition has the potential to contribute to energy security; it can reduce energy poverty, leading to a wide range of social benefits and it can drastically reduce environmental and health hazards.
Report on Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Energy 2017 analyses a number of considerable challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and its efforts to accelerate the energy transition to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). The Energy Transition Pathways for the 2030 Agenda: Regional Trends Report 2018 identifies the gap between the baseline and the 2030 targets to demonstrate the additional efforts and resources that would be needed to achieve the SDG7 targets.
Electricity is a fundamental input to socio-economic development. It is an essential input to the daily life for the majority of the global population. At the household level, electricity is critical for basic functions, such as lighting and the operation of appliances. It is needed to support livelihoods, education and well-being. With electricity, men and women are increasingly engaged in productive activities and public lighting in communities increases safety at night, particularly for women. Yet, the level of service (hours per day with electricity, etc.) is not fully captured in the current metrics – largely due to the lack of adequate data.
Access to clean fuels and technologies – shortened here to “clean cooking” – is essential to modernize energy services, support public health, reduce gender inequality, and mitigate environmental impacts, particularly the poorest segments of the population. The use of traditional biomass in the form of wood, charcoal, and dung in open fires or inefficient stoves for cooking and heating compromises indoor air quality. Indoor smoke contains a variety of pollutants, with adverse health effects. To mitigate the adverse impacts, switching to clean cooking technologies and fuels, such as biogas, advanced biomass cookstoves, electricity, LPG and solar cooking, is necessary. However, the logistical challenges associated with achieving the goal make it more difficult than electrification and, hence, it is largely off track compared to the target.
Increasing the use of renewable energy supports the development of energy and other sectors. It offers social, economic, and environmental benefits. To meet energy demand and to reduce import dependencies that raise vulnerabilities to global market shifts, some economies are pushing the use of renewables to balance their energy mixes with indigenous resources. Renewable energy also offers options for energy access through decentralized applications. On-grid and off-grid renewable energy markets are expanding as private sector participation increases.
The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as the global leader in renewable energy with more investment, installed capacity, and consumption than any other world regions. Large installations of renewables have been made across the region in recent years, with the installation of solar and wind power growing rapidly.
Renewables are a key component for decarbonizing economies. Under the Paris Agreement, countries have pledged to reduce carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels. In 2014, the Asia and the Pacific region was responsible for 55.2 per cent of global emissions from fuel combustion, 66 per cent of which were from coal. Decarbonizing the energy sector by shifting to renewable energy, thus, supports efforts to achieve climate objectives, including nationally determined contributions.
Energy efficiency is key to the realization of sustainable development objectives that pertain to the energy sector, as well as to other sectors. Increased energy security is supported through energy savings and reduction in investment needs for capacity additions, reliance on energy imports and vulnerability to fluctuations in energy prices. While energy efficiency for importing countries can boost currency reserves, energy efficiency for exporting countries increases their energy resources available for export. Energy efficiency also facilitates greater economic productivity and provides social and environmental benefits, including increased energy affordability, improved air quality, reduced pollution and global climate change mitigation. It can be of benefit to economic development and job creation as well.
Energy efficiency is closely tied to the realization of universal access targets by enabling higher levels of energy services at lower consumption rates and costs. Synergies between efficiency and renewable energy are also strong, as lower overall energy demand contributes to efforts aimed at meeting renewable energy targets by making it easier to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix.
Energy intensity is the best available proxy measure for energy efficiency. It is being used to monitor progress as in achieving the objectives set out in SEforAll initiative and Sustainable Development Goal 7. Energy intensity is measured in units of energy per dollar of GDP, in which high numbers indicate more energy consumption per dollar of economic output and declines in energy intensity are a proxy for efficiency improvements. The Asia-Pacific region has experienced a steep decline in regional energy intensity, from 9.1 MJ/2011 PPP $ in 1990 to 6.0 MJ/2011 PPP $ in 2014 heading towards the global average. With the further decoupling of GDP growth and total final energy consumption during the period 2012-2014, the region achieved a short-term annual average energy intensity reduction of 3.0 per cent, outpacing other global regions.