According to the latest data, the world is making progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), but will fall short of meeting the targets by 2030 at the current rate of ambition. The SDG Target 7.1 is to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services (7.1.1 focuses on the proportion of the population with access to electricity and 7.1.2, on the proportion relying primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking). Target 7.2 is to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Target 7.3 is to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

In recent years, pronounced progress in expanding access to electricity was made in several countries, notably India, Bangladesh, and Kenya. As a result, the global population without access to electricity decreased to about 840 million in 2017 from 1.2 billion in 2010 (figure ES1). Those still lacking access are increasingly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, the population without access to clean cooking solutions totaled almost 3 billion in 2016 and was distributed across both Asia and Africa. The widespread use of polluting fuels and technologies for cooking continues to pose serious health and socioeconomic concerns.

Renewable energy accounted for 17.5% of global total energy consumption in 2016. The use of renewables (i.e., sources of renewable energy) to generate electricity increased rapidly, but less headway was made in heat and transport. A substantial further increase of renewable energy is needed for energy systems to become affordable, reliable, sustainable, focusing on modern uses.

Finally, with respect to energy efficiency, global primary energy intensity was 5.1 megajoules per U.S. dollar (MJ/USD) (2011 purchasing power parity) in 2016. Energy efficiency improvements have increased steadily in recent years, thanks to concerted policy efforts in major economies, including China. However, the global rate of improvement in primary energy intensity still lags behind SDG target 7.3, and estimates suggest that improvements slowed in 2017 and 2018.

Additional effort will be essential in ensuring progress toward not only SDG 7 but also the broader Sustainable Development Agenda. In particular, SDG 7 and climate mitigation (SDG 13) are closely related and complementary. According to scenarios put forward by both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), energy sector investment related to all SDG 7 targets will need to more than double in order to achieve these goals. Between 2018 and 2030, annual average investment will need to reach approximately $55 billion to expand energy access, about $700 billion to increase renewable energy, and $600 billion to improve energy efficiency.

This report identifies best practices that have proven successful in recent years, as well as key approaches that policy makers may deploy in coming years. Recommendations applicable to all SDG 7 targets include recognizing the importance of political commitment and long-term energy planning, stepping up private financing, and supplying adequate incentives for the deployment of clean technology options. The following sections review progress in electricity access, access to clean cooking solutions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

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