Tracking SDG7 – The Energy Progress Report 2021

The 2021 edition of Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report monitors and assesses achievements in the global quest for universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030. The latest available data and selected energy scenarios reveal that at today’s rate of progress, the world is not on track to achieve SDG 7. This is particularly true of the most vulnerable countries and those that were already lagging. This report also examines various ways to bridge the gaps, chief among them the goal of significantly scaling up renewable energy while maximizing its socioeconomic benefits. Figure ES.1 offers a snapshot of the primary indicators.

This report was prepared as the COVID-19 pandemic and its broad social and economic disruptions entered a second year. The consequences of the pandemic are considered in this report, along with results from global modeling exercises—first to determine whether current policy ambitions are meeting the SDG 7 targets and, second, to identify what additional actions might be needed. The report also examines the investments levels required to achieve the goals. It presents scenarios drawn from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) flagship publication, World Energy Outlook (IEA 2020b), and the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Global Renewables Outlook: Energy Transformation 2050 (IRENA 2020a).

While renewable energy has demonstrated remarkable resilience during the pandemic, the unfortunate fact is that gains in energy access throughout Africa are being reversed: the number of people lacking access to electricity is set to increase in 2020, making basic electricity services unaffordable for up to 30 million people who had previously enjoyed access. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the stark worldwide inequalities in access to reliable energy and health care, especially in rural and peri-urban areas, and has highlighted the need to expand energy access to help populations mitigate the effects of the crisis.

With the world preparing for the September 2021 launch of the first United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Energy in decades, the time is right to enhance international collaboration and progress toward SDG 7. In this context, the SDG 7 custodian agencies—IEA, IRENA, the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO)—urge the international community and policy makers to safeguard existing gains toward SDG 7; not to lose sight of the need for continued action on affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; and to maintain a strategic focus on the vulnerable countries needing the most support.