The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed the progress towards universal access to electricity and clean cooking fuel and technology, according to a UN-sponsored report.
Globally, 733 million people lack access to electricity, and 2.4 billion still cook using fuels that are harmful to their health and the environment, according to the report published on Wednesday.
The findings are from the 2022 edition of ‘Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report’, which monitors global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) of ensuring affordable modern energy supply for everyone by 2030.
The study was produced by UN entities and partners, known as the SDG 7 custodian agencies, who urge governments and policymakers to step up action, Xinhua news agency reported.
The impacts of Covid-19 such as lockdowns and supply chain disruptions have affected progress towards SDG 7.
Those countries that are most vulnerable have been hit hardest. In Asia and Africa, nearly 90 million people who previously had access to electricity cannot afford to pay for their basic energy needs.
Africans remain the least electrified in the world, with 568 million without access to electricity. The percentage of people without electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 71 per cent in 2018 to 77 per cent in 2020, while most other regions declined.
Moreover, the progress in access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, wasn’t enough to keep pace with population growth.
The report discovered that renewable energy was the only energy source that grew during the pandemic despite continued disruptions in economic activity and supply chains.
Despite this, countries most in need of electricity have been left behind — a situation exacerbated by the fact that international financial flows declined for the second consecutive year.
SDG 7 also includes targets towards energy efficiency. From 2010 to 2019, global annual improvements in energy intensity averaged around 1.9 per cent, which is well below the levels needed to both meet the targets and to make up for lost ground.
The SDG 7 custodians are IRENA and the International Energy Agency, the UN Statistics Division, the World Bank, and the WHO.
International community and policymakers were urged to preserve gains towards SDG 7, and to continue working towards affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. The focus should remain on countries most in need of assistance, according to the report.