Overcoming Energy Poverty: A Global Challenge

Access to clean and affordable energy is a fundamental human right, yet more than 3 billion people around the world still live in energy poverty. This disproportionately affects those in the global south, particularly those living in rural areas. At the same time, around 759 million people worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, still lack access to electricity. This represents a significant challenge to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.

Access to electricity can be defined in various ways, but most definitions agree that it involves the availability of safe cooking facilities and a minimum level of consumption. However, the International Energy Agency’s definition of access to electricity goes beyond just the delivery of electricity to the household. It also requires households to meet a specified minimum level of electricity consumption, which increases over time and depends on whether the household is located in a rural or urban area. Rural households must have a minimum threshold of 250 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, while urban households require a minimum of 500 kWh per year.

According to the 2022 IEA report on SDG7 data and projections, the number of people without access to electricity has been declining in recent years, but at the current rate of progress, more than 600 million people will still lack access to electricity by 2030. The report highlights the need for greater investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions to accelerate progress towards universal electrification. These decentralized energy systems, which use renewable sources like solar and wind power, can provide affordable and reliable electricity to remote and underserved areas where grid extension is not feasible.

Achieving SDG7 will require a concerted effort from governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society to scale up investment, innovation, and collaboration in the energy sector. Moreover, it is essential to address energy poverty in the context of climate justice to ensure that everyone has access to clean and affordable energy, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status.