As part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been set. Goal 7 deserves special mention: “To ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. This objective is one specially interlinked with the others, since actions in areas such as improving health, innovation and infrastructures, creating sustainable cities and communities, recycling or fighting climate change depend to a large extent on having something as fundamental as modern and affordable energy.
Energy is needed for food production, to ensure security, promote employment and improve the income and competitiveness of people and businesses. There is also the need for the proposed solutions to be sustainable and functional in their relationship with environmental problems such as climate change or the scarcity of certain resources that may occur in the future.
In general, one of the problems in achieving this objective has been that a large part of the global population still rely on highly polluting fuels and inefficient technologies as their main source of energy for its daily activities. Estimations go as high as 3 billion people, especially in developing countries.
A long way to go
Since the year 2000, however, the situation has been improving. According to UN data from 2000 to 2016 the number of people with “access to electricity” increased from 78 percent to 87 percent, and in developing countries that rate doubled. But there are still about one billion people living without electricity in their homes. In terms of final energy consumption, the share of renewables rose from 17.3 percent to 17.5 percent in 2015, a modest improvement.
There’s still a long way to go. Just over half of renewable energy is considered “modern energy,” namely hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal or modern biofuels, as opposed to traditional biomass energy (oil, coal, gas). At the moment hydropower continues to dominate the landscape, although wind and solar power solutions are experiencing remarkable growth in recent years.
Where do we need to focus the efforts? The agenda recommends focusing on heating and transport. Sectors such as agriculture, industry and buildings construction consume the most globally, but they are also prone to improvements regarding the type of energy they need. And although road transportation is experiencing a boom in hybrid and electric vehicles and also clean alternatives in cities (from bicycles to scooters) there are still large areas for improvement: aviation marine transport in particular, where traditional fossil fuels are still required.
The five targets of Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030
- Ensuring universal and affordable access to modern energy
- Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global mix
- Enhance international cooperation in clean energy research
- Expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy in developing countries
The UN makes an explicit recommendation to governments around the world to improve infrastructures and technology for more modern and sustainable energy. It is estimated that 27 percent of energy is lost in generation and transport itself, so there is still a long way to go. And it is a road we all have to travel together, because many of the other sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda depend on it.