Last week, the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization released the joint report Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2018. The report finds that the world is not on track to meet the targets set by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7—“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” which includes ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services and increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The report indicates that while SDG 7 targets may not be met by 2030, significant progress is being made. Moreover, trends at the national and regional levels—especially in Africa—offer encouraging signals.
The report finds that, for the first time in history, Africa’s electrification deficit is falling in absolute terms, i.e., there are fewer people without electricity. This result is largely due to the high performance of East African countries. For instance, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania expanded access to electricity by at least 3 percent of their population annually between 2010 and 2016.
Despite such progress, the continent still hosts the largest share of people without access to electricity. In fact, the total share has more than doubled, a trend particularly reflected in rural areas. Notably, Africa has seen significant population growth in the past decades, which may have affected the continent’s efforts in providing electricity to a large share of its population.
Off-grid solar electricity drives access in Africa
While lagging in terms of access to electricity, African countries are making strides in terms of access to renewable energy. In particular, the world has seen an uptake in the use of solar energy, the most popular form of clean energy, due largely to major gains in Asia and Africa (Figure B2.2.1.). Africa has the largest percent of the population that use off-grid solar energy among all regions, and the percentage of its total population that uses off-grid solar electricity has nearly quintupled since 2011. Today, 60 million people in Africa use off-grid solar power as an electricity source.
The joint report has developed a framework that evaluates sources of electricity based on three criteria—feasibility, suitability, and relevance. Energy sources that perform well in the three criteria are rated as Tier 1. Figure 2.15a below shows that many countries with solar access above Tier 1 are in Africa. Notably, in Uganda and Rwanda, more than 3 percent of the population is connected to an off-grid solar supply. When countries whose energy access below Tier 1 are considered, we see that many more African countries are providing electricity to a large share of their population through off-grid solar access (Figure 2.15b). Kenya is even electrifying more than 30 percent of its population through off-grid solar access.
In order to accelerate the progress, which has been made thus far, the report recommends bridging the funding gap and embracing new technologies as a solution to the existing electricity deficit in certain areas.