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SDG 7 - Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

We understand this goal partly addresses worldwide access to energy (affordable, reliable), and partly to its global (sustainable) and local (modern, i.e. non-polluting) environmental footprint.

Energy is a key factor for ensuring prosperous economic development, and so access to energy is critical for increased well-being of poorer nations. The backdrop for this goal is that parts of the world’s population today suffer due to lack of access to electricity. Many least developed countries (LDCs) use little energy, and the little that they use is mainly served by burning locally available wood on open fires. This is problematic because it contributes to deforestation, which, in turn, contributes to climate change and desertification. In addition, pollutant soot represents a major health hazard, causing respiratory diseases.


While the environmental footprint is a major challenge for all regions, poor energy access is mainly an issue for developing nations. We consider that the continued and enormous appetite for energy in USA is a sign that it fails to fulfil the goal’s demand for “modern” energy. China scores high on all indicators and gets a green rating. All other regions score low on some indicators and high on others, and so achieve yellow ratings.

Understanding the score

Five regions: USA, OECD (excl. USA), China, BRISE (Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and 10 other emerging economies), ROW (rest of the world).
Green light: Goal likely to be reached.
Orange light: Goal not likely to be reached, but more than 50% of the gap between today's status and the goal is likely to be closed.
Red light: Goal not likely to be reached, and less than 50% of the gap between today's status and the goal is likely to be closed.

SolarWorld: Democratizing sunshine

Modern society cannot function without a reliable energy service. Crucial sectors, from health to basic infrastructure, agriculture, and communications all depend on access to electricity. As developing societies in transition catch up, they have typically relied on what is most accessible: energy from cheap, but polluting, energy sources. Renewable energy – apart from a bit of hydropower – just hasn’t been part of the mix for the developing world. But that, says Milan Nitzschke, Vice President of SolarWorld, is changing fast.

For Nitzschke, the energy transition is not a question of if, but how rapidly it’s going to take place and what sort of friction that will cause along the way. He believes it is theoretically possible to achieve the goals of SDG 7 by 2030; whether we will actually achieve them depends on a number of factors, and the current pace of progress is definitely too slow.

While Nitzschke is optimistic about the world's energy future, he doesn't believe the “old instruments” will lead us there. Change will come through decentralization. Sunshine is available all over the world; nobody has a monopoly over it. “When we are no longer dependent on a utility, private persons as well as commercial entities can start supplying themselves with renewable energy. This will be the key driver.”

Decentralized structures are required for energy to become independent from political decision-making. “This perfectly fits with renewable energies. We don't want three or four or five or even 10 entities to decide on electricity structure, we want millions – in fact hundreds of millions – of people in the electricity business in the end.”

For the complete forecast on SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy and the full SolarWorld story, download the report.

The Future of Spaceship Earth