New statistics guidebook for universal electricity access aims to help governments reach sustainable energy goal by 2030

Photo depicts a solar panel in a village in Madagascar

IEA manual shows how countries can achieve more up-to-date and frequent tracking by using readily available data from power companies and other sources

The International Energy Agency today launched a new Guidebook for Improved Electricity Access Statistics with the goal of helping governments improve data tracking on this critical issue.

Universal access to electricity is a critical component to ensuring sustainable and inclusive economic growth. However, many households still lack this fundamental energy service. Last year, the number of people without electricity access, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, rose to 775 million, marking the first increase in decades. This reversal brings into sharp focus how governments are falling short in their efforts to meet a key sustainable development goal agreed by the United Nations in 2015 to protect society’s most vulnerable.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all by 2030,” including universal access to electricity and clean cooking, a greater share of renewables in the energy mix, and a doubling of the rate of improvement of energy efficiency. The IEA has taken the lead in producing a global database of electricity access information since the early 2000s and is one of the official co-custodians for SDG7 contributing to official reporting on global progress toward the targets.

Today, most countries without universal electricity access only track key access data periodically, and often with substantial time lags. The guidebook outlines step-by-step how countries can achieve more up-to-date and frequent tracking by using readily available data from power companies and other sources. It also shows how to initiate the first steps to create a geographically disaggregated access information system through practices to recover electricity connections at jurisdiction or even village level, which is crucial for carrying out well informed spatial planning for electrification.

In particular, the guidebook provides new methods to estimate how many people are gaining access through mini-grids and off-grid technologies. These alternatives have taken off in recent years and are an important solution to electrify communities in remote and rural areas that centralised networks do not always reach. Recent IEA analysis sees that on the path to universal access to electricity by 2030, mini-grid and off-grid systems would be the most viable means to electrify almost 60% of the homes without power in Africa.

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The world remains far off track to reach universal access to electricity by 2030 – a key target canonised in UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). While many countries have set targets to advance universal electrification, it remains challenging to collect timely data on their progress, making it difficult to build or refine their electrification plans and policy strategies.

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