The provision of energy services--such as illumination, thermal comfort, cooking, communications and mobility--is critical to both social and economic good. But the use of fossil fuels in meeting these needs can also lead to higher greenhouse gases emissions, potentially becoming a threat to our well-being. Ironically, the greatest threat is to underdeveloped nations and populations of the most vulnerable geographies of small island developing States. They are either constrained by extreme poverty or limited by expensive energy access. The year 2015 marked a significant milestone in the global debate on energy with United Nations adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the specific goal on energy (SDG 7) aiming "to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all". SDG 7 also addresses the need to increase energy from renewable sources as well as promote energy efficiency technologies. Consequently, SDG 7 encompasses targets for universal energy access (7.1), renewable energy growth (7.2), energy efficiency improvements (7.3), international cooperation in sustainable energy infrastructure development (7.a) and technology upgrades and expansion of energy systems (7.b).
These objectives are frequently interlinked and they reinforce each other. For example, lower prices for some renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaics can provide access to energy services even to relatively small consumers of electricity, since the investment cost of even the smallest solar panel scales with its size without compromising efficiency. Energy-efficient appliances can further boost the value of service. Hence achieving SDG 7 targets together can foster sustainable growth.
The adoption of SDG 7, however, comes at a time when the world faces serious energy development gaps: more than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, approximately 85 per cent of our global energy mix comes from non-renewable sources and the potential for energy efficiency in buildings, transportation and industrial processes remains largely untapped. On the other hand, the financial scale of the investments needed for traditional electricity grid access is also high, when compared to resources available to the poorest countries.
Previous studies, including the World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency, the Assessment Reports, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Global Energy...