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Latest Energy Catalyst report examines trends in technical approaches to universal energy access


United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) aims to provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services for all by 2030. To reach that goal, it is imperative that we understand the major forces currently shaping the global energy access landscape, and how they are furthering or impeding SDG7 efforts. Authored by Energy 4 Impact country specialist William Wells, the new Energy Catalyst report titled Trends in technical approaches to universal energy access explores the five key trends that can be traced across different countries’ technical approaches to universal energy access and predicts their likely impact on SDG 7 goals.

Five trends are identified and examined:

  • Having grown into a viable alternative to grid connection over the past 10 years, off-grid DRE is helping to fill the energy access gap. Off-grid technologies are projected to be the least-cost option for 71% of rural connections by 2030.
  • Improved data collection methodologies and technologies have increased capacity for increasingly in-depth and targeted energy access plans.
  • The right regulatory and policy frameworks are crucial to plans for reaching universal energy access, but despite increases in recent years in the number of countries with advanced policy frameworks for energy access, progress is patchy across countries.
  • Under-the-grid customers may appear connected to electricity, but in fact either have no power at all or unreliable, inconsistent, and/or low-quality power that means they are not truly benefitting from electricity access. Solutions include better data and new business models.
  • Providing energy access for institutions and productive users is crucial. However, the segmented market and wide variety of approaches and technologies for providing energy access presents logistical challenges.

Whilst there have been significant steps forward in technical approaches to energy access in the past ten years, this report also examines the major challenges that need to be overcome in order to reach SDG 7 by 2030. These challenges include financing shortfalls, the impact of COVID-19, stagnation in clean cooking markets, and the marginalisation of rural customers.

The report provides a snapshot of research undertaken with the co-operation and input of Energy Catalyst portfolio companies, as well as a range of interviews with other key market players.

Read the full report or the abridged version

Energy Catalyst is an Innovate UK programme with co-funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Global Challenges Research Fund, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It is delivered in cooperation with partners including the Carbon Trust, Energy 4 Impact, Power for All, Intellecap and Open Capital Advisors. 

Energy Catalyst accelerates the innovation needed to end energy poverty. Through financial and advisory support, and by building strategic partnerships and uncovering new insights, Energy Catalyst supports the development of technologies and business models that can improve lives in Africa and Asia.