Opportunities for Achieving Universal Energy Access through the Energy Transition in the Least Developed Countries
LDCs are in urgent need of a pathway to accelerate their progress on universal access to sustainable energy.
Energy access deficits remain a challenge that both contributes to and results from the lack of development in least developed countries (LDCs). Therefore, access to sustainable energy (SDG7) is expected to be one of the key thematic topics in the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5). This work supports preparations for developing the agenda regarding electricity access and the renewable energy transition for LDC5 by providing concrete, evidence-based, and applicable recommendations.
LDCs are in urgent need of accelerating their progress on universal access to sustainable energy:
• There are more than 500 million people who have no energy access in LDCs today, representing a 52% electrification rate, compared with the 90% global average. This problem is more serious in rural areas, as only 39% of the rural population has power access.
• Along with electrification efforts to provide power access, additional problems need to be solved, including the lack of sufficient supply and reliability of power, as well as clean cooking problems.
• To achieve SDG7, LDCs need to accelerate their pace of electrification in the coming decades, connecting 63 million new customers each year in 2019–2030 compared with their historic pace of 23 million in 2000–2018.
However, LDCs may head in the wrong direction without intervention:
• Past trends show LDCs are falling behind in adopting modern renewable technology, as the capacity of non-hydro renewables is growing less rapidly in comparison to fossils to meet new demand, and in comparison to the rest of the world.
• Business-as-usual development will end in an expensive, slowly deployed, and carbon-heavy power system that makes universal access very difficult and unsustainable.