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How to contribute to achieving SDG 7, a new year’s resolution

On 1 January 2020, I welcomed in the New Year with one resolution: To keep SDG 7 at the heart of all I aim to achieve this year. Are you willing to accept this challenge too?

Originally published in the ESI Africa final newsletter for 2019 on 15/01/2020

In the industry, we are familiar with the UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 – access to affordable and clean energy – which has a fast-approaching ‘sell-by date’ stamp of 2030.

For those of you willing to join me in my new year’s resolution, here are some basic items to help you along the way.

  • Inform your networks about SDG 7. You will be surprised about who isn’t aware of the goal.
  • Spread news stories with your community, for instance, at your child’s school, or on your neighbourhood social media pages.
  • Write in-depth articles about goal 7 to keep it in the news and newsworthy.

According to the UNDP, between 2000 and 2016, the number of people with electricity increased from 78% to 87%. Globally, the number of people without electricity dipped to just below one billion.

This progress is fantastic but all things considered, it’s a drop in the ocean. The challenge for the SDGs, and precisely goal 7, is the sheer number of people they relate to, making it near impossible to fully accomplish as populations continue to grow.

The goals require, nay – demand, vast amounts of funding and investment. On the ground, SDG 7 can make headway where finance is made available for solar, wind, hydro, and clean thermal power projects.

Join discussions on project bankability at the African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference. Click here to register to attend or for more information about the event.

However, advancing clean energy generation capacity is futile if those it serves to connect to a power supply can’t afford the tariff. The solution lies in thinking about supply and demand outside the box – a cliché that is quite fitting.

Power supply and demand fits into a tight co-dependent box. Where the supply is reliable and affordable, the demand remains high.

It’s a dynamic that is evident in South Africa’s current chaotic energy environment where loadshedding is contributing to economic decline and therefore also demand for electricity – a story to unpack another day.

As an example of out of the box financing for SDG 7, consider a farming community that needs to pump water. Could the farmers form a co-op and use their produce as ‘money’ to pay for the power? Imagine a power purchase agreement (PPA) quoted in bushels of corn.

Granted, this type of PPA could not work for utility-scale power projects; however, to get traction on SDG 7 we need substantially more small-scale, localised and decentralised clean power projects. There are many such projects doing their bit to power rural and off-grid communities but don’t make it to headline news.  

Do you know of small-scale projects that are perfect examples of achieving this UNDP goal? Be sure to include them in your new year’s resolution and give them a hearty shout out!

Till next week,

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.