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According to the World Bank’s latest report, the number of countries with strong policy frameworks for sustainable energy more than tripled – from 17 to 59 – between 2010 and 2017.

The report, 'RISE 2018: Policy Matters', states that many of the world's largest energy-consuming countries have significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010.

Among countries with large populations living without electricity, 75% had by 2017 put in place the policies and regulations needed to expand energy access.

However, the report makes it clear that there are significant barriers to global progress on sustainable energy.

While countries continue to be focused on clean energy policies for electricity, policies to decarbonise heating and transportation – which account for 80% of global energy use – continue to be overlooked.

Measuring policy progress

The report measures policy progress in 133 countries on renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity access, and access to clean cooking – the four target areas of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), which calls for achieving access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

“Policy matters. RISE 2018 confirms the numbers that make it clear that policy is a leading indicator of the world's sustainable energy transition,” said Riccardo Puliti, senior director for energy and extractives at the World Bank.

“But the report also contains a warning: that without accelerated adoption of good policies, and strong enforcement, the world's climate goals and SDG7 are at risk,” noted Puliti.

This momentum was particularly marked in renewable energy. Among the countries covered by the study, only 37% had a national renewable energy target in 2010.

By 2017, that had grown to 93%. By 2017, 84% of countries had a legal framework in place to support renewable energy deployment, while 95% allowed the private sector to own and operate renewable energy projects.

Over the same period, the share of countries that had put in place national legislation on energy efficiency rose from 25% to 89%.

Electricity access deficit

In countries with an electricity access deficit, policymakers are increasingly turning their attention to off-grid solutions to close the gap. Read more: Kenya rolls-out roadmap to achieve universal electricity access by 2022

The share of low-access countries adopting measures to support mini-grids and solar home systems have soared from around 15% in 2010 to 70% in 2017.

In the same countries, however, the deteriorating fiscal position of national utilities is putting progress at risk.

Among countries with low access to energy, the number of utilities meeting basic creditworthiness criteria dropped from 63% in 2012 to 37% in 2016.

Among the four SDG7 target areas, clean cooking continues to be the most overlooked and underfunded by policymakers.

While the report finds some evolution in policy frameworks since 2010, there has been little progress on standard-setting for cook-stoves or on consumer and producer incentives to stimulate the adoption of clean technologies.

“There is a great opportunity now for countries to learn from each other to accelerate the uptake of good policies,” said Puliti.

“For example, what has Kenya done to expand access to electricity so rapidly? How did India structure its renewable energy auctions to deliver record-setting low prices for solar? At the same time, we need urgent action to address critical gaps, such as failing utilities, clean cooking, and the slow progress on decarbonsing heating and transport,” Puliti concluded.

The full report, along with detailed country profiles, is available at http://rise.esmap.org/