Understanding the SDGs: powering Goal Seven

IIED senior researcher Ben Garside says the Sustainable Development Goal on energy will be a powerful driver for development.

News, 24 September 2015

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on energy – Goal 7 – sets out a universal challenge not only to reach 100 per cent access to energy, but to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy sources, IIED's Ben Garside explains.

That means that developed countries have a lot of work to do to achieve this goal, particularly in terms of improving energy efficiency and renewable use.

Why is Goal 7 important?

Energy is a key enabler for development and so the inclusion of Goal 7, calling for universal, modern, reliable and affordable energy for all, is an important improvement on the previous Millennium Development Goals, Garside says.

It builds on the work already done by the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, which has helped to push the energy agenda forward.

Powering local communities

Realising this goal means shifting the focus from mega-generation via large-scale infrastructure to decentralisation, providing power to rural locations via small-scale local grids and off-grid solutions, Garside argues.

This poses a financial challenge, as we need to find ways, and the political will, to redirect large-scale finance to small initiatives.

Garside argues that civil society organisations can play a role in helping this to happen by calling governments to account on energy delivery. And small-scale developers and practitioners need to be involved in telling governments what works.  

Maximising benefits

IIED has been working on ways to ensure that the benefits of energy systems reach the people who currently lack access to energy, as with the energy labs developed in Tanzania.

We are also working with civil society organisations to build capacity to encourage them to engage in energy policy at a national level, through a new Alliance of CSOs for Clean Energy Access (ACCESS)

We are developing more holistic approaches to designing energy services based on needs and taking into consideration the local context to improve uptake, sustainability and impacts. 

And we are looking at the role of public finance in catalysing investment in delivering energy services to poorer groups as part of the public-private mix, Garside says.

Understanding the SDGs

IIED is publishing a series of video interviews with IIED experts who are working on issues relating to the SDGs.  Watch the 'Understanding the SDGs' series on YouTube, or read the individual interviews below: