7. Affordable and Clean Energy

How business leadership can advance Goal 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy

The world is falling significantly short of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and meeting the targets it has agreed for clean energy penetration and energy efficiency. More than 1 billion people (15 percent of the global population), mainly in rural communities, lack access to electricity. More than 40 percent of the global population currently lacks access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking. The share of renewable energy in final energy consumption remains at around 18 percent, and, despite recent advances in solar and wind power, much of this is through hydroelectric power. There are particularly acute challenges to increasing the share of renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors, which together account for 80 percent of global energy consumption. Despite improvements, many of the world’s largest energy consuming countries are not increasing their rates of energy efficiency at the speed that the global community has agreed is necessary.

Businesses have an essential part to play in driving the financing and development of technologies needed to achieve Goal 7. The private sector accounts for half of the world’s energy consumption, so it has significant scope to increase energy efficiency and source energy from renewable sources. Businesses supply energy and energy-consuming products and services to consumers, which they can make clean and efficient in use. They can also make these affordable to enhance access for underserved populations.

Given the scale of the challenge and the vital role of business, there is significant scope for leadership. Companies with energy intensive operations can significantly increase energy efficiency and source remaining energy needs from renewable sources. Where companies have energy intensive supply chains, they can promote similar action through supplier selection and build capacity among their suppliers to do the same. Leading companies can also leverage their skills to create and deploy new, affordable sustainable energy and energy efficiency products and services. They can also develop and implement business models to deliver sustainable energy and energy efficiency technologies to new markets and communities, supporting the goal to create universal access to sustainable energy.

Improving access, efficiency, and sustainability in energy supply around the world provides a significant market opportunity for business. Investment of $1 trillion each year required to deliver Goal 7, several times larger than current levels of spending on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy access. Energy efficiency and low-cost renewable energy sources offer cost reduction opportunities for businesses in their own production activities. Powering new communities with renewable energy technology supports complementary markets for business products and services, and the market for clean cooking solutions is starting to mature, providing opportunities for business.

Expanding access to sustainable energy supports progress on other SDGs. It is a crucial input to reducing poverty (Goal 1) and improving health (Goal 3), increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth (Goal 8), and the energy transition is a necessary enabling factor for climate action (Goal 13) and sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11). Companies should carefully manage the risk that action on Goal 7 leads to negative impacts on other SDGs. Increasing energy access through supply of additional hydroelectricity, for example, could have an adverse impact on environment (Goals 14 and 15) and local communities dependent on land near water resources for their livelihoods (Goals 1 and 2). Expanding supply with fossil fuel-based energy sources could endanger the delivery of Goal 13. Leading businesses manage these risks to support the full SDG agenda.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 7? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Integration of the commitment to Goal 7 in the corporate strategy, and top-level leadership, are key to realize the fundamental shifts in business activities and deliver the required technology and business model innovation.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 7?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action on Goal 7 galvanizes financial flows at scale towards the deployment of new technologies and business models for universal access to sustainable energy and energy efficiency. It has an impact that goes well beyond the company’s own operations and is consistent with the quantitative targets of Goal 7.

  • Is support for Goal 7 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 7?

Key Considerations

Advancing Goal 7 requires all organizational functions to be aligned so as to maximize cross-fertilization of ideas and to leverage all available resources; it is also essential that actions by one business unit do not negate positive impacts by other units.

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 7?

Key Considerations

Collaboration with other stakeholders is key to advancing Goal 7: it requires responsibly working with Governments on policy; cross-sector partnerships to exchange innovation; and engaging with communities to understand energy needs, can all drive progress.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 7?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

The deployment of new technologies at scale carries many risks of negative impacts on local communities that need to be carefully managed, particularly where significant use of land and resources is required, such as for hydropower, biofuels, and large power plants and transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Business Actions


Increase energy efficiency and renewables use


Develop products for increased energy efficiency


Deliver sustainable energy to new markets

How taking action on Goal 7 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Given the link between energy access, efficiency, economic growth, and green jobs (Goals 8 and 12), expanding energy access and increasing energy efficiency is likely to improve incomes, especially in rural areas, which can help reduce poverty and hunger (Goals 1 and 2). Clean energy, including for cooking, can reduce local and domestic pollution, contributing to health (Goal 3). Deploying renewable energy technology can provide access to energy without increasing carbon emissions. This will support national and international targets on climate mitigation (Goal 13). Expanding access to energy can advance goals related to infrastructure, especially in cities and developing countries, which is necessary to support sustainable development (Goals 9 and 11). Increasing access to energy can reduce inequalities between and within countries and sexes (Goals 5 and 10).

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

High impact energy generation projects including large hydroelectric dams can have adverse impacts by displacing people and erasing essential parts of their livelihoods, which could threaten progress on reducing poverty, hunger and inequalities (Goals 1, 2 and 10). If priorities are not carefully managed by businesses, the use of agricultural land for growing biomass crops can have negative impacts on reducing hunger (Goal 2) and cause deforestation (Goal 15).

Goal 7 Targets

Targets of Goal 7

  1. Universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  2. Increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  3. Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency