Monitoring and reporting of SDG 7

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Delivering the Goal: the monitoring and reporting apparatus for the implementation of SDG 7 on energy

Monitoring and reporting for the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda  was adopted by the UN in 2015. It is composed of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Each Goal includes a number of targets to be reached by the year 2030. There is an obvious need for continuous monitoring and periodic reporting during the period between 2015 and 2030, so that it is possible to check whether implementation proceeds at a sufficient speed and how likely it is that each target is reached at the given date.


A worldwide apparatus has been set up to perform this monitoring. The task of coordinating the monitoring activities, mainly performed at the country level, is assigned to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an Organisation established in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, which “mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Much of SDSN’s work is led by National or Regional SDSNs, which mobilize knowledge institutions around the SDGs”.

A vast series of indicators has been set up, and is permanently updated, by the UN Statistical Office.


A very useful document is the yearly SDG Index and Dashboards Report by SDSN and the Bertelsmann Foundation. Its 2017 edition is entitled “Global Responsibilities. International spillovers in achieving the goals”. This is much more than a report, it is a tool (index and dashboards) that can be used by all interested researchers and citizens for monitoring aspects of the situation and progress in policy activities in each country and for each of the 17 SDGs.


SD Goal 7

This article provides a short description of the issues regarding the monitoring of SDG 7: “'Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.



The monitoring apparatus for SDG 7: targets and indicators


In order to transform the general statement of SDG 7 into action, three targets were set: 1. universal access, 2. environmental sustainability (identified as the share of renewable sources in total energy), and again 3. sustainability (identified with rapidly increasing efficiency in total energy use).

Each of these targets raises problems of measurement, as is evident by examining the specific indicators that have been chosen.

Target 7.1: by 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services

Indicator 7.1.1: Proportion of population with access to electricity

Problem: Millions of people in the world have a connection to an electric grid but do not get more than an intermittent flow of electric energy, often insufficient in quantity (power) and quality (voltage and frequency), while others have no connection to a large grid but get some electricity from an individual diesel generator, or from a solar home system (with or without battery storage), or from connection to a local (village) mini-grid, and here again, a problem of adequacy and quality arises.

Rather than using a binary (yes-or-no) classification, measurement can take various levels of access to electricity into account, considering quality, duration and continuity of service. Such complex information could be condensed into a single number, which could be used to measure the overall level of service in each country or region, and the relative distance from the target of universal access. Unfortunately, as far as we are aware, such an attempt has not yet been made, and the only measurement available is the rather excessively simplistic binary classification.

Another distinction which could be useful, and does not yet exist, is between individual homes and institutions, where intermittency has a much stronger negative impact.

Indicator 7.1.2:  Proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology

Problem: Here the task is even more difficult. At the present time, the most diffused indicator is inverse and it is based on the estimation of the proportion of population using biomass as the primary source of energy.[1] It is assumed that the populations using biomass in a traditional way (open fire), are not relying on clean fuels and technologies. This could be improved by distinguishing the different types of fuels and the environments in which they are used, and by assessing the technological level of the instrument (stove or brazier) used. Rather than a binary (yes-or-no) classification, a multi-tier scale could be used, and again, its outcome could be condensed into a simple number to allow for comparisons and measurement of progress. Yet again, the only data at our disposal is the simplistic binary classification.


Target 7.2: by 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Indicator 7.2.1: Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption

Problems: There is no problem in EU countries in which the definition of final energy consumption and renewable energy is given by legislation. However, problems may arise in other contexts. Energy consumed is the variable to be considered, yet often measurement is based on energy produced, which is easier to measure when it is centralized, so imported/exported energy must be taken account of. Furthermore, the definition of renewables includes controversial components, such as electricity from waste.

Of course, the main source of uncertainty here is the vague wording of the target: “increase substantially”.


Target 7.3: by 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

Indicator 7.3.1:  Energy intensity measured in terms of primary energy and GDP.

Here, primary energy must refer to energy used, not to energy produced. Comparison over time should be performed at “constant prices”, i.e. remove the effect of inflation.

The appropriate indicator is the rate of change of energy efficiency, defined as reciprocal to energy intensity. If energy intensity is the amount of primary energy per unit of GDP, energy efficiency is the value of GDP per unit of primary energy used.

For example, in 2016 the European Union produced a GDP of 14904 billion euros (measured in 2010 prices) using 1640 million tons of oil equivalent (calculated by transforming all energy sources in oil equivalent energy). The ratio 14904/1640 = 9.09 €bn per MTOE is the measurement of the energy efficiency of the EU GDP in 2016. The corresponding level of efficiency was 7.27 in 2010. The overall six-year increase has been 25%.

The first step has been to set a base period (one year in this case, but a three-year period would be better since indicators are subject to fluctuations in weather conditions, short-term market trends, changes in inventories, etc.). The second step has been to calculate the ratio of GDP to the total amount of primary energy consumed in the domestic economy and then to perform the same calculation for a later year or period. At that point, the rate of change of energy efficiency during the time lapse between the two periods would be calculated, a sort of “speed” of improvement. In our case, an increase of 25% in six years corresponds to an annual rate of improvement of 3.8% per year. According to the reasoning of SDG 7.3, energy efficiency should improve at a rate twice as high, i.e. 7.6% per year, during the six years from 2016 to 2022.

This is, however, a rough estimate. Official calculations will be more thorough. Yet, any result can be controversial in the presence of economic disturbances such as a sharp economic fluctuation and measurement uncertainties.


Further targets and indicators to measure efforts in cooperation

In principle, it is possible to measure the degree of achievement of the three targets in any country in the world. In fact, difficulties arise when considering elements such as the measurement of the primary energy used in countries where the “population relying on traditional biomass” exceeds 50%, and in many cases, even 80% of total population. Here, the level of energy intensity (efficiency) is an estimation and its rate of change over a period of a few years is unreliable.  

The most serious problem, however, is not statistical: it is social and political. Some countries in the world, where incomes are very low, have no way of meeting the targets if they have to rely on their own economic and financial resources.

Since international cooperation is needed in order to achieve the Goals in Developing Countries, where the gap to be filled is larger and the resources available are scarce, the formulation of the SDGs has taken this need into account, through two complementary ways. One way is internal to each SDG: additional targets have been introduced, which address this need and are referred to activities in the area of cooperation for development. The other way is represented by Goal number 17: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development”.  Here we discuss the former measure, i.e. the additional targets inside SDG 7.

SDG 7 has two additional targets:

7.a       By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil fuel technology and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology

7.b       By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular, least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.

These targets are much more vaguely expressed than the previous ones (7.1, 7.2 and 7.3). The task of setting indicators that could make these targets clearer, and identify activities apt to the challenge, has only been initially undertaken. The indicators available today are:

7.a.1 International financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy research and development and renewable energy production, including in hybrid systems.

7.b.1 Investments in energy efficiency as a proportion of GDP and the amount of foreign direct investment in financial transfer for infrastructure and technology to sustainable development services.

These indicators are grossly inadequate, as they focus on financial flows and on a narrow definition of investment. It is understandable that such variables have been chosen, they can be measured without facing excessive difficulties. Yet, it must be noticed that the monitoring exercise does not factor in the human component of cooperation, such as the activity of volunteers, or the operations of companies extending a grid that carries electricity generated by non-renewable sources, or the distribution of LPG-fuelled domestic stoves.

Further Information

Energy Access portal


Ranci Leonardi Susani, Energy Poor, 2016, par. 1.3 and 1.4,

UN Statistical Office, SDG tier classification,

Practical Action, Poor People’s Energy Outlook 2014, chapter 4,

SDSN and the Bertelsmann Foundation, SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017 “Global Responsibilities. International spill overs in achieving the goals”,

  1. The IEA 2017 Energy Access Outlook defines: “Access to modern energy services includes household access to a minimum level of electricity; household access to safer and more sustainable cooking and heating fuels and stoves than traditional biomass stoves; access that enables productive economic activity; and access for public services”. It also defines modern fuel stoves as “Stoves which use liquids or gas, including LPG, biogas, electricity or natural gas. Excludes kerosene"

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This article is part of the Energy Access Portal which is a joint collaboration between energypedia UG and the “World Access to Modern Energy (WAME)". WAME is managed by the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (MuST), the Fondazione AEM and the Florence School of Regulation (FSR) and it is supported by Fondazione CARIPLO.

Written by Pippo Ranci: Principal Advisor at the Florence School of Regulation, Chairman of World Access to Modern Energy