The availability of affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy stands central to securing a viable future for humanity; however, according to global modelling by the International Energy Agency, none of the targets for Goal 7 will be achieved by 2030. Yet more than one in 10 people globally do not have access to electricity and three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the largest electricity-access deficit: more than one in two lack access. On the other hand, most of those who do have access are supplied from unsustainable sources. Most of South Africa’s energy comes from coal burning, which emits large amounts of CO2, undermining SDG13.
Addressing these problems requires both systemic and socially grounded evidence, and its translation into policy. The Energy Systems Research Group at UCT addresses the systemic angle, combining modelling of energy and economic systems with policy analysis and field-based research to generate and enhance knowledge of energy systems at national and regional scales. One of the group’s projects involves the development of a national energy systems model for the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the capacity to use it.
Shifting energy development pathways from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is essential for achieving Goal 7. Leading researchers at UCT have recently reflected on the role of climate finance to transform energy infrastructure as part of a just transition in South Africa.
UCT’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) has ongoing and cross-cutting research and capacity-building projects that address not only climate action (Goal 13) but also access to energy. The ACDI Energy 4 Wellbeing team is working to provide detailed qualitative and quantitative data on the impact of off-grid energy provision on the wellbeing of the poorest South African households.