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Regional sales head Ramesh Jha of Schneider Electric India launches "Switch on India" campaign on July 3, 2017, in Kolkata, India. Photo: Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Shell, Engie, Schneider Electric and other multinational energy companies have recently announced ambitious goals to extend electricity access to about 200 million people, 20% of the unelectrified population globally, within a decade.

Why it matters: The seventh UN-backed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) is delivering affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity to the 1 billion people around the world living in the dark. It's a major challenge, but presents both humanitarian and economic opportunities to companies with deep pockets and large geographical footprints.

Details:

  • In October, Shell said it expects to provide electricity to 100 million more people and help turn energy startups into substantial businesses.
  • Engie aims to provide access to “decarbonized, decentralized” energy to 20 million people around the world by 2020.
  • Schneider Electric is halfway toward its goal of connecting 50 million new households to electricity by 2025.
  • Total has hopes to reach 25 million people in Africa by 2020 with its solar products, while EDF is also active.

Where it stands: These five energy giants have already invested in or acquired more than 10 of the leading household solar and renewable energy mini-grid companies in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In addition:

  • Engie's internal mini-grid company, PowerCorner, plans to power 40,000 homes in Tanzania by 2020.
  • Schneider has pledged to train 1 million solar technicians in energy-poor countries by 2025 and has achieved almost 20% of that target.

It's expensive to extend grids to the rural communities where 80% of the world's unelectrified population live, so investments have focused on decentralized renewable-energy solutions. Scaling distributed energy has already connected tens of millions of people and displaced kerosene and diesel generators.

Yes, but: Global finance for SDG 7 is “dramatically off track.” This deficit jeopardizes progress in other areas, because electricity access is often a prerequisite for clean water, food security, health, education and other SDGs.

The bottom line: While multinational corporations alone cannot solve the problem of energy access — especially for marginal communities that cannot afford basic services — they can use their size and balance sheets to make a difference.

William Brent is director at Power for All, a global coalition to expand electricity access through renewable energy.

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.