Which CEE country is the closest in achieving the SDG 7 2030 target?

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According to a recent study which assesses the progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”), there was systematic progress towards reaching the EU’s SDG 7 in the period between 2010 and 2021, with differences between individual EU countries clearly decreasing.

In particular, SDG 7 aims to: ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services; increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology; and expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all.

Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia and Greece: some of the CEE champions

Of the seven indicators, the majority of countries reached the last one in 2021, which refers to the share of the population unable to keep homes adequately warm. The target was set at 1.88 per cent and countries of Northern Europe and most of those in Western Europe reached this target with the lowest shares of people without affordable access to heating. On the contrary, countries of Southern and South-Eastern Europe suffered from the lack of adequate heating. This was mainly due to the poor energy efficiency of buildings and the lack of adequate heating systems and insulation, which caused higher heating costs. Among CEE countries, only Slovenia achieved the 1.88 per cent target.

In the case of the fifth indicator (Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption), the target for 2030 (40 per cent) was achieved in CEE only by Latvia, with 42.1 per cent. In general, the use of renewable energy in the EU can be said to be steadily growing, largely due to the use of wind and solar energy, an increase driven by reductions in investment costs, the use of more efficient technologies, supply chain improvements and support schemes for renewables. However, the variation in the share of renewables across Member States is still very large.

The 2030 target for the sixth indicator (Energy import dependency) in CEE was achieved in 2021 only by Estonia. In 2020, all EU countries were net importers of energy, with 16 importing more than half of their total energy consumption from other countries (EU and non-EU countries). In 2020, the main non-EU energy suppliers included Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom and North America. Imports of fossil fuels still cover more than half of the EU’s energy demand despite the continuous growth of renewable energy sources.

The 2030 target for the third indicator (Final energy consumption in households per capita) and the fourth indicator (Energy productivity), were only achieved by Western European countries.

As regards the last two indicators, the first one (Primary energy consumption) and the second one (Final energy consumption), in 2021 the target set for 2030 was only achieved by Greece.

Estonia and Slovenia close to the 2030 target

Overall, because of changes in the values of the seven indicators that took place over 11 years, the group of countries that came closest to the 2030 target in 2021, apart from the three Scandinavian countries, includes also Estonia and Slovenia. At the same time, the slowest progress was recorded in Bulgaria and Lithuania.

Compared to 2010, the biggest climb in the ranking for 2021 was made by Latvia. On the contrary, Romania and Slovakia both fell in the ranking, by 7 places (from 9th to 16th) and by 8 places (from 14th to 22nd) respectively.

The study referred also to the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many EU countries experienced a slowdown in the progress towards SDGs. On the one hand, counter-pandemic measures helped to enhance energy efficiency, which is one of the key pillars in achieving SDG 7. On the other hand, the economic recovery of 2021 and the return to pre-pandemic mobility patterns increased the demand for energy again. Thus, given these short-term trends, the authors of the study concluded that in order to ensure the EU achieves its goals by 2030, changes in all indicators should be continuously monitored and assessed.

*The conducted study also had its limitations as it was not possible to use all SDG 7 indicators included in Agenda 2030 because the required statistical data were not directly comparable.

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