Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims at ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Sustainable energy is an opportunity to transform lives, economies and the planet. Still, one in five people lack access to electricity and, as demand continues to rise, there needs to be a substantial increase in the production of renewable energy across the world. The proportion of the world's population with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking increased from 51% in 2000 to 58% in 2014, although there has been limited progress since 2010.

Space technologies are central in:

  • Critical infrastructure monitoring, particularly with regards to energy networks
  • Power grid synchronisation
  • Seismic surveying
  • Identification of optimal sites for the production of renewable energy
  • Solar and wind energy production forecasting to estimate the amount of energy that needed from other sources

Quick Facts

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  • Every hour the sun beams onto Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year.

  • Spacecrafts in the inner solar system usually rely on the use of photovoltaic energy and different Space Agencies are financing research to increase the efficiency of solar cells.

  • The first solar powered satellite, named Vanguard 1, was launched in 1958.

  • Satellites can be used to collect solar energy so that it can be distributed for use all over the earth. Solar power satellites, otherwise known as powersats, orbit the earth and are designed to capture solar energy and transmit that energy to receiving stations that are situated thousands of miles from each other on the surface of the earth. These satellites are made up of a number of modules outfitted with light weight photovoltaic solar panels.

Nuclear power sources

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Space is contributing to the management of smart grids, as their development is not possible without Global Navigation Satellite Systems, which provide the accurate timing that the smart grids require for synchronization. Additionally, technologies such as solar panels for spacecrafts when the solar radiation is enough to power the on-board instruments or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) for missions that cannot rely on the energy coming from the Sun, have applications on Earth, where RTGs have been used to power unmanned facilities.

Recognizing both the hazardous nature of nuclear power sources as well as their necessity in particular cases, in 1978 the General Assembly endorsed recommendations for the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to formally consider the technical aspects of and safety measures relating to the use of nuclear power sources in outer space. These considerations resulted in the adoption of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space (NPS Principles) by the General Assembly in 1992. Under the Principles, Member States are required to inform the Secretary-General regarding safety assessments carried out prior to launch of nuclear-powered space objects for dissemination to other States and the general public.

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