Of all the SDGs, SDG 7 is the simplest and has the most straightforward targets. There needs to be more energy, it needs to be modern and affordable energy, with priority to communities that currently don’t have it at all. Ideally, the energy source should be clean. And the poorest and most remote countries should get help to be able to generate modern energy themselves.

Our current modern energy systems are dominated by fossil fuels (although hopefully soon this will no longer be true). So most of us tend to think of fuel and electricity as billion-dollar industries and corporations. And they are.

But energy at its core is also a fundamental human need at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy. It is directly related to the need for warmth. In most societies, it is also indirectly related to the other basic needs for water and food. Municipal water treatment plants require electricity, and the growing and transporting of food at scale requires fuel and electricity too. Not to mention the necessity of energy for modern healthcare systems, from the powering of hospital equipment to the preservation of medicines.

This is why, although the current unsustainable energy system is driving the planet’s climate instability, fixing this system is not straightforward. Many immediate existential needs depend on continued access to affordable energy. Even the efforts to change the system to clean(er?) energy – such as the mining of minerals for batteries, manufacture of solar panels, installation of offshore wind turbines – all still require the legacy energy for the time being.

In my travels, I note how many of these issues manifest, particularly for island and landlocked communities. What energy source remote places depend on, where it comes from, the human consequences of energy scarcity, and how and why they seek to change. And I also write snapshots of the energy transition as we live through it together.