This paper investigates whether the goal of universal energy access in the post-MDGs dialogue sufficiently addresses the challenges faced by the Southern countries. Though access to energy is an important precondition for development and resilience to socio-economic and climate variability and change, about 1.7 million people lack access to electricity. Hence, the post-MDGs dialogue mandates attention to energy poverty reduction. A critical review of literature on the dialogue was conducted to analyse gaps in the current conceptualisation of the goal. Existing indicators to evaluate access and key discourses on sustainability were also reviewed. The study identifies that at present the dialogue does not take a dynamic view of energy systems given their vulnerabilities. While the notion of energy access in the dialogue may be fairly comprehensive in tracking the current level of access, it does not provide sufficient insight into the ability of the eergy system to sustain that level of access. An approach based on literature on risk assessment is proposed to incorporate ‘sustainability of access’ into the current energy goal.