Billions of dollars mobilised under the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative can halve energy poverty worldwide and more investment is being committed, but there is still a long way to go to meet the twin challenges of energy poverty and climate change.
More than 90 million people have already gained access to sustainable energy under pledges made for the initiative, which is rallying governments, international institutions, businesses, banks and civil society towards three interlinked targets by 2030: achieving universal access to modern energy services, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix.
“How do we convert commitments to kilowatt hours for real people? That is the trillion-dollar question,” Kandeh Yumkella, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All and CEO of the SE4All initiative, told delegates to SE4All’s second annual Forum in the UN General Assembly Hall today.
“This is not about charity. This is about markets and investments. We see this as a trillion-dollar opportunity, not a trillion-dollar challenge.”
Some 1.1 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and nearly three billion rely on dangerous and polluting traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal and dung to cook and heat their homes.
At the same time, extensive energy use, especially in high-income countries, creates pollution, emits greenhouse gases and depletes non-renewable fossil fuels.
Commitments already made under the SE4All initiative by the EU, Germany and the United States alone are set to help developing countries to provide energy access for a total of nearly one billion people by 2030, but population growth means this will remain well short of universal access.
Partners at the four-day Forum in New York are announcing further significant commitments in both funding and tangible action, but there is still far to go.
The second edition of SE4All’s Global Tracking Framework, released by the World Bank at the SE4All Forum on Monday, estimates total annual investment of up to USD 1.2 trillion will be needed to 2030 in order to achieve these ambitious targets – triple the current flows of around USD 400 billion a year.
“Governments do not have that kind of resource. Only public-private partnerships will generate this kind of resource flow,” Yumkella said. “The framework we show requires investment not only in the South, but in the rich North.”
Catalyst for action and investment
Building momentum on energy issues ahead of both the September UN Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, and the December Climate Conference in Paris, the Forum aims to help shape the direction of energy policy and act as a catalyst for vital investment in the crucial decades to come.
Two days are devoted to a ‘Global Energy Ministerial’ – the first to be held at the United Nations – in the UN General Assembly Hall.
Around 40 ministers and top figures from business, international organizations and development banks are attending the event, which has attracted well over a thousand participants from the developed and developing world alike.
Also taking part is the multi-platinum-selling musician Akon, who co-founded Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 to provide solar power to millions of households across the continent.
Commitments at the Forum
Commitments made at the Forum, which runs from May 18-21 under the theme of ‘Financing Sustainable Energy for All’, include the following:
- The European Union said grants of EUR 3.5 billion from 2014-2020 would leverage sustainable energy investments of up to EUR 30 billion for electricity generation, transmission and access. This includes funding through a new facility, ElectriFI, that aims to boost private sector investments by bridging gaps in project financing.
- The Global Environment Facility said its new Sustainable Cities programme, expected to be approved next month, would support 11 countries and 23 cities with USD 150 million and leverage USD 1.4 billion to promote sustainable urban development planning. It also pledged USD 3 billion in projects and programmes to support climate change mitigation and adaptation in 2014-2018.
- The OPEC Fund for International Development said it would turn an earlier one-time pledge to provide USD 1 billion to alleviate energy poverty into a revolving fund, to be replenished on an ongoing basis. Its commitments to funding under the original pledge have already exceeded USD 1.4 billion.
- China said plans to provide all its people with electricity by 2015 would be completed on time, and the country was committed to increasing the non-fossil fuel share of its energy consumption to 15% in 2020 and 20% by 2030, compared with about 11% last year.
- Netherlands-based NGO ENERGIA said it was committing EUR 13 million of its donor-government funding over the next five years to energy-related activities, including capacity-building for more than 3,000 women-led businesses to deliver energy services to more than 2 million consumers.
- Barbados, which already has universal access to modern energy services, said it was working to generate half its energy from renewables and cut electricity consumption by 22 per cent by 2020.
- As well as providing fresh budget funding for SE4All’s small Global Facilitation Team, the United Kingdom pledged to support a new Green Mini-Grids in Africa programme to provide clean, safe energy access to one million people in Kenya and Tanzania.
- PowerGen Renewable Energy said it would provide 800,000 beneficiaries in East Africa with electricity by 2020 through 1100 solar micro-grids.
- Italian utility ENEL pledged to invest EUR 8.8 billion in 2015-2019 on developing renewable energy capacity, a 50% increase from previous plans, adding up to 7,100 MW to its installed capacity worldwide.
Launched in September 2011, the SE4All initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership working with governments, businesses, civil society, banks and international institutions to meet three interlinked goals by 2030:
- ensuring universal access to modern energy services;
- doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; and
- doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency worldwide.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim co-chair the SE4All initiative, which addresses the crucial global challenge of addressing energy poverty while at the same time mitigating climate change.