Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative Gathers Steam

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The Sustainable Energy for All initiative held its second annual Forum in the UN General Assembly Hall last week. SE4All is a multi-stakeholder partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, banks, and other international institutions aiming 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.
  • Since extensive energy use, especially in high-income countries, creates pollution, emits greenhouse gases, and depletes nonrenewable fossil fuels, the initiative also addresses the goal of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Says SE4All:

“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.”

Commitments the EU, Germany, and the United States have made will help developing countries provide nearly one billion people access to energy by 2030. However, population growth means universal access will still be unavailable by that date.

More than 90 million people have already been able to access sustainable energy under pledges to the initiative, which has been operating since September 2011. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim co-chair the group.

The forum built momentum on energy issues ahead of the September UN Summit on a post-2015 development agenda and the December UNFCCC climate conference in Paris (COP21). Around 40 ministers and top figures from business, international organizations, and development banks attended, with well over a thousand other participants from both the developed and developing world. Akon, the multi-platinum-selling musician, who co-founded Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 to provide solar power across the continent, also attended.

The World Bank released this year’s edition of SE4All’s Global Tracking Framework at the Forum on Monday. It estimates that the current flows of around $400 billion a year must triple to a total annual investment of about $1.2 trillion will be needed to 2030 in order to achieve these ambitious targets.

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Kandeh Yumkella, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All and CEO of the SE4All initiative, said:

“Governments do not have that kind of resource. Only public-private partnerships will generate this kind of resource flow…. This is not about charity. This is about markets and investments. We see this as a trillion-dollar opportunity, not a trillion-dollar challenge.”

Commitments made at the forum 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 program, 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.

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