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SPEECH/12/262

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Empowering the world: Can Europe bring an end to energy poverty in our lifetime?

EU Sustainable Energy For all Summit

Brussels, 16th April 2012

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Usually one should not state the obvious. But sometimes it is useful to remind it. So let me start by recalling how essential sustainable energy is for all of us.

In the developed world, adequate energy supplies are often the difference between growth and stagnation. In the developing world, they may make the difference between progress and falling behind, or even between life and death.

Yet the obvious can be ignored.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has had the vision to set three challenging goals by 2030 with his Sustainable Energy for All initiative; these are goals for us all in the international community: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the share of renewable energy, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

I greatly welcome this initiative. These goals are inspirational. At the same time, it is important to state it, they can be achieved. And they reflect also what the EU has already been doing, and will continue to do.

For example, with our unilateral 20-20-20 commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, more than double our share of renewable energy in our energy mix, and improve energy efficiency by 20%, all by 2020.

These actions are cornerstones of our Europe 2020 agenda for smart sustainable and inclusive growth. Because you simply can not have sustainable growth without sustainable energy production and use. But unleashing the huge potential of this new sustainable energy revolution is also creating huge job opportunities. And it will enable us to conserve and invest in key natural resources, while moving us towards low-carbon and resource-efficient solutions.

The EU is thus leading what some call the third industrial revolution; we are showing not only that these objectives of the 20-20-20 initiative can and will be met, but can positively benefit our citizens and provide major answers to the question "how to address climate change".

Ladies and gentlemen, energy is one area where there is real global interdependence, where our planet is truly interlinked and where our actions have an impact on others for better or for worse. The EU is therefore mainstreaming energy policy and climate action into all strands of our external relations. We are ready to offer strong support and leadership on this, inspiring and assisting others to match these efforts. Equally, we strongly support the Secretary-General's ambition on universal and sustainable energy access. Indeed, again, this matches action that we are already taking.

Ten years ago, for example, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg, we launched the EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development. Energy for the Poor.

The summit made clear the obvious: without access to modern energy services it is practically impossible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, from health to education, from ending acute poverty to eliminating hunger. And yet there was no Millennium Development Goal on energy itself. Energy for the Poor was therefore the EU's response to the challenge laid down at the Summit to meet this "missing Millennium Development Goal".

Africa has been a particular focus for our "energy cooperation" ever since. We further boosted our work in December 2007, when the EU and Africa decided to create the Africa-EU Energy Partnership – a long-term framework for structured political dialogue and cooperation on energy issues of strategic importance.

In May 2009, the European Union's Heads of State and Government went a step further, deciding to place special emphasis on providing increased access to modern energy services in rural and peri-urban areas of Africa, focusing on renewable energy. As a result, the financing for the Energy Facility doubled – from 200 million to 400 million Euro.

And at the high-level meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership in Vienna in September 2010, we agreed with our African partners on three joint targets:

first, to provide access to modern energy services to an additional 100 million people by 2020;

second, to double the capacity of energy inter-connectors in Africa and between Africa and Europe;

and third, to construct an additional 10 000 MW of hydropower – representing an increase of close to 50% – 5 000 MW of wind power and 500 MW of solar energy.

We are acting on these commitments. The European Commission alone has spent more than 2 billion Euro over the last five years on energy projects and around 1 billion euro on improving the state of the energy sector in developing countries, including efforts to increase access to modern energy services. Building on our experience and expertise, we have focused on all elements of energy, from electricity, to governance, to technology, to clean cooking facilities. And we are ensuring that investments and growth are inclusive, benefiting all citizens, and indeed concentrating on the poorest and most vulnerable, that very often means women.

And in order to scale up energy access projects, we have developed leading innovative financial instruments to pool the European Union's grant resources with lending from European development finance institutions. Overall this instrument already has a potential outreach of many millions in developing countries. And that's not all: the European Investment Bank has been prioritising energy, resulting in billions of Euro being granted in preferential loans in recent years.

We have also been focusing on supporting the aspirations of our partner countries in promoting and developing renewable energy. Our experience at home shows the benefits of investing in local renewable energy. It provides reliable, stable energy, at affordable prices, and creates jobs and growth.

Given the enormous competitive renewable energy resources available in much of the developing world, and Africa in particular, this represents a huge opportunity, for the developing world and also for the European Union.

Just recently, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre has published a very interesting report on "Renewable Energies in Africa". This study provides an analysis and a mapping of the potential and available resources for solar, wind, biomass and hydropower across the African continent. Such an overarching approach allows for each region of Africa to estimate the best choice or mix of renewable resources, taking fully into account sustainability and environmental criteria. This data could serve to set up national renewable energy action plans.

And we are seeking to do more in the coming years. Our 2011 blueprint for higher-impact EU development policy – what we have called our "Agenda for Change" – that has been endorsed by our Member States, will focus our cooperation on the most effective drivers of inclusive and sustainable growth. Sustainable energy can do just that, which is why it features so prominently in our policy. Using local people and local resources, it is central to providing opportunities for equitable and environmentally friendly economic growth, education and health, and also to help eradicate poverty.

The bottom line is this: without access to sustainable and modern energy services there can be no real development. Through our Agenda for Change we are seeking, quite literally, to "energise development". It is clear, however, that we cannot rely on technology alone to bring in the investments we need. Access to sustainable energy in developing countries is one of the top priorities of the EU development policy.

That's why the Sustainable Energy for All initiative presents our partner countries in the developing world with their own challenges to foster investments. These include getting their policy right and providing a "business enabling environment". This is the real "game-changer" of the Secretary-General's initiative; a real global partnership between the developing world, which will commit to introducing reforms and policies to catalyse investment, and the developed world, standing behind these commitments, through innovative financing support mechanisms.

The European Union will do its part here, collectively, the Commission and the Member States provide almost 60% of global Official Development Assistance, which is provided for poverty alleviation and the targeted interests of our partner countries.

And, if we have the courage to seize this opportunity, it is within our grasp. The International Energy Agency estimates that to achieve universal energy access we need to increase investments in energy infrastructure in the developing world by around 30 billion euro per year to 2030. But in our Africa Infrastructure Fund with the EIB we are already today leveraging aid granted to energy projects by a factor approaching 20-1 and we have supported energy projects with a total project volume of at least 4 billion euro. So if we do succeed in catalysing a business enabling environment across the developing world, the finance can and will follow.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have now clear scientific evidence that we need to embrace new ways of producing energy to avoid damaging global climate; we need to act upon this advice.

The EU is therefore ready to help those countries that demonstrate such commitment, and to increase its efforts. To that end, I am delighted to announce today the launch of a new Commission initiative: Energising Development.

Firstly, we will create a world-leading EU Technical Assistance Facility, initially in excess of 50 million euro over the next two years, to stand behind and support those countries that "opt in" to the initiative and commit to the necessary reforms. We will draw on the best EU experts in the field and promote the development and growth of expertise in developing countries themselves.

I mentioned before that the Commission is already spending over 600 million euro per year in supporting energy; collectively EU Member States are spending even more than this, as we will no doubt hear later today. This is a strong base and, with our Agenda for Change and the mainstreaming of "green aid", we can confidently expect this figure to significantly increase from 2014 onwards, concentrating on sustainable and inclusive energy investments.

In addition, we will focus on refining, expanding and improving innovative financial instruments to make sure that these billions leverage extraordinary change. For example, we are working with the European Investment Bank on new risk guarantee schemes in developing countries, which have the potential to leverage enormous investments by providing investors with the certainty that today hinders the realisation of many, otherwise profitable, projects.

And in the short term, we will look to providing a further several hundred million euro to support concrete new investments in sustainable energy for developing countries over the next two years. This support will leverage this amount many times over.

Here, today, I would therefore like to set a key objective of the Commission's Energising Development Initiative: we should seek to provide support to developing countries committing to the initiative, with the aim of providing access to sustainable energy services to 500 million people by 2030. This is a huge and ambitious objective, but if we work together, and have the courage to implement change, it can be done.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are committed to making this vision reality, and look forward to working in true partnership to accomplish this. That's why we have fully embraced Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Sustainable Energy for All initiative, on which we should also build in preparing the Rio+20 Summit in June this year.

I am particularly pleased that Andris Piebalgs has been asked to join the initiative's High-Level Group. Andris Piebalgs has skilfully managed the Commission's energy and development portfolios during my tenure as President of the Commission. He was Commissioner for Energy in the first mandate and now Commissioner for development, so you could not find a better person to go on with this initiative.

I am very pleased to have also here today the President of the EIB and of course the Ministers of development of the European Union under the leadership of Denmark, but also with our Norwegian friends and many guests around the world.

So we have much reason for optimism. Yes, there are some stiff challenges ahead for us all. But as we move ahead we can take encouragement from the fact that this great initiative also provides us all with immense opportunities – perhaps some of the greatest of the 21st century - what we can do together in terms of energy efficiency, in terms of climate action. They are some of the greatest opportunities for the mankind in the beginning of this century.

In these difficult economic times, new markets will be created; new partnerships forged; our partner countries will avail themselves of new technologies; and income and jobs will be created directly and indirectly. In fact, what we are working on is nothing short of another energy revolution for the developing world – a revolution that will help end energy poverty in Africa in our lifetime. An initiative, I am sure, will give a very important contribution for sustainable development.

Thank you very much.


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