Commissioner for Development
Universal access to Energy: an EU priority in the fight against poverty
European launch of the UN's Year of Sustainable Energy for All
European Parliament, Brussels, 8 February 2012
Dear Director General Yumkella, dear Mr Neuser, dear Mr Wijkman, members of the European Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking all of you involved in organising today's event, and especially the Energy for All coalition. The impressive turnout for today's event is further proof of the concerted efforts by the EU, its Member States, civil society and the private sector to contribute to the UN Year of Universal Access to Sustainable Energy.
The UN, lead by Mr Yumkella and the Secretary General's team, have worked extremely hard to bring about the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
We are here today because we understand that access to sustainable energy in developing countries is a top international priority. It is vital to equitable development, global environmental sustainability and achieving the MDGs. Making energy accessible to all will be an enormous challenge that will require coordinated efforts from all stakeholders involved; public, private and non-state actors.
The EU, which provides more than half of all global Official Development Assistance, stands fully behind the three targets of the initiative and is fully committed to achieving them. Indeed, they very much tally with the aims and policies we have already adopted at home.
The Agenda for Change we have proposed to heighten EU development policy's impact and effectiveness strongly supports inclusive and sustainable growth. It points to sustainable energy, alongside agriculture, as a key driver of that growth.
Sustainable energy is central to providing opportunities for inclusive, equitable and environmentally friendly economic growth, creating new job opportunities and contributing to poverty eradication while moving towards low-carbon and resource-efficient energy models.
Of course, we have a duty to take proper steps to further sustainable development at home as well. In the EU we take these responsibilities seriously.
Our response is the "20-20-20" initiative, under which we have undertaken – formally and unilaterally by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, ensure that renewable energy makes up 20% of our energy mix and increase our energy efficiency by 20%. The EU has backed up these undertakings with legislation which provides formally binding targets and obligations for its Member States.
We are on track to meet these promises; a hugely important commitment of the EU and an example to others that the objectives proposed by the Secretary General are ambitious, but with the necessary political will are absolutely achievable. In fact we will achieve the Secretary General's targets for the EU 10 years early, in 2020 rather than 2030. For example, as reported yesterday in the Financial times, 71% of all new power generation installed in the EU last year was from renewable sources.
It is a simple fact that without access to energy there can be no real development. Through our Agenda for Change we will seek to make energy work for development.
The EU will promote technology and expertise, together with development funding, to tackle three main challenges:
- first, price volatility and energy security;
- second, climate change, including access to low-carbon technologies; and
- third, access to secure, affordable, clean and sustainable energy services.
The Commission alone has spent an average of 315 million euro a year over the last seven years – that's about 2 billion euro in all – to enhance the state of the energy sector in developing countries. And the European Investment Bank has been prioritising energy, resulting in billions of euro being granted in preferential loans in recent years.
Moreover, the Commission has developed instruments like the ACP-EU Energy Facility, aimed specifically at increasing access to modern energy services in rural and peri-urban areas, focusing on renewable and energy efficient technologies; The Energy Facility has provided funding of 300 million euro since 2005.
A good example of the Commission's activity regarding access to modern energy services is the PAMENU project. PAMENU, which stands for "Providing Access to Modern Energy for Northern Uganda", follows a commercial approach, with all running costs covered by the end users benefiting from the project. Appropriate technologies and cooperation with micro-finance institutions will allow even poorer households to gain access to a wide variety of renewable and energy efficient technologies. With limited funds, this project has already succeeded in reaching more than one million beneficiaries.
To further support "Sustainable Energy for All", I intend to drive funding levels upwards. I envisage that the Commission could make significant additional funds available for energy actions in the years ahead. This would have to be done with the full involvement of the private sector and with every effort made to leverage funding with loans from development banks and investments from other private sources. Indeed, we will look to make greater use of innovative financial tools in the future.
However, there is one point that I wish to underline here, and that is one that I know Kandeh Yumkella fully shares: the initiative must promote inclusive development. We are seeking to promote energy to benefit the World's poorest citizens, not to generate profits.
The poor and remote citizens need to be at the core of our efforts, and every single national energy strategy that will result as the initiative takes shape and starts producing results must focus on this. In particular, I see a strong role for civil society, bringing renewable off-grid energy to the poorest and most remote citizens as a first priority.
The EU is therefore committed to playing a major role in this exercise, fully playing its part in meeting the goals, providing a wealth of experience and expertise and matching promises with results and funding.
But this will also require serious efforts on the part of our partner countries. They will need to put in place reform processes enabling energy funding to have the desired impact, with the private sector given a relevant and useful role, and, as I have mentioned, one that targets all citizens and focuses on energy as a driver for development for all.
Now the hard work starts. As partners we must start focusing on the practical aspects of this initiative. We must quickly finalise a concrete but ambitious action plan to deliver results. We also need to start working with developing countries to get National Energy Access Strategies up and running as soon as possible. Ownership by beneficiary countries must be the cornerstone of our initiative. We are making enormous progress, and I really believe that the objective of ending energy poverty by 2030 is more than achievable.
There is much work still to be done. The EU will do its bit to make the Sustainable Energy for All initiative a success.
And much good work is already underway. For instance, the recent inauguration of a new power line between Ethiopia and Djibouti will bring low-cost, clean, renewable energy to thousands for years to come. The line has been built thanks to the African Development Bank, with extra funding from the European Commission.
Projects like this show what we can achieve with effective partnerships and how development aid can make a real difference to people and lay the foundations for sustainable growth.
Yet with about 1.4 billion people still lacking any access to electricity and up to a billion more with unreliable access at best, it is clear that we need to up our game.
By the time the Rio+20 conference starts we should have finalised our Action Agenda, identified the first commitments to galvanise and inspire others, and devised ways of translating these commitments into action.
We have momentum on our side; now we must build on it.