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Participants Share Views at a Recent Energy Summit

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14 May 2012

High-level representatives from governments, civil society, industry and various international bodies came together in April for a special Energy Summit in Brussels, where they presented their vision on how to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030. Yet, many participants questioned how this initiative may be translated into concrete action on the ground, while highlighting some of the efforts from their organisations towards tackling energy poverty.

InterviewsThe European Union Sustainable Energy for All summit, hosted by the European Commission and the Danish Presidency of the EU Council on 16 April, provided an opportunity for participants to re-state their welcoming of the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL). The gathering also served as a precursor to important energy discussions scheduled to take place at the Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development in June 2012.

Some 1.3 billion of the world’s population are currently without access to electricity while at least 2.7 billion lack clean cooking facilities. This has significant negative impacts at the social, health, development and economic levels, as highlighted by Pablo Leunda Martiarena from the EuropeAid Energy Unit (C5). The SE4ALL initiative wants to see this situation reversed by 2030 by tackling energy poverty.

Moreover, as stressed by Maria Neira of the World Health Organisation, it is important to emphasise the fact that the lack of sustainable energy access is a central health problem, as more than 2 million people die each year due to the use of traditional biomass for cooking - a death toll greater than that caused by malaria.

“The politicians have now made their job,” said Mr Leunda Martiarena, referring to SE4ALL. “It is time that people seriously started to work on organisation, planning, structure, funding – we’ve reached a more operational stage.”

According to Mr Leunda Martiarena, planning for the next phase of EC energy sector programming is also underway with the preparation of guidelines and support to colleagues in the Delegations to increase in-house knowledge and awareness of energy issues while contributing to the preparation for the 2014-2020 period of interventions.

“We have to invent ways of channelling, very quickly, support which would translate our commitment to this initiative,” said Mr Leunda Martiarena.

The structure of the SE4ALL initiative received comment from the World Wildlife Fund, who have invested considerable research in ‘The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050’, which presents a scenario of a world run entirely on renewable energy by 2050, and how to get there.  

While WWF support the SE4ALL goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030, they think some of the initiative's objectives fall short of expectations while some procedural issues could be improved.

“We have problems with some of the procedural issues and we have problems with some of the two other targets, which are doubling energy efficiency by 2030 and doubling renewable energy by 2030,” said Stephan Singer of WWF. “The two latter objectives, from our point of view, are not ambitious enough; they need to be strengthened if we want to stay below two degree global warming.”

At the opening of the Brussels Energy Summit, EC President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the launch of a new Commission initiative: Energising Development. The plan will provide 50 million euros over the next two years to support countries that "opt in" to the initiative and commit to the necessary reforms to spread the access and usage of sustainable energy sources.

The European Commission has made sustainable access a priority and supports the UN SE4ALL initiative, whose three interlinked objectives to be reached by 2030 are:

  • ensuring universal access to modern energy services
  • doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix

One of the EC interventions focusing on access to energy is the ACP-EU Energy Facility.

“The Energy Facility is about access,” explained Mr Leunda Martiarena. “It is about allowing communities, individuals and organisations to invent a solution to access problems.  It is a bottom up approach and is managed through calls for proposals. We invite the protagonists in the field, the civil society, societies in the rural areas of ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] countries to propose a solution to their problems of energy poverty and poverty in general terms.”

The African Development Bank (AfDB), also attending the Summit in Brussels, provides strong support to energy sector development in Africa and offers innovative solutions to connect remote communities to national grids.  

“From our perspective, access requires the whole line,” said Hela Cheikhrouhou, Director of the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department . “We shouldn’t neglect transmission and distribution.”  

“The two solutions to reach out to communities, including women, are the urban peri-urban or when possible, the grid extension or the off-grid-mini-grid solutions. So we are exploring both,” said Ms Cheikhrouhou on the sidelines of the event. “We are working in Mali on off-grid-mini-grid solutions including mini-hydro, solar but we also explore the possibility of pushing the grid where it makes sense economically. The decision in the end is economical factors to make it possible to do it and yet give these households an affordable source of energy.”

The AfDB and the African Development Fund (ADF) are developing large-scale clean energy projects in Africa. “In 2011 we got Board approval for Geothermal steam field development in Kenya, for 150 million dollars, from the ADF concessionary  ...  the AfDB team have been working with the Kenyan government on this small contribution to a very big ambition - they are having geothermal which is cheap and reliable and clean; it hits all the three,” continued Ms Cheikhrouhou.  “A number of initiatives are happening like that, whether they are in low income countries, in fragile states or in middle income countries.”

The German KfW Development Bank is another large financier of renewable energy initiatives in Africa.   “We have a number of quite interesting projects where we believe that they are considered as good practice – for instance, the Geothermal development in East Africa,” said Klaus Gihr, Head of the Energy, Transport and Telecommunication Division for Africa. “Another issue that I believe could be a ground-breaking deal is a regional hydro power plant we are planning to do with other European partners in the region of the great lakes, Burundi, Rwanda and the eastern parts of Congo ...  apart from producing power, it is a strong catalyst of bringing together the three governments.” This project could bring together a region that is just recovering from a devastating conflict.

Mr Gihr commenced his career in East Africa some 25 years ago and commented on the important change in end-user attitude towards energy access and provision. “There’s a complete new generation who think along business lines that are of the opinion, for instance, that energy/power is not a free giveaway or gift; that it’s a commodity that should be paid for. I think that it has greatly helped that we had the technological revolution in the mobile telecom industry 10-15 years ago, so even poor people accept that they should pay for electricity, because they pay for their mobile services.  So, some issues that are important for a sustainable energy sector are being addressed or have been addressed.”

But Mr Gihr also voiced uncertainty that the SE4ALL targets could be achieved. “Seventeen years is not a long time,” he said. “I’m not sure that we will achieve these objectives, but I am positive that we will make substantial progress”.   

This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Arnaud de Vansseyand Joao Nolasco with support from the Coordination Team.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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