Jan 16, 2014

Can 'Sustainable Energy for All' be achieved?

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In 16 years a lot of things will change. What were you doing in 1998?

Even though 2030 is a long way off, the United Nations and World Bank would like to see universal access to energy by that year, which is quite an ambitious goal considering the immense challenges worldwide.

Global demand for primary energy is expected to increase by between 27 percent and 61 percent by 2050, according to the World Energy Council. Currently, 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity and 2.8 billion lack access to clean cooking facilities.

It will take between U.S. $19.3 trillion and U.S. $26.7 trillion cumulative global investments in electricity infrastructure alone between now and 2050 to close this gap and support growing global energy needs, according to the WEC’s World Energy Trilemma 2013 report. “After decades of work to advance sustainable energy solutions, an energy gap continues to grow as energy systems around the world struggle under significant strain,” the report states.

“It is vital that we form a coherent, long-term framework within which to plan and implement future investment,” said Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of the World Energy Council, an international organization founded in 1923 that is committed to a sustainable energy future. “Leadership is needed if we are to address the triple challenge of the energy trilemma – affordability, accessibility, and environmentally sustainable energy for all.”

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That leadership void has been taken up by the United Nations and World Bank, which recently announced a concerted effort by governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector to mobilize financing to deliver universal access to modern energy services such as lighting, clean cooking solutions, and power for productive uses in developing countries, as well as scaled-up energy efficiency, especially in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries.

“Energy powers growth and opportunity,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “We count on all actors to lead by example in scaling up and accelerating action that will provide clean, efficient, and sustainable energy for all.”

Assessing the Challenge

Energy assessments have been launched in 42 countries, which account for 361 million people without access to electricity. At least 12 of these assessments will be completed by April 2014, and will serve as the basis for energy investment agendas developed for each country. A Finance Committee established by the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Advisory Board will lead efforts to seek investor financing.

“Financing is the key to achieving these objectives,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “To reach our goals for access to energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, we need to mobilize an additional $600-$800 billion a year from now to 2030.

“We will now start moving in countries in which demand for action is most urgent. In some of them, only one in 10 people has access to electricity. It is time for that to change,” Kim said.

Setting up Support

The World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) launched a technical assistance program to support 10 countries participating in SE4ALL as they develop plans to scale up energy access. ESMAP is lobbying governments to distribute resources, and reform policies and regulations to help initiate private sector participation.

The Clean Technology Fund recently approved $115 million for the Utility Scale Renewable Energy Program to support the private sector in exploratory geothermal test drilling undertaken by the World Bank’s Global Geothermal Development Plan, which brings together international investment to scale up geothermal power in the developing world. 

The ESMAP has launched a City Energy Efficiency Transformation Initiative, which will work with city governments to facilitate promising energy efficiency investments, match cities with sources of financing, and assist officials to get projects off the ground.

And to scale up renewable electricity generation, the ESMAP has launched a major effort to support country‐level resource mapping and geospatial planning for biomass, small hydropower, solar, and wind resources. The program provides information on the location and commercial viability of potential areas for development, which may spur investments in renewable energy.

Nations Join the Effort

Brazil’s program of Access to Electricity, Light for All has reached 15 million beneficiaries, a result that contributed to the country’s attainment of over 99 percent of the population now having access to electricity.

Brazil also announced a Biogas Project for Electric Power Generation. It was developed by Itaipu in the areas of family agriculture and ranching on Brazil’s countryside, and uses animal waste as a source. The project is being replicated by Eletrobras in Uruguay, under the Global Partnership on Sustainable Electricity.

The United Kingdom, recognizing the burden of energy poverty on women and girls in low income countries, announced £7 million of new support through the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves for research into how its 100 million clean cookstoves by 2020 target can be met. 

The United States is supporting development of the ClimateScope Index, which will help private finance companies assess the clean energy investment space of developing countries. ClimateScope will also investigate local climate finance, low carbon value chains, and greenhouse gas management activities. It will prepare and release index information for countries in Africa and Asia, as well as incorporate an existing Multilateral Investment Fund pilot program in Latin America.

In addition to its startup funding for the SE4ALL global facilitation team, Norway has committed to support renewable energy and energy efficiency activities with about 2 billion NOK in 2014 (U.S. $330 million).

“An increasing share of the budget will be used to develop viable business models and leverage commercial investments, while also including civil society in our efforts,” said Norway State Secretary/Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans Brattskar.

Austria has contributed substantially to setting up the Office of the Global Support Team of the SE4All Initiative, located in Vienna. The office's work will focus on connecting partners; facilitating data sharing between governments, business and civil society in the areas of energy policy, market development and investments.

“Eighty-one countries are now participating in this initiative,” saidKandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General’s special representative and chief executive for Sustainable Energy for All.

“Their action is complemented by that of private sector companies and associations, as well as civil society groups,” he added. “We will continue to work with key stakeholders to achieve sustainable energy for all, to drive action that transforms lives.”

Implications of Non-Action

In Sub-Saharan Africa 250 to 400 million people could still lack access to energy in 2050, according to the WEC’s World Energy Trilemma 2013 report. Asia will have the highest need for investments in energy infrastructure until 2050, a staggering U.S. $10 to $12.5 trillion, compared to U.S. $3 to $4 trillion for Europe or North America.

In addition, the Middle East will struggle with increasing demand and energy intensity; Europe will struggle with balancing increasing energy prices and GHG objectives; and North America will struggle with aging and incremental energy plus issues of transport capacity and infrastructure.

In Latin America, large hydropower will continue to dominate the energy mix until 2050 and building necessary infrastructure will struggle to meet the expected demand.

“We stand on the verge of a genuinely more sustainable energy future. But daunting challenges remain,” said Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council. “Our ‘agenda for change’ provides new hope for the world’s energy leaders to redouble their collective efforts to put the policies and plans in place that will create a global sustainable energy framework.”

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