The event opened with keynote speeches from Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development and Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). SEI Research Director Måns Nilsson presented key findings and messages from SEI’s global assessment on energy for all.
The UN Year for Sustainable Energy for All is intended to mobilize urgent global action to achieve the key objectives of ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030. The UN Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All believes that these targets are achievable, provided there is real partnership between all sectors of society.
All sectors were represented at the European Parliament for the launch event, which showcased efforts by the European Commission, European Parliament, civil society, research organizations and the private sector in supporting progress towards achieving the Universal Energy Access goals.
This broad partnership, as well as a shared vision, is critical for international commitment to achieving the ambitious UN goals, and there is hope that the centrality of energy for achieving development will ensure that progress is made.
“The strategic importance for all governments to secure energy for development makes it a truly shared agenda globally and therefore a more viable avenue for international negotiations,” says Måns Nilsson, Research Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
The greatest challenge for Energy for All 2030 partners SEI and Practical Action will be in scaling up energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa where, if South Africa is excluded, only 28% of the population has access to electricity.
“For too long development assistance has neglected the crucial role of energy in development. It’s impossible to take people out of poverty as long as they depend on fuel wood and animal dung for their energy needs,” says Anders Wijkman, Associate Senior Fellow at SEI and former Member of the European Parliament.
As the world’s largest single donor of development aid, the EU is in a position to play a key leadership role in ensuring rapid scale-up of access to energy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The EU is already playing a unique role in terms of the type of development support provided for increasing access to energy in Africa,” says SEI Researcher Fiona Lambe. “With a focus on smaller scale, decentralized energy options, capable of reaching rural, isolated communities, this is a model that could potentially be replicated and taken to scale.”