Sustainable energy needs “people power” finance: Jeremy Leggett

By John Parnell

Implementing sustainable energy will require a shift towards “people power” finance, a leading solar energy entrepreneur has said.

Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman and founder of Solar Century, said the current financial set-up could not move fast enough to spread renewable energy to developing countries.

With many governments also facing hard times, there are concerns over where additional funding could come from for such projects.

“I’m completely confident that the money is available,” Leggett told RTCC.

“There is wonderful scope for innovation in finance. But we’re dealing with a highly entrenched, international financial system that is very resistant to any sort of regulatory oversight or disruption of the status quo. This is despite everything we now know they have done to the global economy and unemployment and other problems.”

The UN has designated 2012 as the year of Sustainable Energy for All and the concept is set to be a key component of the Rio+20 environmental summit in June.

“As to the extent to which Rio can begin to turn that around…well, one can only live in hope but governments are struggling at the moment. A lot of this [finance] has got to come down to people power, communities and what we can do for ourselves to try and show the way with innovative funding models,” claimed Leggett.

Sustainable energy projects such as clean cookstoves and replacing kerosene lighting with solar, can have economic, environmental and health benefits. While there are many recognised sustainable energy solutions, there is less clarity over the long-term financing of such initiatives.

“We shouldn’t be losing sight of the fact that despite all of the problems there are with getting renewable energy into the field at a pace rapid enough to deal with climate change and development, $250bn is invested every year in renewable energy technologies.

Many believe solar energy can be a key technology in the developing world. (Source: SolarWorld)

“That’s a substantial proportion of all the money that is invested in energy every year which is something in the order of $1.3-1.4 trillion. So we are getting there but not anything like fast enough to deal with either climate change or the poverty alleviation and development problems,” said Leggett.

“This has to change and one of the ways we can do that is by growing unconventional, people power types of finance as fast as we can.”

A global tax on financial transactions to rise funds for such schemes was proposed at the UN climate change talks in Durban last year. However, there was little appetite to discuss new “long-term” finance mechanisms.

Backing for the so-called Robin Hood tax continues.

More from RTCC on Rio+20:

Read more on: Climate finance | | | | |