Kyte: Universal energy access possible by early 2020s

Sustainable Energy 4 All chief says major strides in clean energy, efficiency and finance mean target of powering entire planet is closer than ever

Meenakshi Dewan age 20 is one of 4 women from the village of Tinginapu, in the Eastern Ghats, Orissa, who has been trained in solar powered engineering by The Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP), an organisation funded by DFID and run with the state government of Orissa. The Orissa Tribal WomenÕs Barefoot Solar Engineers Association has now got a contract to build 3000 solar-powered lanterns for schools and other institutions and is training other people in the community.

Meenakshi Dewan is one of 4 women from Orissa who has been trained in solar powered engineering by an organisation funded by DFID and run with the state government of Orissa (Pic: Dfid/Flickr)

By Ed King

Every man, woman and child on the planet could finally have access to regular and sustainable energy within a decade, according to a top UN official.

An estimated billion people still live without electricity, while three billion use animal waste, wood, charcoal or even coal to cook food, risking toxic fumes and lung disease.

The deaths of 800,000 children a year are linked to indoor smoke, while only 58% of healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa are connected to a grid, according to UN data.

Under the Sustainable Energy 4 All initiative these people should have access to electricity and cleaner cooking facilities by 2030, but the UN body’s chief Rachel Kyte is aiming for the early 2020s.

“We’re going to get this done earlier”, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

What is SE4ALL?
Launched in 2011, it’s an initiative driven by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon with three objectives: Ensuring universal access to modern energy services; Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Find out more in the Vision Statement.

Two developments underpin Kyte’s confidence. The first is a raft of new energy plans delivered by developing countries ahead of the 2015 Paris climate summit.

These offer a basic framework for investors willing to push into emerging markets with innovative micro-grid and off-grid solutions.

“There is no uncertainty about where we are trying to get to,” she said. “Figuring out how to build a framework that will support investment in the right direction is this year’s work.”

The other is finance. Clean energy investments hit a high of $329 billion in 2015, a figure Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged business leaders to double by 2020.

“Markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that can generate low-emissions resilient growth,” he told a New York summit.

Report: India, France switch on global solar alliance

This week India – with an estimated 300 million lacking power – laid the foundation stone of a new 120-strong ‘Solar Alliance’ headquarters in Delhi.

“As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, our hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold global initiative,” prime minister Narendra Modi said at the launch.

Last week the African Development Bank launched what it called the ‘New Deal’, aiming to boost electricity capacity by 160 gigawatts by 2025.

It will invest $12 billion, leverage $50bn and encourage African states to direct around 3% of GDP to drive the spread of clean energy across the continent.

Coming close to connecting the 645 million still lacking grid access will require 130 million grid and 75 million off-grid connections said the bank’s Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina.

“This will be the equivalent of adding 800 new 200MW power plants – the ambition is high but is has been done in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. It is doable,” he said.

In a recent interview with Climate Home, Kyte said there was now an “embarrassment of riches” when it came to investing in Africa’s clean energy future – which SE4ALL will look to coordinate.

“There is a sense of urgency, everyone is pointing in the right direction. 2016 is the final year for President Obama and the Secretary General – everyone wants points on the board,” she said.

Read more on: Africa | Asia | Climate finance | Energy | India | Renewables