This week at the World Future Energy Summit in Abi Dhabi, the UN officially declared 2012 the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.” This declaration marks the increased recognition of and support for tackling energy poverty.
- 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.
Addressing energy poverty is a huge priority for Africa. Most people in Africa rely on biomass for cooking, which often is unsustainably sourced and a major cause of respiratory disease. A shocking 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are yet to have access to an electricity supply –- this means they have no evening light, limited access to modern communications, inadequate education and health facilities, and not enough reliable power to build their businesses. In fact, nearly 70 percent of surveyed African businesses cite unreliable and expensive power supplies as a major constraint to economic growth and job creation.
Addressing Africa’s energy poverty is crucial for poverty reduction, job creation and sustainable economic growth. African businesses and governments know this, and have clearly communicated the need for a coordinated effort to address the continent’s energy poverty. In 2012 there is an immediate need to drive this agenda forward and tackle the continent’s energy poverty.
When doing this the continent must not overlook its massive potential for renewable energy growth: only 0.6 percent of its geothermal energy has been exploited, less than 2 percent of its wind energy has been exploited, and only 7 percent of its hydropower potential has been exploited. Africa is rich in sustainable energy sources. As such, it has the potential to lead the world in a new form of sustainable economic growth. In the International Year of Sustainable Energy of All, leaders must look at how it can work with Africa to achieve this vision and in doing so lift the African people out of energy poverty.
“This is the right time for the initiative,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told world leaders in his opening address to the World Energy Summit.
“Across the world we see momentum building for concrete action that reduces energy poverty, catalyzes sustainable economic growth, and mitigates the risk of climate change. Achieving sustainable energy for all is both feasible and necessary, and my initiative will help us meet these objectives simultaneously. It can be a triple win for all.”