Yesterday, the US State Department gave its support to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative. The initiative seeks to mobilize support and action for the goal of providing universal modern energy access by 2030 as well as doubling the share of renewables in the global mix and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
Globally, 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity, and according to a US State Department spokesperson:
“The UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative represents an important opportunity for the international community to address issues critical to the future of sustainable development, energy access, and economic growth. Expanding the use of efficient and clean energy technologies is a priority of the Obama Administration, domestically and internationally, and increasing energy access is a central challenge facing the world.”
Ben Leo, ONE’s global policy director, welcomed the US support:
“With 7 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa without electricity or modern cooking facilities, and African businesses citing a lack of access to reliable electricity as one of the main impediments to their growth, US support for action on addressing energy poverty is to be strongly welcomed.”
Global energy poverty means huge swathes of people have no evening light, limited access to modern communications and inadequate education and health facilities, which are all vital for reducing poverty. Unreliable or unaffordable electricity also means businesses struggle to function which limits job creation –- which the world’s poorest prioritize above all else.
The US is already providing about $2 billion for domestic and international action to increase energy access and provide clean energy solutions. This is focused on three areas: 1) Technical Assistance, 2) Participation in Clean Energy Technology Partnerships and 3) Financing and Mobilization of Private Capital for energy projects. These approaches are helping to create a sound policy, regulatory and institutional framework for project investment and financing from private and international sources for energy projects.
In addition, the US continues to be a major supporter of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. With 2 million annual premature deaths from the inhalation of fumes and smokes from inefficient cooking and heating facilities the Alliance works to save lives through cleaner cooking stoves, improve livelihoods, empower women by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions in developing countries. Last week the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with international partners, also launched a new program called Powering Agriculture that will develop and scale appropriate, clean energy solutions for farmers and agri-businesses in the developing world.
ONE broadly welcomes these initiatives and the prioritization of the energy poverty issue by the US government. The fact that modern energy access to central to nearly all aspects of everyday life means that addressing energy poverty will be crucial if we are to alleviate poverty. The Administration is currently working with Congress to ensure this that will be built on and remains as a US government priority in 2012. ONE looks forward to working with both political parties to ensure this remains the case.