News from Day 1 of Sustainable Energy for All Forum at UN in New York City

Magdalena A K Muir

First observation is that SE4ALL is large international event with over 1000 participants, and simultaneous meetings in up to four rooms. Due to the topics, I am primarily attending meetings in the Trusteeship Council room. Already there seem to be many overlaps between panels, and increasing consensus is likely to occur on key issues by the end of the event. I am highlighting some panels and issues that might be of interest.

Why SE4All needs civil society?

Experience of civil society discussed, from direct experience of these organizations and also through objective surveys of the experience of non- governmental organizations (NGOs). On behalf of EUCC, I commented on the need strong involvement of civil society to support sustainable energy development, where organizations will be treated on an equal status with private sector in UN and national contexts.. Drawing on the European experience, I also observed there is the need for civil society participation to support pubic and social acceptance of renewable energy projects, and to communicate. Inter-governmental organizations supporting cooperation for the Mediterranean discussed their own civil society project where involve civil society around the Mediterranean basin, but also raised that this may give rise to concerns from these governments, so there is need to also fully involve governments. In subsequent private discussion, it appears that there may be a greater opportunities for civil society (broadly defined to include academics, NGOs etc.) to participate in future efforts for the Mediterranean and in SE4All.

Women, Energy and Economic Empowerment

There was an engaging presentation by the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) which has over 2 million members and is a trade union representing poor self-employed women workers in India (which is approximately 93 % of the India workers, and 94 % of the female workers). As well as doing good work in India, SEWA is supported by the World Bank as a replicable model for elsewhere. See for more information on this fascinating organisation. SEWA led the discussion on micro-business, impacts of women and families, and ensuring affordable energy technologies and the financing of the technologies. There was also the endorsement of mixed public and private approaches, and use of traditional utilities and grid infrastructure, and innovative offgrid solutions. Otherwise, as one panelist observed that the poor are forced to generate own energy while powerlines goes through their communities. At the end, there was an acknowledgement of the need for market to move to the poor and to community based services and projects.For example, community based and owned microhydro projects that incorporate gender equity can improve agricultural processing; enable smarter practices by providing mechanical energy, electricity, and irrigation; and significantly increase energy access given their business, financial and technology innovation. The overall objective is to facilitate small-scale electrification and increase agriculture productivity and economic growth. For more information on a possible approach to community based micro hydro projects, see here.


Discussion of Potential Energy Goal, Targets and Indicators under Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The panel highlighted interconnection between this SE4ALL process, and the SDG process that EUCC is also participating. As well as focusing on and supporting the UN Energy proposed energy goal, there was a discussion of the interconnection of energy and water (what is technically referred to as the energy and water nexus), and the need for total energy solutions that integrated all factors. The proposed energy goal by UN Energy is quite expansive, and would significantly change the world if implemented:

  • Target 1: Ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030

o      Indicator 1.1 Percentage of population with electricity access.

o      Indicator 1.2 Percentage of population with primary reliance on non-solid fuels.

  • Target 2: Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030

o      Indicator 2.1: Rate of improvement in primary energy intensity of GDP measure in purchasing power parity terms.

  • Target 3: Doubling of share of renewable energy in global energy mix by 2030

o      Indicator 3.1: Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption.

SEALL National Action Agenda and Investment Prospectus

This panel was composed of discussions of the importance that the governments of Tanzania and Togo place on access to energy; complimented by presentations on Norwegian and European development aid approaches. H.E. Hans Brattskar, Deputy Minister of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway and Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General, EuropeAid, European Commission each made interesting presentations that stressed the important role of development aid, bolstered by private energy investment, supported by national agendas where energy access is a high priority.

A dialogue then ensued between these two gentleman, and the Hon. Prof. Sospeter Muhongo (MP), Tanzania Minister of Energy and Minerals, in terms of how to achieve rural electrification though large projects which may require development aid and financial guarantees, and small micro hydro projects that may be implemented by private parties. This is a significant issue as Tanzania is significantly under electrified in rural areas, with most rural areas having less than 10 % electrification. In a separate communication, Klaus Rudischhauser indicates the Europe’s efforts under the SE4All initiative will be discussed within Europe.

New Business models: bringing sustainable energy to the energy poor

This final and most significant panel was moderated by Klaus Rudischhauser, EuropeAid and included H.E. Andris Piebalgs, Commission for Development, of the European Union, who led with the first presentation. Andris Piebalg spoke first to the European Commission’s publication’s Empowering Development: Delivering results in the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All Mr Piebalg then referred to EU investment in energy now and in the future, and how it will be used wisely in the future to spur and support private sector investment, particularly for rural electrification. Much of Europe’s energy aid has been focused in Africa, but future aid will also be focused in the Pacific in partnership with other key funding countries there like New Zealand. Mr Piebalg concluded by indicating the support and priority that Europe places on the SE4All initiative.

There was then a discussion from Helen Clark, United Nations Development Program on the parliamentary organisations. Her comments included the role of private sector investment and sustainable energy, and how parliamentary organisations can support renewable energy

H.E. Silas Lwakabamba, Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Rwanda, discuss its approach, and impending partnership for energy development with Europe. Regional integration of electricity grid infrastructure with neighbouring countries was also discussed. The role of partnerships for technology and capacity development were also noted.

Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel SpA discussed the nature of the energy business particularly under SE4ALL, noting the small energy consumption for the poor but the importance of that energy for those persons, and the very large number of small energy consumers. Therefore the types of projects considered must address these two factors, and that the solutions must be self sustainable over long periods of time. From this perspective, the challenge is very complex. From their thirty projects in Africa and Latin America, better to consider an indirect business models (i.e., examples of subsidies biofuel pellets along with supported cook stoves). However this requires an empowerment of people and enlightened governments that are trying to assist the energy poor in their countries. In the best projects, they were able to directly engage with empowered people who invested and took ownership of projects.

Marcus Wiemann, Secretary General, Alliance for Rural Electrification, spoke then; followed by Tania Rodiger-Vorwek, Deputy Director General- Directorate 31, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Kandeh Yumkella, CEO of SE4ALL, spoke to European support and commitment to significantly increase energy access globally. He emphasized how Europe has helped make energy commitment reals. He then referred to Helen Clark’s presentation and the importance of appropriate public policy. The importance of the business model, and the empowering nature of energy access in peoples’ lives was stressed.

Closing Plenary

The intent of this forum and early feedback on its success with 2000 registrations, 700 persons in attendance today, 200 presenters today, and the launch today of many important reports and assessments, including the REN21 Global Renewables 2014 Global Status Report. Today was dedicated to mobilizing civil society and engaging private partnerships, with tomorrow being the launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All tomorrow. This will be a forum that will be repeated every year, and this is your first invitation to return next and subsequent years.


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