UN Secretary-General’s advisory group report calls for new initiative to bring clean energy to the poor

A report issued in April 2010 by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) calls for expanding energy access to more than two billion people, and for scaling up efforts to increase energy efficiency and clean energy efforts to meet the climate challenge and realize the Millennium Development Goals.

The report found that a lack of access to modern energy services represents a significant barrier to development. Some 1.6 billion people still lack access to electricity.

A reliable, affordable energy supply, the report says, is the key to economic growth and the achievement of the anti-poverty targets contained in the Millennium Development Goals.

By 2030, the report states, there must be universal basic access to modern energy services and substantial increases in energy efficiency. It calls for a 40 per cent reduction in global energy intensity by 2030, which, if implemented, would reduce global energy intensity by 2.5 per cent per year – approximately double the historical rate.

Secretary-General Ban underscored the importance of the Group’s work by noting that “the decisions we make today on our energy future will have far-reaching consequences — for climate change, for development, economic growth and global security. Providing clean, affordable energy for all is essential. It is a massive challenge, but — as this report shows — it can be done”.

Increasing access to modern energy services at a level sufficient to meet basic human needs, would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The International Energy Agency estimates that expanding access to electricity to cover basic needs would result in only a 1.3 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions could be further reduced through greater energy efficiency and the use of renewable or cleaner sources of energy. Energy efficiency, the report notes, is far more cost-efficient—by two thirds– than even the lowest cost greenhouse gas abatement opportunities.

The investment needed to ensure universal energy access will be substantial, the report notes, and would require both public and private financing.

However, according to Kandeh K. Yumkella, chair of both the Advisory Group and the interagency coordinating body, UN Energy, and Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, such an investment is worthwhile as well as timely. “The payoff would be even bigger,'” he said.

“This report is a real action plan,” said Yumkella. “It sets forth an ambitious but achievable way to provide everyone access to electricity and other modern energy services.”

He added that the technology and the business models already exist to achieve the energy targets. However, he cautioned that the initiative would need significant commitments from national governments and the international community.

Some countries, Yumkella said, have already shown that it is possible to rapidly expand energy access, including Brazil, China, and Viet Nam. And he cited China, Denmark, Japan and Sweden, as well as California in the United States, as places that have dramatically improved their energy efficiency.

In addition, the report suggests an array of policy options for countries, depending on their present state of development. Reorienting policy frameworks, including tariffs and market regimes, to stimulate business innovation and private sector participation are among the measures urged by the Advisory Group.

The Advisory Group also calls on the UN system to make “Energy for Sustainable Development” a major institutional priority by incorporating energy into all relevant UN programmes and projects.

The full report of the Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change

Delivering on Energy – An overview of activities by UN-Energy and its members

UN-Energy Looking to the Future

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