On Thursday June 5 in New York an important event took place, with the official launch of the decade 2014-2024 as the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. For some this may seem little more than a catchphrase but there is serious resolve and substance behind it, which can be traced back to the year 2000 and the initiation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – and in part, to some surprise at the time, the absence of an energy goal among them. Fast forward a decade of technological advancement and increasing understanding of the fundamental role of energy in social development and poverty alleviation, and in 2011 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon conceived the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, with the primary objective of bringing modern energy services to all those without them by 2030. The International Energy Agency has estimated that globally more than 1.3 billion people – the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia – lack access to electricity. Further, twice as many, at least 2.7 billion people, are without clean cooking facilities, relying on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking as well as heating. Alongside the achievement of universal access are two interlinked objectives of SE4ALL: ● Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency (from the 2010 level), i.e. from -1.3 to -2.6 ● Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, from 18% in 2010 to 36% in 2030. The investment required is estimated at $30 billion per year to provide universal energy access by 2030. While significant, this is nevertheless around only 3% of the total energy infrastructure investments required by that time, with just $4-5 billion per year needed for clean cooking facilities. Looking forward The SE4ALL Advisory Board and Executive Committee provide oversight to the initiative, but the bulk of the activity will obviously be at the regional and particularly national levels and already significant momentum has been achieved. Regional stakeholder hubs have been formed, and to date 83 developing countries have “opted in” to the initiative, of which more than 30 have action plans underway. A Practitioner’s Network is also in place comprised of energy sector practitioners, which is focused on identifying and addressing the barriers to the delivery of energy services. SE4ALL is also itself leading to further technological advancements and the emergence of new businesses. For example, the Practitioners in their report estimate that mini- or microgrids could supply over 40% of the new generation requirements to achieve universal access, and the more than 70 members of the Network’s Mini/Microgrid Working Group is indicative of the interest in this area. Secretary-General Ban acknowledged from the outset that SE4ALL is “ambitious but achievable,” and promise for this is indicated in the breadth of support and commitment from the highest levels down that the initiative has attracted across the globe in the two years since its launch. Further impetus will come during the forthcoming Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, with the initial focus during the first two years on a campaign for energy access for women and children’s health. SE4ALL is an initiative whose time has come, with the potential to transform the lives of a significant proportion of the world’s population, with potentially global impacts. Don’t be surprised if some of these developing countries also leapfrog some of the more developed countries when it comes to smart technology adoption. Watch this space to stay updated.