We take for granted the supply of electricity or gas and roundly criticize any cuts when they occur. But for almost 1 in every 6 people around the world such energy is no more than a dream, while almost 2 in 5 rely on solid fuels – and their attendant health effects – for cooking and heating.
Providing modern energy services to these people is one of the major development challenges facing the world today. To achieve this goal, along with two other related objectives to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global mix by 2030, the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative was created in September 2011.
The initiative has attracted widespread support, with 102 countries having partnered so far. Regional hubs have been established in the three key regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America – and numerous businesses have become involved. But despite all the commitments, according to the latest review, progress towards the goals (up to the end of 2012) falls “substantially short” of that required. [Sustainable Energy For All – How Are We Doing?]
Annual spending in these areas is estimated near US$400 billion but the actual amount needed, according to the review, is closer to triple at perhaps US$1.3 trillion. Interestingly, the amount to achieve universal access – around US$50 billion – is about a tenth of that for the other two goals, and should be the most easily attainable. Ironically it is also likely to require the greatest commitment since the outcomes are so localized.
Thus far the broader energy industry hasn’t become much involved in SE4All. The coop members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in the US have a long history of support for their counterparts in the developing world, and such a model could be more widely applicable.
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