Achieving Sustainability and Equity in Energy

Policy Choices for the Future

30th January, 2008 - Hotel Waters Edge, Colombo

The global energy sector has gone through several phases during recent human history while responding to the hegemonic ideologies of those times. The period during the 1950s to the early 1980s was dominated by a faith in the social democratic model, where the state was entrusted with the responsibility of working for the common good and promoting policies that addressed national development and social welfare. Energy, within this context, was seen as one of the main driving forces of national development to facilitate the common good. The level of energy use and the extent of the spread of the energy network were considered measurements of development. During this time period constraints on energy use were not considered a mainstream concern. The era from the 1980s to, roughly, the early 2000s can be considered as the era of neo liberal economic orthodoxy in which development was based on the principles of the primacy of the individual, market liberalism, consumerism, outward orientation, and state contraction. The shift of hegemonic ideology from social democratic model to the neo-liberal model has resulted in the shift of the role of energy from being a tool for social welfare through national development to be an economic good. The survival of the energy sector is left to market logic where cost recovery and profit making became dominant guidelines.

However, as a result of the re-emerging awareness on fast depleting oil and natural gas resources, the increasing instability of conventional energy markets, climate change and environmental pollution and over-consumerism, human civilization is entering a new phase possibly since mid 2000s, a phase that can be identified as shaped by the "green" ideology, demanding energy sector also to re-orient it's basics and to address sustainability as a prime guideline to re-direct focus to renewable energy sources as well as to demand-side management measures. The global challenge of poverty and the widening gap between the rich and the poor that we saw, particularly during the neo liberal orthodoxy demand that energy equity also stays a priority in energy provision. The concern about equity is not just in providing access to energy services but to provide quality access at an affordable price.

While it is quite clear that the industrialized and high energy consuming countries need to address sustainability right from this moment under current realities the problematic for the developing countries like us is to address sustainability and equity while achieving a reasonable level of development. The case of Sri Lanka as with many other South Asian countries is that there is abundance of renewable energy resources available locally and investment in them on a long term basis could mean not just sustainability, but energy security, foreign currency savings, job creation and local economic development. It is also the case that while the demand for energy is on the increase on average, the poorer sections of the Sri Lankan and South Asian communities are still deprived of access to quality energy at affordable prices.

The Sri Lankan National Energy Policy and Strategies highlights the importance of energy sustainability and equity while stressing the need of energy in achieving economic development and provides targets to achieve sustainability and equity. The Sustainable Energy Authority was established recently with the objective of comprehensively addressing the issue of sustainability. There seems also a significant involvement by the private sector and the civil society organizations in addressing the concerns of sustainability and equity. Do these measures, however, adequately address the current realities of climate change, rising cost of energy, rising level of inequity and lack of development both as a member country of the globe as well as a member of the developing world?

This conference provides a forum for top-level decision-makers, energy sector officials, academics, civil society representatives, private sector, media and representatives of energy consumers to meet present opinions and exchange views on policy choices for the future in achieving sustainability and equity in energy.

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  • Mornning
    • Session I - Sustainability: Status
    • Session II- Sustainability: Challenges
  • Evening
    • Session III - Equity: Needs and Strategies
    • Session IV - Panel Discussion
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