Written in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light
The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?
CSW61: Women as Agents of Change
Last month, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring just that: Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa offices, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan, and Solar Sister, demonstrated that investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is vital for achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches.
Gender Equality + Sustainable Energy Access = Opportunity for All
Across the panellists’ different experiences, from the grassroots initiative of Smiling Through Light to the global campaign of Solar Sister, a clear message could be heard: at the intersection of gender equality and sustainable energy access lies vast potential – for women’s economic empowerment, certainly, and also for sustainable development and improved wellbeing for their communities and beyond.
The keynote speech, delivered by Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical Action East Africa, explored the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya project (WEEK). Delivered in partnership with Energia, this project empowers women as providers of energy across three value chains – improved cookstoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes – in the roles of producers, suppliers and ‘brand activators’. WEEK project activities support women to build their social capital, develop fundamental business skills, and improve their confidence as entrepreneurs; these women now drive behaviour change, convincing others to adopt clean energy options. Five WEEK project entrepreneurs appeared at the recent SEforAll Forum to share their experiences, demonstrating a growing appetite to hear rural women’s grassroots knowledge on global stages.
Smiling Through Light: be the change that you want to see
Smiling Through Light’s Founder and Director Mariama Kamara highlighted the centrality of women’s knowledge, empowerment and collective action to building environmentally sustainable pathways to sustainable energy access; emphasising in particular the diverse roles women play across the energy value chain from production and transportation, to distribution and end use. At the age of nine Mariama left Sierra Leone during the civil war; after later learning that energy use in Sierra Leone was still mostly limited to kerosene for lighting, with no access to clean energy services, she started Smiling Through Light in 2014. By doing so, Mariama became the change she wanted to see. Smiling Through Light now advocates for women, as primary consumers and users of clean energy products, to be integrated into the process of designing appropriate solutions and engaged throughout the value chain to improve their livelihoods.
The path to SDG7
There remain many clear opportunities to advance women’s positions across the energy access value chain, including:
Policy – Advocate for policy that goes beyond perceiving women as victims of energy poverty or mere consumers, but as potential drivers of the sector. Embrace and lobby for the critical role of smaller, distributed energy solutions in addressing rural energy poverty, and women’s unique contribution to this sector.
Finance – Recognise that women’s access to finance is often constrained by social, political and economic constraints; i.e. collateral requirements based on land or asset ownership. Dedicate specific financing, credit facilities, grants and concessional loans to women’s sustainable energy activities.
Skills – Address the significant skills and local workforce development gaps in energy access in a way that empowers more skilled women to participate across the value chain, and educates others on the value of their contributions.
Evidence – Continue to build evidence to help inform policy on why women in clean energy value chains are uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact; bringing local women entrepreneurs and decision-makers’ voices and experiences to the fore.
As energy access advocates and champions of gender equality we must continue to find opportunities, like at CSW61, to demonstrate the positive impacts that women’s economic empowerment in energy access initiatives has for themselves and their families, as well as their extended communities and international development practice more broadly. We need to continue challenging damaging gendered social norms which disempower women as change-makers; and simultaneously strengthen policy coordination, knowledge sharing, financial inclusion, programmatic partnerships and research to advance women’s participation in sustainable energy development for all.
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This week saw key players from the energy world gather in Brooklyn, New York, at the SEforAll Forum to talk all things SDG7: that is, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Overarching the vibrant panel discussions, a clear call has emerged: greater and more dynamic action is needed, and fast, if we are to achieve universal energy access on this tight timeline.
Energy access is vital to achieving nearly every sustainable development goal and progress on energy access acts as a barometer for development progress more broadly. Monday’s launch of the latest Global Tracking Framework, which looks at the state-of-play on energy efficiency, access and renewable energy, gives us food for thought…
The Global Tracking Framework update
The report, led by the World Bank Group and the International Energy Agency, confirms that global electricity poverty has declined only minimally from 1.1 billion (GTF 2015) to 1.06 billion (GTF 2017); while the number of people using traditional, solid fuels to cook has actually risen slightly to 3.04 billion, “indicating that efforts are lagging population growth”. For progress to move at the speed and scale required, the report asserts that we need to at least double our investment in modern renewables. But, is increased investment alone the answer?
Financing national energy access: a bottom up approach
The PPEO 2017 explores this question, using case study evidence gathered from 12 energy-poor communities across Bangladesh, Kenya and Togo. This brand new research, showcased by Practical Action for the first time at the SEforAll Forum this week, demonstrates that while the volume of finance does indeed need to be scaled up, we must delve deeper into understanding the types of finance and directions of financial flows that are key to planning for universal energy access at the national and global levels. Our analysis is unique in that it builds on poor people’s own preferences, and takes a holistic view across households, productive uses and community services.
Decentralised energy as the way forward
This is particularly pertinent to the vast majority of those living in energy poverty today; poor rural populations who would best be served by the sorts of distributed energy (mini-grids and stand-alone systems) that receive a disproportionately small amount of the energy access financing pot – in comparison to the grid and in relation to their potential service provision. While World Bank funded power sector projects have an average timeline of nine years from conception to service delivery, research by Power for All demonstrates the vast benefits of decentralised systems; with mini-grids taking on average just four months to get up and running, while for solar-home-systems this is less than one month. According to our own modelling in the PPEO 2017, the distributed energy sector should account for a significant portion of future electricity access financing nationally; up to 80% in Bangladesh and 100% in Togo. At present just 25% of planned investments in Bangladesh, and 5% in Togo, will go towards distributed energy.
The PPEO 2017 also finds that:
- Increasing national energy access financing for clean cooking to similar levels as for electricity will be key to empower energy-poor communities to use the very clean fuels (gas and electricity) they show a keen interest in.
- Particularly in pre-commercial markets such as Togo, there is a real opportunity for the public sector to improve the policy and regulatory environment to better embrace distributed solutions, and encourage financial institutions to support consumer and enterprise loans more flexibly, so as to enable rapid market activation.
- Concessional finance will play a vital role; and consideration of how best to deploy this will be important to help companies move up the ladder to scale and profitability, in order to bring energy access to more people.
- To make further progress in already mature markets such as Kenya and Bangladesh, addressing barriers to accessing finance that are related to specific policies could help reduce the cost of distributed electricity and clean cooking solutions (including tax exemptions and streamlining of licensing requirements).
- Inclusive energy access financing can actively promote gender equality. To enable women to participate meaningfully as consumers and entrepreneurs gendered norms around accessing small loans should be addressed, as should the impact of women’s caring responsibilities on their mobility and ability to participate in various markets and training.
Beyond Brooklyn: what next for SDG7?
The PPEO 2017 and Global Tracking Framework agree that utilising the right tools and approaches takes us a step closer to bringing energy access to people more quickly, sustainably and affordably. By listening to the voices and preferences of energy poor communities, as the PPEO series has done, and by framing national planning processes and global financing mechanisms around the sorts of bottom-up approaches which put these priorities front and centre, SDG7 can be achieved. It has been immensely encouraging to see the voices of the rural energy-poor being elevated across the SEforAll forum this week; which has been undeniably multi-stakeholder, with actors from national governments and global institutions, civil society and the private sector rubbing shoulders and engaging in lively debate on the best way forward. One thing is for sure – to achieve the goal we are all aiming for, the elusive SDG7, this cross-sectoral dialogue must be continued well beyond Brooklyn, because no actor working alone will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
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Have the global negotiations for a new climate agreement switched from a marathon to an egg and spoon race?
We are now in the final leg of the marathon negotiations for a new climate agreement. At the last meeting in Bonn, the negotiators were expected to intensify their pace, but by the end of the meeting it was clear no one had sped up, if anything the pace had slowed. We are now entering the final sprint to the line. In 5 days the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Paris. Without a sprint finish it is unlikely that an effective Paris Protocol will be signed.
The Great Climate Race is just one example of what communities around the world are doing to tackle climate change. A fund raising run/walk to raise money for community solar power, because climate change is a race against time!
So what are the core stumbling blocks in the way of delivering a Paris Protocol?
The first barrier is a long standing one around whether developed and developing nations should be treated differently. The issue known as “differentiation” remains a significant hurdle. To be effective the new agreement must build on the original convention text around common but differentiated responsibilities. But it must update the text to match today’s reality and be dynamic to evolve as the world changes. Historical emissions must not be ignored, but the changing dynamics of global emissions means that the text must be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances.
The second barrier is around finance. For poor and developing nations allocating sufficient resources will be vital to deliver the agreement. At the Copenhagen COP in 2009 developed countries committed to mobilise jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. A lack of clarity around these contributions, double counting of existing development assistance and the role of the private sector all continue to hinder progress in this respect.
Thirdly, Loss and Damage continues to divide parties. Some countries hope to see it embedded within the heart of the agreement, while others suggested it should be removed. Lack of action to reduce emissions will lead to a greater need for adaptation. Lack of finance for adaptation will lead to accelerating Loss and Damage. The logic is clear, but still Loss and Damage fails to receive the recognition and importance it deserves.
The Paris COP is supposed to light the way for governments to finally deliver an effective global response to the threat of climate change. However, to avoid another failed UN sponsored global conference it will be vital for politicians to put in the additional legwork to make the Paris Protocol a reality.
We don’t just want an agreement, we need a robust agreement that delivers. Human rights, gender equality and the issue of a just transition must be central to the agreement. A human rights centred agreement offers a holistic approach that makes the connections between the economic, social, cultural, ecological and political dimensions, and links what we are doing to tackle climate change with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction. Is this too much for our children to ask for?
We’ve got just three months until world leaders agree a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years …goals that will affect the lives of millions of people.
There are proposed goals to:
- eradicate extreme poverty
- eliminate avoidable child death and hunger
- provide good quality universal secondary education
- deliver universal access to clean water and sanitation
- ensure access to affordable energy for all.
A few months later, UNFCCC negotiators will meet in Paris to finalise a new climate agreement.
We have a real chance to take serious action against some of the world’s biggest challenges…one of those being access to energy, which underpins efforts to achieve many of the development goals.
We need an ambitious energy SDG
In the run up to the deadline, Practical Action is calling for SDG and UNFCCC negotiators to design goals and agreements on energy that support a ‘no person left behind’ agenda and deliver not only on energy for the poor, but energy for the planet. Please join our EU call for action.
More than one billion people don’t have access to electricity and nearly half the world’s population cook on open fires using solid fuels like wood and charcoal. The toxic smoke from these fires kills more than four million people a year – more than malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis combined.
Only a robust, clearly defined energy goal can provide the clarity and targets needed to measure progress and hold countries to account for providing not just any access, but meaningful levels of energy that can be used to create jobs, power medical facilities, and provide cleaner alternatives to the dangerously dirty cooking fuels used today by billions.
If the level of ambition for an energy goal is not increased, universal access to energy will not become a reality, however catastrophic climate change will. The current phrasing inadequately calls for the world to “increase substantially the share of renewable energy.” This does not offer the clarity or sense of urgency needed to spur appropriate action on the greatest environmental challenge humanity has ever faced. Only a goal of tripling the share of renewable energy can deliver on the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to two degrees.
Practical Action at European Development Days 2015 (#EDD15)
That’s why a team from Practical Action are at the European Development Days in Brussels this week. We’re running a session, in partnership with Carbon Clear and UNHCR, highlighting innovative and sustainable energy access solutions that could save lives and our environment. It will specifically examine an innovative project in Darfur, Sudan, which has used carbon credits and microfinance to help 15,000 families replace traditional fires with LPG stoves. The project has not only eliminated deadly smoke from homes and countless hours searching for firewood, but also has reduced deforestation and created jobs.
We’re also hosting a stand (W3) championing this very topic: showcasing our energy work and advocating the importance of universal access to energy, which is not a standalone issue but underpins efforts to achieve many other development goals.
“Let’s grasp this historic opportunity”
“It’s the most important year in international development in a whole generation,” said Melinda Gates at a European Development Days session yesterday. “To make sure of success we need to get citizens around the world engaged in this process. We need to excite people, get them to share information, talk about the goals and stand up and say this is important. Let’s grasp this historic opportunity to make a world where everyone has a chance to live a healthy and productive life.”
Get involved and influence
The SDGs have the potential to make a real difference but they are only going to be as good as we make them. That’s why it’s important to get involved and influence this crucial framework for development.
I’m extremely excited about the conversations that are taking place on this important issue. Join the conversation and follow our activities at @practicalaction and #EDD15.No Comments » | Add your comment
Monday (18th May) saw the first release of the summary of the World Bank’s new report on Progress Toward Sustainable Energy – Global Tracking Framework 2015 at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York.
The report measures how the world is progressing toward Sustainable Energy for All, tracking country-level indicators for energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The headlines are that between 2010 and 2012 we made good progress in terms of access to electricity access (up from 83% to 85%). In clean cooking, the figures hardly changed at all (from 58% to 59%).
Energy Access Tiers, Kinshasa, GTF summary report pg 32
What may go un-noticed is the section towards the end about how “traditional methods for measuring energy access significantly underestimate the scale of the challenge”. They illustrate this with findings from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Just counting electricity connections says nothing about the quality of that connection. So for Kinshasa, it shows that although the majority (90%) of residents are officially grid-connected, they are hugely under-electrified. “There are extensive limitations in hours of service, unscheduled blackouts and voltage fluctuations. The reality is that the streets of Kinshasa are dark on most nights and that few households can actually use the electrical appliances they own.” A fully-functioning grid connection should be rated ‘5’ – at the top of the scale. But in Kinshasa, only 0.5% of the population enjoy this level of quality, and 41% have access at Tier 0 or Tier 1 meaning they have electricity for less than four hours a day with 1-2 hours in the evening.
How many of the 6.2 billion people with an electricity connection on the planet remain ‘under-electrified’? Anecdotal evidence indicates the problem is widespread.
There are few studies, but findings from our work applying these same tier levels to examples of grid-connected, but remote villages in India and Kenya found a similar pattern (Practical Action Consulting: Utilising Electricity Access for Poverty Reduction). None of the households we surveyed there made it to Tier 3 levels of access which we are arguing is a reasonable cut-off point along these tiers for saying that a person has sufficient energy for it to be truly enabling. Of course, for them to take full advantage many other things would need to be in place, but its absence limits people’s ability to climb out of poverty.
At the same time, counting grid connections ignores the improvements in electricity access brought about through mini-grids, solar-home systems and other off-grid solutions. There remains the unspoken perception that these are a ‘second-best’. However, our findings from India and Kenya show that against some parameters, they are as good as the grid (for example in terms of duration / availability) and on others in particular reliability, they out-perform. The measure of reliability is whether there are more than three unscheduled outages per week of more than 30 minutes each. In 2012, the blackouts in India were widely reported highlighting some systemic problems which will be difficult to overcome.
Practical Action, along with a coalition of 21 other civil society organisations is calling for this proposed framework for measuring energy access to be adopted globally as part of the Sustainable Development Goals due for approval in the autumn this year. This is because it provides a more accurate picture, and will help put off-grid solutions on a similar footing to grid-extension.
The World Bank’s full report (due for release in June) also includes agreed frameworks for measuring energy access not only for households but also for productive uses and community facilities – giving a properly rounded picture of the energy access needed for development. This took its cue from Practical Action’s Total Energy Access framework, as elaborated in our Poor People’s Energy Outlook. The insights gained from measuring in this way will be essential for assessing the full range of poor people’s energy needs and deserves greater attention.
How are these findings reflected in financing in the energy sector? Unsurprisingly, as this excellent infographic from ODI / Oxfam America shows for sub-Saharan Africa, business-as-usual is continuing. The grid (and industrial power) continues to be prioritised over extension to those currently without, and over off-grid solutions. Cooking remains a neglected sector even though the investment needs are lower. This is what needs to change if we are to meet our goal of meaningful, truly enabling energy access for all by 2030. Source: ODI and Oxfam AmericaNo Comments » | Add your comment
The children in Himalaya community in Zimbabwe’s Mutare were all smiles after witnessing the hard work their parents went through during the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro and irrigation schemes coming to fruition.
“At first I thought this was a joke but now I can see that it is real. I was so happy to see the lights being switched on for the first time at the powerhouse when the engineers were testing the scheme”, said Cornelius Mayengamhuru, a 13 year old form 1 student at Himalaya Secondary School.
He added, “I used to think that my parents were wasting their time and energy coming to work at the project site almost every day. It was so much hard work but they soldiered on. I am so happy because I am seeing the results of my parent’s efforts with my own eyes”
Since 2011, his parents, along with other community members from Himalaya have been working on the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro scheme and two irrigation schemes in the area. This work was done under the Rural Sustainable Energy Development project being implemented by Practical Action in partnership with Oxfam with funding from the European Union. The four year project, aims to increase access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural irrigation communities in Gutu (Masvingo province) and Mutare (Manicaland) districts of Zimbabwe.
Even though the children were not participating in the project activities, they know about the project and the benefits it will bring to the community. They witnessed all the effort their parents went through to get the project to where it is today. The terrain in Himalaya is so hilly and this makes it even difficult to do any sort of construction work. Women had to carry sand, cement; stones on their heads up to the top of the mountain where the weir was being constructed. Men worked on the more labour intensive tasks such as lifting and laying of heavy penstock pipes , hauling electric cables to erect the electricity supply grid and digging trenches to lay irrigation pipes amongst other tasks.
Despite this hard work, the community was driven by the spirit to develop their area and also secure a future for their children Even in doubt as been said by Cornelius above, they still had hope.
“I am so happy with the project because it will also help generations to come including myself. I wake up every day and walk to school 5 kilometres from my house. It is far but the fact that I want to be educated and become someone in life keeps me going. Before I go to school I eat sadza and any relish available that day. I hope my parents will start to grow potatoes now that there is plenty of water being powered by electricity, so that I will be able to eat healthily before I leave for school in the morning. I study agriculture at school so when I grow up I want to be a farmer, own a piece of land here and develop my community. This project just came at the right time”.
The project is promoting the use of micro-hydro in Manicaland and solar energy in Gutu by rural people around the irrigation schemes. By promoting the use of micro-hydro and solar energy in the targeted remote communities, this project will enhance the accessibility of rural communities to modern renewable energy for productive use. Energy plays an invaluable role in social and economic development as it is a critical factor of production, whose cost impacts directly on other services and the competitiveness of various enterprises. Every productive sector in the economy relies on the provision of energy, and agriculture being the back-borne of the economy in Zimbabwe, is no exception.1 Comment » | Add your comment
As someone who hasn’t been near lycra or a gym for many years the idea of paying good money to pound away on a cross trainer is totally alien. And yet for many thousands, their Saturday morning would not be complete without an hour in the gym treading sweatily away, shedding, hopefully, the pounds.
For thousands of farmers across Asia and Africa, they have their own cross trainers – the treadle pump. For them it’s not about losing the pounds but gaining the taka, the rupee or shilling. The treadle pump, developed in the 1980s, has been a life saver for many poor farmers, enabling them to pump water from underground, providing irrigation in areas far from a river, or in drought prone regions. The only power needed is a pair of strong legs.
This is a fantastic invention which Practical Action has been including for many years in its work with poor farmers, helping them to improve their produce and increase their production and incomes. But it’s not for everyone (like me and the gym!). In some areas, the water has to be drawn up from significant depths – because the treadle pump provides vacuum suction to raise the water, the deeper the depth, the less the flow of water, the longer the time spent on the treadle pump, or it’s not possible to use the treadle pump at all. So what is normally a benefit, can become a burden, often to women and children who are the ones who generally operate the treadle pumps.
With funding from the European Commission, our energy team in Zimbabwe is introducing solar powered irrigation to farming areas which are remote from the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be prohibitive and possibly unreliable. However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump. Instead of spending up to 6-7 hours continuous pumping to irrigate 0.5 hectares of land per day, women can be using this valuable time to set up small enterprises, and children can attend school, and the farmers can be sure of a sustainable and reliable supply of water for their crops. A definite step in the right direction.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Last Monday, at the community of Amaguaya in Bolivia, I took part in the inauguration of their new micro-hydro project. Amaguaya, comprising 90 families, is nearly 5,000 metres above sea level and, to reach there, our group of Practical Action staff, officials and Press/TV, set off from La Paz at the crack of dawn.
Serenaded by the Amaguaya brass band and Bolivian pipes, we were officially welcomed by all the community and Municipal Mayor. Speeches and gifts were exchanged, and the project (funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation, the Municipality and the community) was declared officially opened after 2 years of construction in the most challenging of environments.
It was highly emotional to see already the impact on the people’s lives and livelihoods of having electricity for the first time: households were free of the evil-smelling and unhealthy kerosene lamps, the clinic now had a sterilisation cabinet, the dentist electric drills and the school a working computer. Else, the head of a women’s group, was also able proudly to demonstrate her electric-powered weaving machine for alpaca wool.
We returned to La Paz long after dark, knowing that we had seen a great example of Practical Action’s collaborative work with a poor community, and a reminder of why we do what we do.
I hope that Fritz Schumacher would have been pleased!
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its figures on the number of deaths caused by indoor air pollution. They now estimate that 7 million people died last year – one in eight of global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure, making air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
WHO has intensified its research in this field in recent years and is supplying more robust evidence. Figures now also include deaths caused by ambient (outdoor) air pollution as well as indoor, which are combined to reach the 7 million total. Although, as many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution it hard to split the numbers precisely.
The director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Dr Maria Neira said,
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes. Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
Smoke from cooking fires has a visible and obvious impact indoors but ambient air pollution affects health in a wide variety of ways. It increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Both short and long term exposure to air pollutants have health impacts, most severely on children and the elderly. The greatest number of air pollution deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases.
More and better data and evidence about the devastating impact of air pollution is to be welcomed, but must lead to concerted action by the international community to do something about it.No Comments » | Add your comment
In late February, discussions over the post-2015 development agenda reached a milestone. The co-Chairs of the Open Working Group (OWG), the body tasked with preparing a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposal for consideration by the UN General Assembly in September 2014, issued a “Focus Areas Document.” This document provided the first formal glimpse of what the content of the next global framework to eradicate poverty and move towards truly sustainable development. While it mentioned dozens of development issues crucial to the success of the post-2015 agenda, many areas key to delivering sustainable development over the next decades remain incomplete or absent. In a previous blog, we presented Practical Action’s main messages on the Focus areas document more generally. This post, prepared in collaboration with CAFOD and IIED and representing the combined voice of our three organisations, looks specifically at one core development issue, energy.
Energy is essential to all SDGs: actionable, outcome-based targets are required for success
As the co-Chairs’ and other UN papers on energy and the SDGs acknowledge, energy is not a standalone issue but underpins efforts to achieve many other development goals. Because of this interconnectedness, we recommend an across-the-board approach to energy within the post-2015 framework, with specific targets rather than top-down and siloed goals unlikely to garner the multi-sectoral political support required for their achievement. Specific, actionable targets will facilitate discussions on how they can be achieved and which actors and activities, across different sectors, must be involved.
If, however, the goals retain the sector-focused structure of the MDGs and SDG discussions thus far, we support a standalone Energy Goal based on the 3 targets outlined in the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. However, more concrete indicators are needed under the three top-line targets to ensure rapid, ambitious, meaningful and measurable improvements in energy access, clean energy uptake, and progress on energy efficiency.
On access, the SE4All Global Tracking Framework’s tier 3 indicators should be the minimum acceptable standard to qualify as having “access to modern energy services.” Tier 3 tracks outcome-oriented factors such as quality of service, for example having electricity available for a minimum of eight hours a day. It also holistically addresses a range of poor people’s energy needs through a basic but respectable package of wider energy and cooking services. Further indicators are needed to ensure progress on interconnected development needs in the areas of health, education etc. – often referred to as “nexus” issues.
Delivering benefits from energy requires decentralised and “bottom-up” approaches
Energy poverty and the range of energy nexus issues within post-2015 cannot be meaningfully addressed without increased support for deployment of decentralized (off-grid) energy provision. It is not feasible, affordable nor desirable to connect many rural populations to grids that are slow to deploy, prohibitively expensive, often unreliable, provide minimal long-term employment, and are mostly dependent on fossil fuels.
High costs, low returns and perceived high risks make investment in necessary decentralised energy access in low-income markets unattractive to mainstream private investors. Given that once adopted, a target of universal energy access by 2030 will only have 15 years to achieve this task, it is crucial that the post-2015 process recognize that to be successful, any provisions on energy must foster delivery to the poorest must via a combination of public-private partnerships, social enterprise initiatives and public sector-financed aid or social support. Collaborative financing should deploy a combination of start-up grants, risk guarantees, and capacity building to provide the necessary support to enterprises delivering on decentralised energy access – and recognise that the very poorest are often not reached by the private sector alone. We call on the post-2015 process to acknowledge the key role of public finance and innovative public partnerships with the private sector and civil society in delivering solutions that work for the energy poor.
Private sector finance alone cannot deliver universal access: a public sector role is critical
High costs, low returns and perceived high risks make investment in decentralised energy access in low-income markets unattractive to mainstream private investors. Energy service delivery to the poorest needs to be a combination of public-private partnerships, social enterprise initiatives and public sector financed aid or social support. Increasingly social enterprises and small and medium enterprises are employing innovative finance mechanisms, including voluntary carbon finance markets, crowdfunding and investment from angel investors. Such initiatives utilise a combination of public and private finance, and deploy a combination of start-up grants, risk guarantees, and capacity building to deliver the necessary support to enterprises. Needed government incentives might include tax breaks, reduction of import duties, and public procurement programmes, while social protection schemes may serve an important purpose in meeting the needs of the very poorest, e.g. in post-conflict situations.
Tackling the gendered dimension of energy poverty is essential
Women and girls suffer the brunt of health problems and early mortality related to dirty cooking and heating fuels, a health issue of major global significance. An approach recognizing the structural nature of gender inequalities is therefore essential to promote transformative change. Concrete indicators on bringing gender budgeting into energy planning, increasing collection and analysis of disaggregated data on energy and gender, and incorporating gender into energy governance would support the transformative approach required to end these needless deaths and illnesses. Access to modern energy services can also play a crucial role in women’s economic empowerment. The post-2015 development agenda should incentivise investments in women’s access to energy services for enterprise development as well as strengthen women entrepreneurs’ capacities to engage in energy value chains.
Poverty eradication depends on environmental sustainability
Without tackling dangerous climate change, it will not be possible to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development. Global energy systems are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and must be transformed within the lifespan of the post-2015 framework. Targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency can support the shift to low/zero emissions development but, alone, are insufficient responses to climate change. Action to cut emissions and support poor people to adapt to existing impacts must be “mainstreamed” throughout the post-2015 framework by “climate-proofing” targets and indicators, and also by cutting fiscal incentives for the production of fossil fuels.
Under any energy-specific goal area, targets on renewable and efficiency must incentivise adequate action by 2030. This means upping the current SE4ALL 2030 targets. We should aim for an annual global rate of improvement in energy intensity (energy/unit GDP) of at least 4.5% and for at least 45% of all primary energy use and energy infrastructure to be renewable. These targets must also integrate adequate social and environmental safeguards, ensuring the poorest have energy solutions appropriate for their needs.
CAFOD, IIED and Practical Action feel that addressing these issues during the next round of consultations and the proceeding UN negotiations will radically improve the chances of an energy SDG delivering on its intended aims.2 Comments » | Add your comment