12th Special Session GC/GMEF Website

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GC Day 1 - 21 February 2012

Side Event

Africa roll-out of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

This event marked the roll out of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All in the African region, under the overall framework of the UN Secretary General's Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The initiative is the framework that brings together all sectors of society – business, governments, investors, community groups and academia – to achieve by 2030 the following three inter-linked objectives; a) ensure universal access to modern energy services; b) double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and c) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Panelists included H.E. Ms. Terezya Luoga Hovisa, Minister of State, Ministry for Environment, Tanzania and Vice-President of AMCEN; H.E. Erik Solheim, Minister of Environment and International Development of Norway; H.E. Dr. Elham Mahmood Ahmed Ibrahim (Mrs.) Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission; Ms Mariam Sow Soumare representing Dr Mayaki, CEO, New Partnership for Africa’s Development; Mr Carlo van Wageningen, a shareholder in KP&P AFRICA B.V. owner of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project; Mr. Negash Engedase, Manager of Energy Division 2 in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department of the African Development Bank; and H.E. Izabella Teixeira; Minister of Environment of Brazil.

The meeting stressed the importance to address the triple objectives in the African context. The challenges are great and so are the opportunities: Only 25% of Africans have access to electricity. More than 70% of the population is dependent on traditional biomass for energy. This hinders economic and social development, leads to huge inequalities, and contributes to negative environmental impacts, such as deforestation, soil erosion and loss of fertility of agricultural lands, and climate change. At the same time, Africa is endowed with vast untapped renewable energy resources, ranging from wind and solar, to geothermal and hydro. Also the biomass potential for modern bioenergy is huge if planned and managed well.

Renewables and energy efficiency need to be addressed both to help achieve universal energy access. Most of the energy poor live in remote areas – distributed generation using renewables is the most effective way to provide them with clean and affordable energy. Many good experiences exist across the region. Often they are isolated and need to be replicated and scaled up. Much of the discussion focused on the how this can be achieved. Public funds will not suffice and the private sector needs to be enabled to make the necessary investments. Technologies are proven, but there is need for further R&D, and to close the knowledge gap. With Africa having yet to build nearly two-thirds of the additional capacity that it will need in 2030, the continent faces a unique opportunity to benefit from recent advances and cost reductions in renewable energy technologies.

Challenges include governance, risk perception, cost of renewable energy technologies, insufficient infrastructure were highlighted, challenging the bankability of projects. Enabling environments are critical to provide greater investor security. Good examples exist in a number of countries and need to be emulated. The political will on governmental side is absolutely essential to trigger action by all stakeholders.

Energy investments are long-term in nature and hence require a long-term planning horizon too. Public funds need to be used creatively to buy down risk and create investor security. Climate related funds as well as development aid and the support from the Development Banks were mentioned in this respect. A level playing field needs to be established and fossil fuel subsidies that more often than not do not reach the poorest people, need to be phased out in a socially acceptable manner. Access and use of sustainable energy are essential to building a Green Economy, and allow value chain development, employment and income generation. Energy is at the core of the Sustainable Development Paradigm; the sector is where the economic, social and environmental pillars come together. Energy should not be looked at in isolation. Africa is not only facing an energy crisis but also food and water crisis. The nexus of food land and water was highlighted, and so was the need to reverse this trend in Africa.

In terms of next steps, the following steps were identified

  • We know what the challenges and opportunities are. We now need to act: From common understanding to commitment to putting resources to the political will.
  • Connecting the dots: Build on existing good practices and initiatives, e.g. 2011 Johannesburg Declaration, regional and national energy policies.
  • Improving the baseline: resource assessments; statistical information.
  • Working together: Use the SE4All initiative as a transparent platform for the different stakeholders to get engaged and work together and build capacities; develop and get engaged in partnerships such as Energy+; develop creative mechanisms that link public and private funds to leverage private sector investment.
  • Make a concrete commitment to move towards a low carbon development model adapted to national circumstances.
  • Enabling frameworks and leveling the playing field: standards, norms, incentives, subsidy reform – long-term investor and consumer security
  • Outlook to RIO+20: energy will be one of the issues on the agenda for the four day debate with civil society preceding the high-level meeting; the SDGs need to reflect energy can bridge between different sectors, e.g. energy – food – water nexus.