UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative offers global platform to power up the world

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Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA)On the margins of a big conference last month in Abu Dhabi with the modest (!) title of the World Future Energy Summit, an important meeting chaired by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took place. This meeting agreed on a ‘framework document’ for launching the Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) Initiative.
This SEFA Initiative has three goals: universal energy access, double the share of renewable energy in the global mix (from the current 15% to 30%), and double the improvement in energy efficiency…all of which are to be achieved by 2030.

It will be a big challenge. To give you an idea of just how big, consider these factors:

  • At present, 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity or clean household cooking and heating fuels.
  • The International Energy Agency projects that the renewable energy share of the global mix will rise from 13% to 18% in 2035 even if countries adopt all the energy policies and reforms to which they have committed.
  • In 2010, the last year for which we have the data on this, fossil fuel consumption rose by five percent.


But even if the challenge is formidable, I came away from the Abu Dhabi meeting with a sense of optimism.

The optimism stems from the potential for global alliances of the kind that we have seen succeed in the case of water and health. In these alliances, public and private sectors, foundations and civil society organizations pull together across a range of diverse activities that deliver results— adding up to achieving the goals.

One such activity would be country-led access programs for electrification, clean cooking and lighting.

Fast-rising countries like Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya are actively pursuing access programs. Others, like Liberia and Nigeria, or small island states like Tonga and Maldives, have made political commitments to expand access.

These countries face formidable challenges, but some have shown remarkable progress.  If these “Accelerator Countries” agree and commit to starting, scaling up and accelerating new and existing programs on access to electricity and clean household fuels, then we at the World Bank, and the UN, and other international organizations, would pull out the stops to work closely with them. We would work to raise money, reform policies, mobilize technologies, and increase awareness to meet the sustainable energy challenge.

Similarly, the SEFA Initiative will bring financial institutions, governments, foundations and companies together. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Climate Works, city governments, and industry associations, among others, can join forces to accelerate energy efficiency initiatives in specific areas.  Programs like the Clean Technology Fund and the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program in Low-Income Countries (SREP) with demonstrated potential will stand a better chance of being financed and scaled up.

The World Bank’s proposals for how it plans to support the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative are summarized in a story on our energy web page. To succeed, this effort will have to engage governments at all levels, as well as the private sector, civil society and media.

Ban Ki-moon has issued the call to power up the world. I hope that many will hear it and respond!


S. Vijay Iyer

Director, Sustainable Energy Department

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