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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sustainable Energy For All?

Cornelia Smet/EU press office
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced the creation of a high-level group to drum up support for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), to provide “energy access, energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy,” back in November 2011, I was impressed by the ambition displayed but also sceptical that concrete steps would be put in place soon enough to meet the target of supplying clean energy to a projected global population of 8.5 billion by 2030.

So I was surprised to see European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s announcement at the EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit in Brussels this week of a €50m EU ‘Energising Development’ initiative for clean energy projects in developing countries, which commits the EU to the UN’s aim of providing universal access to sustainable energy for all by 2030.  Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised.  After all, the EU is largest provider of development assistance in the world and 2012 has been designated the ‘UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All’ by the UN Secretary General. In line with this, the EU is organising EU Sustainable Energy Week between 18 and 22 June.

€50m is small change given the challenges facing developing countries to provide energy of any kind to their populations, but the EU is looking to mobilise additional support of up to several hundred million euro to support concrete new investments in sustainable energy for developing countries, working with banks and the private sector to create a ‘leverage effect’ to multiply this amount many times over.  Nationalised energy providers have been excluded from ‘opting-in’ due to the stipulation that “participating countries have a free market for energy without monopolies.”  It seems strange that a public institution would prevent other public bodies from participating.  I hope that condition doesn’t come back to haunt the initiative should it collapse.

As we saw during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the schism between developed and developing worlds is marked by a lack of trust when it comes to applying the noble principles espoused by institutions in Western countries.  It remains to be seen how lasting this commitment really is, but as the saying goes, there is nothing like ‘putting your money where your mouth is’, so I think the EU is to be applauded for once again taking the initiative and running with it.

Post by Neil Bradley

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