Universal Energy Access
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change continues to work towards its goal of attaining universal access to modern energy services by 2030. Worldwide access to sustainable energy will save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women and reduce climate change emissions.

A report from the U.N. reveals that there are 1.5 billion people worldwide without access to electricity and 1 billion more with only access to unreliable electricity networks. An additional 3 billion people –almost half of the world’s population –use traditional biomass for cooking and heating.

The smoke from inefficient cooking, heating and lighting devices causes chronic illnesses that lead to the deaths of almost two million people a year.

At the start of his five-year term in 2011, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed worldwide energy access as one of his top five priorities. He asserts that, “Sustainable energy is the golden thread that links poverty eradication, equitable economic growth and a healthy environment.”

With the power of electricity, food can be produced and conserved more easily, children can study after dark, clinics can store life-saving vaccines and streetlights can keep citizens safer.

The goals of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SEFAI) are three-fold: to ensure universal energy access, double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Since its launch, more than 81 countries have joined the SEFAI. Countries that sign on to the initiative are responsible for completing energy assessments and laying the groundwork to scale up energy projects.

Ghana is an example of a country taking serious steps toward overhauling its energy sources. It has set a goal to reach 10 percent renewable energy consumption and universal access to electricity by 2020. Liquefied petroleum gas, a cleaner fuel than firewood and charcoal, is the new method of powering homes across the nation.

Although the commitment from countries worldwide has been impressive, a Global Tracking Report published in 2013 reveals that in order to meet the goals set by the U.N., energy investments must double the current estimated $409 billion, increasing by at least $600 million a year until 2030.

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, sums up the importance of universal energy access, explaining, “Ending poverty and ensuring sustainability are the defining challenges of our time. Energy is central to both of them.”

As more countries pledge to reform their energy policies, the world gets closer to building a healthier, safer, cleaner and more prosperous future for all.

– Grace Flaherty

Sources: UN Foundation, United Nations, Sustainable Energy for All
Photo: The Breakthrough