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Sustainable Energy for All

The European Commission is championing access to sustainable energy for all. Welcoming the United Nations' rallying call in the framework of the UN´s Year of Sustainable Energy for All, it has set out an ambitious agenda to help achieve this key objective by 2030.
As spelled out in the Agenda for Change, a proposal for new directions in the EU development policy presented in October 2011, access to energy is one of the top priorities of the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs.

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What’s at stake?

  • One-fifth of the world’s population lacks access to electricity and up to a billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks;
  • Almost 3 billion people rely on solid fuels (i.e. traditional biomass and coal) for cooking and heating;
  • Energy poverty has a severe environmental and health impact and holds back economic development.

A well-performing energy system that improves efficient access to modern forms of energy would strengthen the opportunities for the poorest people on the planet to escape the worst impacts of poverty. Access to energy provides people access to basic human needs such as the need for cooking, health, housing, communicating and having a decent job. Additionally it provides the means to generate income – and that in turn creates wealth and new markets. Sustainable energy is also central to environmentally friendly economic growth, contributing to poverty eradication while moving towards low-carbon and resource-efficient energy models.

A success story: Access to energy in Northern Uganda

The PAMENU project pdf - 146 KB [146 KB] (Providing Access to Modern Energy in Northern Uganda) financed through the ACP-EU Energy Facility uses solar panels, stoves and micro-hydro power to provide access to sustainable energy services to poor rural populations of Uganda.

The Africa-EU Energy Partnership: the Pamenu project in Uganda

The EU and sustainable energy for all

The European Commission has made sustainable energy access a priority and supports the UN initiative with the three interlinked objectives:

  • ensuring universal access to modern energy services;
  • doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency;
  • doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs is among the members of a High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The group is tasked with recommending an action agenda that will mobilise commitments from all sectors of society. It will also work to ensure that commitments are kept and progress is monitored. The group gathers global leaders from business, finance, civil society as well as governments. It is co-chaired by Kandeh Yumkella, Chair of UN-Energy and Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization, and Charles Holliday, Chairman of Bank of America.

Speaking at the European launch of the UN´s Year of Sustainable Energy for All on 8th February 2012, Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: "We are all aware of the fundamental role that energy access plays as a driver for development, in delivering health, education, food security and economic growth, to name but a few. With around €2bn of grants allocated to the energy sector in the developing countries during the last 7 years, the EU is a leader in empowering the world. Through the promotion of our technology and expertise combined with a targeted use of our aid funding, we will aim to increase access to modern energy services for the world's poorest."

In its Agenda for Change aiming to increase the impact of EU development policy, the European Commission highlights the access to secure, affordable, clean and sustainable energy services as a key challenge. Concrete measures outlined to tackle challenges in the field of energy include:

  • the provision of technology and expertise as well as development funding;
  • support for capacity development and technology transfer with a focus on climate adaptation and mitigation strategies;
  • long-term partnerships with developing countries.

To further support "Sustainable Energy for All", Commissioner Piebalgs said on 8th February that he intends to "drive funding levels upwards". "This would have to be done with the full involvement of the private sector and with every effort made to leverage funding with loans from development banks and investments from other private sources. Indeed, we will look to make greater use of innovative financial tools in the future," he stated.

What has been done so far?

The European Commission's activities contributing to the International Year of Sustainable Energy 2012 are part of a long-term effort to boost sustainable energy as a driver of inclusive and sustainable growth. Several key political initiatives are underway to achieve this: the European Union Energy Initiative (EUEI) and the Africa-EU Energy Partnership.

These initiatives have delivered concrete results, such as: 

  • Launch of the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP). The programme launched in September 2010 aims to enhance industrial and business cooperation in the energy sector, ultimately bringing renewable energy technologies to the market in Africa.
  • Establishment of the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. Launched in 2007, the fund supports large-scale energy infrastructure projects.
  • Launch of a second phase of the ACP-EU Energy Facility for the period 2009-2013 covering activities targeting energy access. This includes support for sustainable and affordable energy services which contribute to the fight against climate change for the poor in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP). The Energy Facility has provided funding of 300 million euro since 2005.
  • Creation in 2005 of the Partnership dialogue facility in the context of the European Union Energy Initiative to support the development of policies and strategies for the promotion of access to energy at national and regional level. This  instrument has been developed and funded by a number of EU member states and the European Commission.
  • Energy projects under the Programme for environment and sustainable management of natural resources including energy (ENRTP), launched in 2007. The development of sustainable energy options in partner countries and regions as well as Carbon capture and storage/low carbon development strategies are priorities themes for financial support.
  • The Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) which invests primarily in Regional Funds in energy efficiency and renewable energy, enhancing access to clean energy in developing countries and economies in transition.

Next steps

  • The European Commission organised a Sustainable Energy for All summit, gathering high-ranking decision-makers to engage the development community to achieve the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, on 16th April 2012 in Brussels.
  • Access to sustainable energy will be high on the agenda at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (20-22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). The Commission, together with its partners, plans to finalise the action agenda, identify first commitments and identify strategies to translate them into commitments ahead of this date.
Last update: 15/01/2014 | Top