Moving Towards “Sustainable Energy for All”

“Sustainable energy—energy that is available, accessible, affordable and reliable. It grows economies. It lights up homes, schools and hospitals. It empowers women and local communities. And it paves a path out of poverty to greater prosperity for all,” says the United Nations Development Plan that has declared this decade the decade of “Sustainable Energy for All”.

However, nearly one in five people around the world do not have access to modern energy services and three billion people globally rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. In today’s economy, this is a major barrier to eradicating poverty.

With this context in mind, the United Nations Development plan launched the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative or “SE4ALL”. “The energy future we want is one in which everyone has access to modern energy services, our energy resources are used more efficiently, and we increasingly invest in renewable sources,” reads its vision statement.

The initiative has gained substantial political momentum with the UN General Assembly having declared in December 2012 a decade of Sustainable Energy for All.  To date, some 44 African countries have joined the initiative, with added support coming from NEPAD, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and UNDP.

The initiative has three main objectives:

a) Energy access for all by 2030
b) Doubling the share of renewables in the total energy mix
c) Doubling the rate of energy efficiency

Responding to a resolution from the Council of Energy Ministers in Africa, CEMA, issued in November 2012 requesting NEPAD NPCA, AUC and AfDB to coordinate and facilitate the implementation of SE4ALL in Africa, an Africa SE4ALL Coordination Hub has been established and hosted at AfDB. The hub founding members are NEPAD NPCA, AUC, AfDB, UNDP and a representative of Africa Regional Economic Communities.

The Hub will be part of the global implementation structure of SE4All and will ensure full coordination between the Global Facilitation Team and Africa ‘SE4ALL’ Main Stakeholders.

The Hub will work closely with the Bank’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), which aims to unlock private sector driven initiatives/investments that promote sustainable energy access, in resource mobilisation and in financing the upstream activities linked to SE4All. The Bank will make investments of at least US $1 billion per annum in energy projects addressing one or more of the SE4All objectives until 2030.

The AfDB’s President Donald Kaberuka has emphasised the importance of the role of the Initiative on the continent: “In order to maintain the momentum in Africa, we need now to shift decisively to concrete actions on the ground, we need to communicate clearly the Initiative’s value proposition and quickly demonstrate with concrete success stories that SE4All is not just another initiative, but truly a game changer for Africa. The Africa Hub is ready to play a key role in facilitating coordination amongst stakeholders and to realize synergies and avoid overlap,” he said.

According to Professor Mosad Elmissiry, NEPAD’s Head of Energy Programmes,  The Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL) aims to provide energy access to about 600 million people on the continent that don’t have access to electricity. He described the process for achieving the energy access for all as follows: It starts by the country opting into the initiative, followed by carrying out a gap analysis.

Once a country has done the necessary stock-taking and gap analysis to determine where they are and where they need to be in terms of energy access, they can put national action plans and programmes together that will support their aims. Followed by these action plans are the implementation and monitoring arm – very important in the African context where lip service is often paid to important programmes, but the political will is lacking to ensure follow-through.

“We welcome the SE4ALL initiative, particularly the opportunities it opens for Africa. Any programmes in support of SE4ALL on the continent should be driven by the African Energy priority programmes at national, regional and continental levels,” says Elmissiry.

“Considerable progress has already been achieved in driving SE4ALL in Africa since NEPAD joined hands with the UNDP and in collaboration with African Union Commission and the African Development Bank,” says Elmissiry. “NEPAD will keep the momentum until the initiative objectives are achieved,” he assures. In this regards, three documents have been finalised through exhaustive consultative processes with the stake holders and energy expert groups. These are: (1) SE4ALL Africa Action Plan Guidelines, (2) Africa Strategy for decentralised energy systems and (3)Africa framework for sustainable charcoal.

Once a country has formulated its own specific energy policies and chosen its desired energy mix and projects, NEPAD facilitates with assistance to develop that particular country’s SE4ALL Action Plans and will assist with the development of the investment prospectus and resources mobilisation.

NEPAD’s objectives are that the continent’s energy programmes need to be initiated and implemented by Africans. These home-grown programmes need African advocates, with a flow of information between countries and champions on the continent who are speaking to each other in the same language. These energy champions – whether they be public sector officials or private sector players – need to know how to work together to coordinate, facilitate and implement programmes that will empower Africans with energy in a sustainable manner.

“The importance of an African energy programmes and programmes for Africans that brings together business, government and civil society leaders to collaborate and shape shared solutions to the continent’s energy future cannot be overestimated,” said Elmissiry.

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