This week, the Sierra Club is participating in the second annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York, a forum bringing together key world actors advocating for sustainably to address the problem of energy poverty worldwide. Representatives from civil society, universities, national governments, and multilateral institutions are in attendance to address questions of policy, technology, and financing relating to energy access.
Among several new initiatives being announced this week is Power for All, a global education and advocacy campaign dedicated to promoting clean, decentralized energy solutions as the fastest, most cost-effective, and sustainable approach to universal energy access. Power for All seeks to accelerate universal energy access by asking governments, lenders, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and energy consumers to respond to specific calls to action in order achieve universal energy access by 2025. Founders include d.light, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association, Greenlight Planet, Off-Grid Electric, Practical Action, and SolarAid.
Almost all of the 1.2 billion people currently without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. Of those without access, 85 percent are in rural areas where the fossil-fuel powered grid has failed to reach them on a reasonable timescale, and centralized energy generation is expensive, inefficient, and often unhealthy.
"By focusing on key accelerators that will help leapfrog 'business as usual' energy delivery -- just as mobile phones leapfrogged landlines in the developing world -- we believe that we can achieve universal energy access in half the time for a fraction of the anticipated costs," said Kristina Skierka, Campaign Director for Power for All.
While a global campaign, Power for All intends to focus on a critical mass of countries with significant energy access needs, including several which happen to also be prioritized in the U.S. government's Power Africa initiative: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
Power for All includes active engagement by the off-grid clean energy sector, which represents decentralized solutions to energy poverty that do not rely on grid extension.
"We shouldn't have to wait a generation for universal energy access. Decentralized, renewable market-based solutions can deliver energy access today," said Koen Peters, Executive Director of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA). "The market for solar light and power in the developing world is growing very fast to meet demand, and already reaching millions of households. Several GOGLA member companies are already outpacing the world's traditional electrical utilities in terms of number of customers."
GOGLA's members include companies utilizing pay-as-you-go business models which offer flexible payment options for energy customers -- often using mobile money technology. A recent report by Lighting Global, a program of the World Bank Group, found that mobile money "catalyzes clean energy uptake among off-grid users."
In advance of the COP21 international climate negotiations -- the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference being hosted in Paris starting this November -- Power for All is issuing a call to action for policymakers, stakeholders, entrepreneurs and customers engaged in driving universal energy access for the billion-plus people without reliable power worldwide. With its launch, Power for All will urge governments, investors, development agencies, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations to mobilize their resources in support of clean, decentralized solutions.