Development agenda's energy policy needs radical overhauling

From Global development | The Guardian Wed Jan 16 2013, 11:47:00

Access to clean energy shouldn't be the only goal - provide electricity for economic purposes to truly empower people

The lack of agreed collective action at the Rio+20 Earth summit in July to deliver the goals of the UN initiative of 'Sustainable Energy for All' (SE4All) should have come as no surprise. After all, the millennium development goals did not encompass access to modern energy services. Inevitably, perhaps, we therefore live in a world where 1.3 billion people still have no access to electricity and 2.6 billion do not have clean cooking facilities, relying instead on dung and wood, according to the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency.

Access to energy makes possible so much of modern life that developed societies take for granted: clean water, sanitation, economic activity, community services. Indeed many of the MDGs cannot be met, or can be met only with enormous difficulty, in the absence of modern energy services. This is also true of the less obviously energy dependent ones, like gender equality - for it is the women and girls who spend hours gathering biomass and who suffer respiratory diseases caused by cooking with it.

Some countries, and many business organisations, made commendable commitments to advance the SE4All goals, which comprise delivering universal access to energy, doubling the rate of improvement in energy intensity (energy used per unit of output) and doubling the share of renewables in energy consumption by 2030. But these commitments fall woefully short of what is required.

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