SE4ALL for global population
While wealthy countries consume vast amounts of electricity every day, one in five people around the world - 1.3 billion people - lack electricity to light their homes or run their businesses.
Nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population - rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food - breathing in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and kills nearly two million people a year, most of them women and children. Without access to modern energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the eight-point global agenda adopted by the United Nations in 2000 - whether reducing poverty, improving women’s and children’s health, or broadening the reach of education.
This inspired the United Nations to launch the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in 2012, aiming to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people by ensuring universal access to modern energy services, increasing the share of renewable energy sources around the world, and improving energy efficiency.
"Electricity is the beginning of all types of development," conceded Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. "After the sunset, without electricity all children are prepared to go to bed as they can't waste candles for reading at night."
Under the initiative, there are over 100 solar power stations in Africa. Each day, villagers bring their solar lamps to the stations and recharge their lamps. At night, their children can read books.
Sharing his insights at SCG sustainability conference in November, Supachai expressed concern over poor electricity supplies in many countries.
In Nepal, over 70 per cent of population is living without electricity. Comparatively, power supply is advanced in Cambodia, though both countries joined the World Trade Organisation in the same year, 2004.
Supachai attributed slow development in Nepal to internal conflicts which has stalled all investment projects. In the country which is rich of water supplies and has sparse population in the mountains, over 100 hydropower projects have won the environment impact assessment. None has seen progress. Latest update is World Bank and Asian Development Bank are ready to fund electricity projects with combined capacity of 1,000 megawatts, half of which could be sold to neighbouring Bangladesh.
"In all visits, I always met new prime ministers. Without a government that stays long in power, no development can be kicked start," he said.
Under the SE4All initiative, more than a billion people will benefit from public and private sector commitments. More than 50 Governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Small Islands Developing States have engaged with the initiative and are developing energy plans and programmes. The majority are from developing countries that have initiated or completed energy sector assessments and gap analyses, thus laying the groundwork to scale up action in priority areas, undertake strategic reforms where needed, and attract new investments and financial support.
Thailand is among 14 countries from Asia Pacific that have expressed an interest in advancing SE4ALL. It is estimated that about 5 per cent of population still has no access to electricity in the country. Most of them live along borders or remote areas, on the fringe of national forests which bar all types of construction including light poles.
Businesses and investors have also committed over US$50 billion to achieve the initiative’s three objectives. Tens of billions of dollars have been committed by other key stakeholders - governments, multilateral development banks, international and civil society organisations - to catalyse action in support of the initiative.