Sustainable energy for all: towards Rio+20.

Author:Yumkella, Kandeh K.
 
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Energy powers human progress. From generating employment to creating economic competitiveness, from strengthening security to empowering women, energy is the great uniter. It cuts across all sectors and lies at the heart of all countries' core interests. Now, more than ever, the world needs to ensure that the benefits of modern energy are available to all and that energy is provided as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This is a matter of equity, first and foremost, besides being an issue of urgent practical importance, and it was the impetus for the launch, on 7 November 2011, of the new Sustainable Energy for All Initiative by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

At a time of great economic uncertainty, great inequity, high urbanization, and high youth unemployment, there was, and continues to be, an emerging consensus on the need to act cohesively on global issues such as sustainable development. We are not, however, starting from scratch. New technologies, ranging from improved photovoltaic cells and advanced metering infrastructure, to electric vehicles and Smart Grids, give us a strong foundation from which to move forward. How we capture these opportunities for wealth and job creation and education and local manufacturing will be the key to unlocking any real revolution.

THE UN RESPONDS

Three linked objectives underpin the goal of achieving Sustainable Energy for All by 2030:

* ensuring universal access to modern energy services--access to electricity, modern fuels, and technologies for cooking, heating, and productive uses;

* doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency;

* doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

These three objectives are mutually reinforcing. Increasingly affordable renewable energy technologies are bringing modern energy services to rural communities where an extension of the conventional electric power grid would be prohibitively expensive and impractical. More efficient devices for lighting and other applications require less energy, thus reducing the amount of power needed to support them. Increased efficiency in the production and use of electricity relieve strained power grids, allowing them to stretch farther and reach more households and businesses. Finally, the alternative--unconstrained expansion of today's conventional fossil fuel-based energy systems--would lock in a long-term infrastructure commitment to an unsustainable emissions path for the world's climate.

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