With some 1.6 billion people in developing countries still lacking access to electricity, and about 2.4 billion still relying on fuelwood and crop and animal residues for cooking and heating, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for intensified efforts to promote access to new and renewable energy sources for the poor.
“One of the growing concerns of the international community is the persistent ‘energy poverty’ that is seriously impeding socio-economic development, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and in countries in South Asia,” Mr. Annan says in a report to the General Assembly on promoting new and renewable energy sources.
Mr. Annan observes that accelerated development and increased use of new and renewable energy sources can offer multiple benefits for sustainable development. “Renewable sources of energy can be used to provide modern energy services to the poor, contribute to meeting the increasing global energy demand, reduce air pollution, mitigate climate change and delay the eventual fossil-fuel depletion,” he adds.
The report concludes the UN’s follow-up to the World Solar Programme 1996-2005, the outcome of the World Solar Summit organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Harare, Zimbabwe. Mr. Annan says that while the initial plan of the Programme, which included assessment studies of renewable energy potentials and initiatives to boost investment in the area, was quite ambitious, the number of projects actually funded did not meet early expectations.
Nevertheless, he says that a major impact of the Programme is that during the period of its implementation, new and renewable energy sources have begun entering the mainstream of national and international energy policy formulation and now constitute a major element of the global vision for sustainable development.
But overall, Mr. Annan observes that although the share of energy derived from new and renewable sources is gradually increasing, the total share of commercial energy derived from solar, wind and other sources still remains far below its economic potential.
And with large segments of the developing world without access to modern forms of energy, Mr. Annan says that meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the world’s population living on less than $1 a day would depend on providing these people with access to modern energy services for their basic needs and for income generation.