• Creating a brighter future: The pivotal role of access to modern energy | Vincent Wierda

    27 Nov 2013

    Each year, the poor spend an estimated US$37 billion on poor-quality energy solutions to meet their lighting and cooking needs. Through programmes such as CleanStart, which UNDP helped develop, low-income consumers are able to access more affordable, quality clean energy products and services, like these improved cook stoves on sale outside Kampala, Uganda.

    Reaching the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity and the 2.6 billion consumers without clean cooking solutions is a major human development challenge, yet it is also an immense investment and business opportunity.

    How can we take this market to the next level? How can more partnerships be brokered and supported to expand the market? What role can international organizations play in catalysing action and pushing the energy access agenda forward?

    Our combined experiences – in particular from those who are in the front lines of offering viable energy solutions to low-income people – are needed to build a growing movement, one that is offering a greater range of quality, affordable energy products and services to those at the base of the pyramid.  

    CleanStart, a global initiative co-founded by UNCDF and UNDP, aims to do exactly that by supporting poor households and micro-entrepreneurs to jump-start their access to clean energy through microfinance.

    In Nepal, where some 87.1 percent of the population still relies on traditional biomass fuels for cooking and heating, we are investing US $1.3 million over four years (2012-2015) to develop replicable business models for scaling up microfinance for cleaner and more efficient forms of energy for poor people. By the end of the programme, in Nepal alone more than 150,000 low-income households and micro-entrepreneurs will have access to modern energy.

    This week, we are connecting with leading energy and financial service providers, investors, and policy makers from Asia and Africa to look at what is needed to unleash financing throughout the energy supply chain.

    In just the past decade, we have been witnessing a leapfrog in technologies, transforming the way people manage money and communicate in even the poorest parts of the globe.

    Now we stand at a critical juncture, where access to modern, clean energy determines whether or not children go to school, women are freed from menial labour, farmers improve their productivity or communities have access to information.

    The challenge for us is to learn from these innovations and make energy access truly a reality for all.

    Talk to us: How can we ensure that providing energy for all is truly sustainable?