Sustainable Energy

What does it mean to be a woman in a place without energy?

In this video, UNDP's Administrator, Helen Clark, describes how access to basic energy can transform lives.

Energy is central to sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. It affects all aspects of development -- social, economic, and environmental -- including livelihoods, access to water, agricultural productivity, health, population levels, education, and gender-related issues. None of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be met without major improvement in the quality and quantity of energy services in developing countries.

UNDP's efforts in energy for sustainable development support the achievement of:

Access to sustainable sources of clean, reliable and affordable energy has a profound impact on multiple aspects of human development; it relates not only to physical infrastructure (e.g. electricity grids), but also to energy affordability, reliability and commercial viability.  In practical terms, this means delivering energy services to households and businesses that are in line with consumers' ability to pay.

Through an integrated development approach, UNDP helps developing countries to expand access to reliable and modern sources of energy in order to reduce poverty and to improve the health of their citizens, while at the same time promoting economic growth and mitigating climate change.  Investing in clean, efficient, affordable and reliable energy systems is indispensable for a prosperous, environmentally sustainable future.  Ensuring energy security will require diversification of types and sources of energy, with increasing focus on consumer needs, on indigenous energy supplies, energy efficiency and regional interconnections.

UNDP is helping developing countries to achieve these outcomes through the provision of sound policy advice and a focus on three key areas of intervention:

  • Strengthening policy and institutional frameworks consistent with low-emission, climate-resilient development.  This forms the basis of the strategy employed by UNDP.
  • Mobilizing and expanding financing options aimed at achieving market transformation to catalyze public and private finance.  This includes creating enabling policy and regulatory frameworks and removing barriers to energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable urban transport to better access the market.
  • Developing effective approaches for scaling-up energy service delivery, through a combination of field-proven and innovative business models that are financially and institutionally sustainable.

Through the provision of sound policy advice, development and implementation of programmes, UNDP has promoted a wide range of clean energy technologies and has worked across a range of scales, from individual households and villages up to national, regional, and global levels. Programme funding includes UNDP regular resources, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), GEF Small Grants Programme, Governments, private sector and civil society partners. Through its portfolio of energy and climate mitigation projects funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP is assisting countries to remove barriers to energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport and improve access, quality, security and affordability of clean energy around the globe.

Feature stories

Sustainable Energy Services for All

Energy is central to many economic, social and environmental concerns facing the world today. Lack of access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and problems of health, gender inequity and environmental degradation. Developing countries need reliable access to modern energy if they are to achieve economic growth, reduce poverty and improve the health of their citizens. Investment in modern energy is indispensable for a prosperous and sustainable future. UNDP is helping people gain access to modern energy for the Future We Want.
What does a brighter future look like?

1.3 billion people wordwide live without electricity.  That's more than 1 in 5 people around the globe.  You can take #action4energy to help make energy accessible to all.

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Sustainable Energy for All
A pioneering new initiative

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made sustainable energy one of his five priorities that will guide his second 5-year term. Specifically, he will direct the United Nations to extend energy’s reach in order to combat endemic poverty.

Discover more:

Sustainable Energy for All

UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024

UN-Energy Knowledge Network

Follow #SE4ALL on Twitter


Fast Facts
Universal Energy Access

Some 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity and a billion more only have access to unreliable electricity networks. About 3 billion people rely on solid fuels to meet their basic needs.

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In the media
Sustainable Energy for All: How to Fight Poverty and Climate Change

[Maha Atal article] Energy access is a critical prerequisite to poverty reduction, necessary for everything from heating homes to delivering public services to powering the businesses that create jobs.

Microhydro drives change in rural Nepal

[Amy Yee article] Through a joint project of Nepalese government, UNDP and World Bank, a microhydro plant in Rangkhani cost about $29,000, and generates 26 kilowatts of electricity for more than 1,000 people.