Helen Clark: Speech at Launch of “Empowering Lives, Building Resilience – Development Stories from Europe and Central Asia” on Sustainable Energy

Dec 11, 2013

New York
10:30 a.m.

It is my pleasure today to launch the third volume of the series: “Empowering Lives, Building Resilience: Development Stories from Europe and Central Asia”. Its theme, sustainable energy, is particularly timely as the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, declared by the General Assembly for 2014 to 2024, is about to begin.

Energy is a vital enabler of human and sustainable development, and is essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Much progress has been made over the last twenty years on expanding electricity supply – an additional 1.7 billion people have gained access in that time. Now the UN Secretary-General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” Initiative, has engaged more than seventy governments, and more than $50 billion has been committed by business partners in support of its goals.  

Yet, with 1.2 billion people still without access to electricity, and 2.6 billion still using traditional biomass for cooking and heating, much work remains to be done.  That’s why sustainable energy for all has emerged as a priority in the discussions around the post-2015 development agenda.

Key messages emerging from both the High Level Dialogue on Energy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which took place in April in Norway, and from the Fifth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which took place last month in New York, are that achieving sustainable energy for all is an ambitious but feasible goal, and that transitioning to sustainable energy systems requires co-operation.    

UNDP has been engaged for more than two decades in promoting energy access, renewable energy technologies, and energy efficiency. In the process, we have learned valuable lessons about what does and does not work. Building on these experiences and lessons, UNDP announced during the recent “Sustainable Energy for All” Advisory Board meeting that it proposed to host a decentralized, off-grid and “bottom-up” energy solutions hub.

More broadly, UNDP’s strategic plan 2014-2017 makes it clear that UNDP can be a powerful partner in sharing experiences and technologies across countries and regions.  South-South and triangular co-operation in the area of sustainable energy can encourage both innovation and the action necessary for progress.

The publication being launched today shares experiences of sustainable energy initiatives supported by UNDP in Europe and Central Asia. In this region, the sustainable energy challenges include: achieving universal access; improving energy efficiency; addressing frequent power cuts; reducing high energy costs; ensuring sustainable and affordable heating in winter; and accelerating the availability of renewable energy supply.

The initiatives highlighted in this publication address these concerns and achieve what UNDP calls “triple wins” – by simultaneously advancing the three strands of sustainable development – the economic, the social, and the environmental.

Let me mention some of those examples:

•    Tajikistan’s wealth of rivers and streams, offers great potential to meet the energy needs of rural communities through hydro-power. UNDP has worked with the government to improve the legislative and regulatory framework for small hydro-power, thereby encouraging investment in it. UNDP has also supported communities to install their own small hydro plants, and trained local people to operate them. I was able to visit Burunov, the community whose successful initiative is highlighted in this report.

•    In Armenia, until recently residents in old apartment blocks in Yerevan often used kerosene and rudimentary wooden stoves to heat their homes in winter, as using electric heaters was often too expensive. UNDP undertook a series of feasibility studies to identify environmentally, economically, and socially acceptable alternatives. Bringing together relevant government authorities and the private sector, a modern co-generation system which uses gas to provide both electricity and heat, was piloted in Avan district with funding from a new public-private partnership.

Thirty large apartment buildings, as well as a school and two kindergartens are now heated – and at a cost twenty per cent lower than was possible before. Having shown that this solution is both feasible and cost-effective, UNDP is expanding it to other districts.

•    In Croatia, UNDP supported the Government to reduce energy costs in public sector buildings dramatically. In 2011 and 2012 alone, these interventions have saved the Government more than $20 million. We have helped install a web-based energy management information system, into which 8,400 public facilities feed information about their energy and water consumption. Also in Croatia, UNDP supported a series of renewable energy demonstration projects including a solar education centre, 10 small solar power plants, and seven energy co-operatives.  I had the opportunity to visit the solar education centre in Zadar when I visited Croatia in January.   

•    In Turkey, a leading manufacturer of household appliances, UNDP worked with the Government and with industry leaders to upgrade requirements for eco-friendly design and energy efficiency labelling, and to train more than 50,000 salespeople to explain the benefits of energy efficient appliances to customers.  In addition, over nine million people have been reached with public advocacy messages – for example, explaining how using energy efficient appliances can reduce energy bills by up to fifty per cent.

•    The UNDP office in Montenegro has also been innovative in promoting energy efficiency by linking action on energy efficiency to land titles. Under this scheme, people living in illegally constructed homes can take a low-cost loan to invest in energy efficiency measures in their home. This reduces their energy bill – releasing money which they can then use to pay back the loan and finance the cost of legalizing an illegal construction. Following the successful pilot, the Government is finalising a Law on Legalization, which designated energy efficiency investments as one pathway to formal ownership.

•    In Kazakhstan, wind power has enormous potential. This was long overlooked because of Kazakhstan’s ready fossil fuel supply. Working closely with government authorities UNDP assisted in developing the first Kazakhstan Wind Atlas, which maps wind speeds for the entire country. The Atlas has become a valuable resource for potential investors. The first three commercial wind energy facilities are now operating with plans for thirteen more by 2020.

•    In Moldova, in partnership with the European Union and the Government, UNDP supported the installation of modern biomass heating systems in 130 schools, health facilities, and community centres in rural areas across the country. The benefits were quickly apparent: 37,000 more people now have comfortably heated public buildings throughout the winter; their heating costs have fallen by over thirty per cent; and, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to contract by up to 30,000 tonnes of CO2 per year as biomass replaces coal and gas.

Looking across the exciting examples of sustainable energy highlighted in this report, it is apparent that it is helpful to:
•    create enabling policy and regulatory environments;
•    pilot innovative solutions which can then be replicated and taken to scale; and
•    forge public-private partnerships which will trigger much needed investments in modern energy solutions. Let me note here that UNDP is organizing a regional conference in Istanbul in March next year which will explore further the challenges and opportunities for private sector involvement in sustainable energy.

In closing, let me reiterate that by documenting these experiences of our energy work, and by illustrating the range of initiatives UNDP has been part of aimed at accelerating the transition to sustainable energy solutions, UNDP hopes to encourage learning across countries, and to inspire more action which leads to poverty eradication, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.

I hope you will all enjoy the publication. UNDP looks forward to continuing its co-operation with you all.

I understand that we will now watch a short film from Bosnia and Herzegovina which deals with the themes covered in the publication.

UNDP Around the world