Helen Clark: Speech at SE4ALL side event at International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Sep 1, 2014

Apia, Samoa    

    I am delighted to join this important side event on Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative of the UN Secretary-General, and one which is highly relevant to SIDS. Sustainable energy for all is an indispensable enabler of sustainable development.

·      Access to energy in SIDS countries varies significantly, ranging from nearly full access to electricity and/or petroleum products for some populations, while in others there are significant energy access gaps.

·      What most SIDS countries have in common is heavy reliance on imported fossil fuel products. The Pacific has the highest petroleum fuel dependency of any region or sub-region in the world, exceeding that of the Caribbean island states. 

·      It has been estimated that on average SIDS countries spend ten per cent of their GDP on petroleum product imports, and for some that figure exceeds thirty per cent. The heavy reliance on fuel imports exposes SIDS to a high degree of price volatility, and takes away resources from important development priorities.

·      Since the Barbados meeting in 2012, sustainable energy for all has continued moving from the margins of public and political attention to become a central development issue.

·      Today’s meeting is an opportunity to highlight the importance of moving sustainable energy to the top of the list of investment priorities for SIDS.

·      Our panellists all have important perspectives on how to do that, and on the range of steps required – from strengthening institutions and enabling environments for sustainable energy development, to adopting the technologies now available, and pursuing energy efficiency.   Issues of affordability and genuinely universal access are also important.

·      Let me emphasize three key components of achieving sustainable energy for all:

·      Political leadership: In UNDP we have seen how critical this is in advancing sustainable energy for all.

·      In Fiji for example, a strong commitment to rural electrification saw the proportion of rural households with access to electricity increase from 30.6 percent in 1986 to 81.4 percent in 2007. So for our panel, it could be interesting to discuss how more political commitment can be mobilized at the national level and how the global momentum around Sustainable Energy for All can help SIDS.

·      Investments: Without massive investments,  transformation of the energy sector and the achievement of the SE4ALL objectives are out of reach. Here, the private sector has an important role to play. Public resources, including ODA, need to be used in a catalytic way to attract and leverage sufficient investment.

·      In Mauritius, for example, small independent power producers have started investing in renewable energy production after introduction of financial incentives through a feed-in-tariff. Some questions for our panel to consider: can substantially more financial resources from commercial banks be channelled into energy enterprises? How can we de-risk the political and financial environment in SIDS to treble investments in the clean energy sector?

·      Small-scale Solutions: It is obvious that centralized grid systems may not reach dispersed communities on remote islands, or in the highlands of PNG or the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Small solutions, independent mini-grids, or household photovoltaic systems are needed.

·      In the Dominican Republic in the past seven years thirty small hydro plants have been installed in mountain communities which were not connected to the electricity grid. This has eliminated the use of harmful kerosene lamps in those areas, reduced energy related expenditures of poor families by thirty per cent, and helped generate entrepreneurial activity. What can we do to accelerate the implementation of small scale solutions?

·      Such small scale, off-grid energy programmes are a particular focus of UNDP’s work on sustainable energy for all. We are proud to be associated with the Mauritius and the Dominican Republic energy programmes which I have mentioned.

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