2021: World Turns to Clean Energy as Prices Fall

A farmer with her solar irrigation pump in Balahar Daha Village, Nepal, February 17, 2020 (Photo by Nabin Baral courtesy International Water Management Institute) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Clean Energy: By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

NEW YORK, New York, January 7, 2021 (Maximpact.com News) – The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the formation of a global coalition aimed at providing sustainable energy for one billion people within this decade. Announcing the global sustainable energy coalition, Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, said, “Our success will empower millions of people to participate in a modern economy, growing economic opportunity for us all.”

Organizations joining this ambitious call to action include the African Development Bank, CDC the UK’s development finance institution, the European Investment Bank, the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the UN Development Programme, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“In this era of unprecedented crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, we have a responsibility and remarkable opportunity to harness the power that can lead to a more equitable, safer world,”  Dr. Shah said. “Our goal is ambitious yet achievable: to bring reliable and sustainable electricity, powered by renewable technologies, to a billion people by the decade’s end.”

Today, one in every 10 people on the planet lacks access to electricity. That amounts to roughly 800 million people, which includes half the population of sub-Saharan Africa. Another 2.8 billion people lack access to electricity that is reliable enough to secure their livelihoods or power modern healthcare facilities and schools.

But globally, support for affordable clean, renewable energy is growing stronger as prices fall and fossil fuel combustion drives the planet deeper into climate change.

In September 2021, for the first time in 40 years, the UN will host a High Level Dialogue on Energy for countries, businesses, civil society and international institutions to step up action on sustainable energy. The Dialogue will take place at a summit level during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

To engage stakeholders  in the lead up to the Dialogue on Energy, a series of consultations will take place over the coming months with nongovernmental and civil society organizations, scientists and academic institutions, local and regional governments, the private sector, and charitable organizations.

The Dialogue is the first inclusive global gathering on energy under the auspices of the General Assembly since the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy held in Nairobi in 1981. It offers a historic opportunity for transformational action in the first years of the Decade of Action to deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and support the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate.

In a show of optimism for the new year, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has expressed confidence that the world’s supply of clean renewable energy will grow in 2021. Achim Steiner, who serves as both administrator to both UN-Energy and the UNDP,  has called for a strengthening of global energy governance, saying, “We know clean energy can both deliver universal energy access and contribute to tackling the climate crisis.”

UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner delivers his opening statement at a UNDP Executive Board session, New York, September 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy UNDP) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Steiner underscored the urgency of today’s situation. “Ending energy poverty is critical for people and nations to thrive. We know clean energy can both rapidly deliver universal energy access and contribute to tackling the climate crisis. We know it can power a green recovery and the transition to a sustainable future. But we need to do more, we need to do it faster, and we need to do it together – we must join forces to step up action on clean energy.”

Despite the fact that the world is not on track to meet climate objectives or to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) for universal access to clean, affordable and reliable energy by 2030, Marcel Alers, UNDP’s Global Head of Energy, is convinced “clean energy solutions exist that can get us there.”

Marcel Alers, United Nations Development Programme Head of Energy, speaks at St. Lucia Electricity Services on the eastern Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, October 9, 2017. (Photo courtesy UNDP via Facebook)

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas used to be less expensive than clean renewable energy but that is changing, said Alers. Renewables are becoming more affordable every year, and “some options are now cheaper than fossil fuels,” he said, pointing out that since 2010, the price of solar power has decreased by 89 percent.

“It is now cheaper to go solar than to build new coal power plants in most countries, and solar is now the cheapest electricity in history,” the UNDP official said.

Amidst a challenging year with many setbacks, the renewables sector has shown resilience. “This fall in price, coupled with technological progress and the introduction of innovative business models, means we are now at a tipping point,” Alers said, urging large-scale clean energy investments from both the public and private sectors.

Throughout 2020, countries have pledged to build back better, greener and fairer.  “With support from UNDP’s Climate Promise, 115 countries committed to submitting enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions,” Alers said.

What encourages him, Alers shared, is that some of the world’s highest-emitting economies, such as China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the European Union, have made net-zero commitments and that United States President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

“These pledges now need to be translated into action,” said the UNDP official. “Ambitious commitments are a strong signal and a necessary first step towards reaching net-zero emissions. We now need to build on them.”

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the inequality of global energy access, but clean energy can help the world recover from COVID-19 as it can improve healthcare for the poorest people while providing a reliable electricity supply for health centers to function.  “As COVID-19 vaccines, some needing to be stored at -70°C, get rolled out, powering a sustainable and reliable cold chain will be critical,” Alers reminded his audience.

European Investment Bank Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle, warned that without clean energy access, sustainability will be difficult, if not impossible, to acheive. “The adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, are undermining the ability of countries to achieve sustainable development, and particularly the most vulnerable.”

“Accelerating high-impact investments to improve access to clean energy is essential to address the climate crisis, fight poverty and improve public health,” Fayolle said. “That’s why the European Investment Bank is very pleased to join forces with The Rockefeller Foundation and its “Green and Equitable Recovery Call to Action” as a platform to promote the energy transition across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, by unlocking public and private capital flows into distributed renewable energy systems.”

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