From the United Nations Foundation – June 2016

Dear Friends,

We all focus a lot on the billion+ people around the world who still lack access to electricity – as we should! But sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come over the past few years.

I was struck by the progress that’s been made at the June 1 EnergyAccessX event in San Francisco – a Clean Energy Ministerial parallel event on decentralized energy solutions organized by Power for All, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global LEAP program, the UK’s Department for International Development, and ClimateWorks Foundation.

The event attracted more than 100 entrepreneurs, thought leaders, technologists, designers, and policy experts from around the world for a dynamic and sophisticated discussion about how to collectively scale clean energy access. Topics ranged from the radical new business models being employed, to the disruptive force of decentralized clean energy technologies, to the creative new policies that are emerging in many different settings (for a more detailed description of the event click here).


Photo credit: Prof. Daniel Kammen, UC Berkeley (shared on Twitter)

When the UN Foundation first launched the Energy Access Practitioner Network in 2011, the international policy community focused very little on the potential for electricity to transform the lives of poor people around the world. What’s more, energy access wasn’t even on the technology or finance communities’ radar. At the time we had to work hard to connect and convene the disparate actors working on small-scale decentralized clean energy access around the globe.

Today the situation is remarkably different:

In the international politics and policy world, energy access has become a top priority. Over the past five years the Sustainable Energy for All initiative – with its goal of reaching universal energy access by 2030 – was created and developed into an international partnership. The UN General Assembly declared 2012 as the International Year and 2014-2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. And the world’s governments cemented the new prominence of energy access by making “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” among 17 priorities on the world’s to-do list for 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The technology and finance communities are increasingly focused on energy access as a business opportunity. Every few weeks there are announcements about new energy access-focused companies, financing mechanisms such as pay-as-you go, and innovative efforts to leverage mobile phones and their networks to finance systems and monitor energy use. The sheer number of new projects, initiatives, and companies that appear in the Practitioner Network newsletter every month makes the change abundantly clear.

In short, we’ve put energy access on the global agenda in just a few years’ time, and the world is now turning its attention to tackling the global clean energy challenge – with dedication and speed. That’s exciting.

So let’s take a minute to reflect on the distance we’ve traveled. We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Okay, now back to work!