Democracy That Delivers

Promoting Access to Energy for Poverty Reduction

2.4 billion people in the world lack access to modern fuels for cooking and heating – and 3 out of 4 live in rural areas. 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity, 80% of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Energy poverty is a major barrier to growth and development in vast areas of the world. ‘Energy’ is still seen as a single-sector issue, dominated by large energy players such as oil and gas companies or big electricity providers, while little attention is paid to the links between energy service delivery, impacts on poverty reduction, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

 

 

Democratic leaders face a dilemma. Any appropriate and sustainable response to energy poverty must take into account the lack of investment in developing countries, the growing threat of scarce energy supplies, and climate change. How to expand access to energy for millions of poor people without compromising national and regional energy security or scaling up carbon emissions?

More of the same will not do. This is not a dilemma for the ‘energy industry’, but rather a societal challenge. It requires the leadership of democratic leaders to pioneer ways of maximizing the contribution of the private sector; to mainstream innovations and new low-carbon technologies through access to new finance and capital flows; and to encourage enterprise-development in poor regions by decentralizing energy generation so that poor people can be active agents of their own development without depending on centralized energy systems, particularly in rural areas, which are unlikely to be reached by electricity grids.

The objective of this Club of Madrid project is to identify best practices and to develop public policy recommendations for the mechanisms and incentives needed to incorporate access to energy among the national and regional planning and development frameworks.

The project launch and its first activity took place during the international workshop organized in August 2007 in the context of the Summer Courses of the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP). The meeting brought together the knowledge and the political experience of Club of Madrid Members Ricardo Lagos, Mary Robinson, Sadig Al-Mahdi, Jorge Quiroga, Petre Roman and Cassam Uteem with experts in energy and development to debate ways of increasing access to energy for poverty reduction, taking into account the challenges being posed by energy security and climate change. Honorary Club of Madrid Member Jimmy Carter gave the keynote address, “Energy and Leadership: Managing the Resources for Development,” to a broad audience which actively participated in the debate.

 

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