What is the importance of having a goal of sustainable development specifically dedicated to energy (SDG 7) as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2016 to 2030? Representatives of the Ministries of Energy of 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean met in Tarija, Bolivia on October 29, 2015 to discuss exactly this issue and to better understand how to implement the changes needed to achieve the SDG 7. Participants discussed how the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative had played an important role in the process of creating the sustainable energy development objective, which did not form part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire in 2015. SE4All, launched in 2011, has three goals to be achieved by 2030:
- Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
- Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
SDG 7 has similar goals that are integrated with a broader objective: ensuring access to affordable, secure, sustainable and modern energy for all. In addition to these three goals, there are 2 sub-objectives:
- By 2030, increase international cooperation to facilitate access to research and clean energy technologies, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil fuel technologies, and to promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technologies.
- By 2030, to expand and improve infrastructure and technology to provide modern and sustainable energy for all developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in line with their respective support programs.
In 2015, four organizations – the IDB, UNDP, OLADE and ECLAC – decided to join efforts to facilitate the implementation of SE4All in Latin America and the Caribbean and in so doing move towards achieving the SDG 7. In order to advance in the areas of access, energy efficiency and renewables, it is necessary to follow the following three steps:
- In terms of access, Latin America and the Caribbean could be the next world region to achieve universal access to energy services, which would be an important milestone in poverty eradication. In 2013, the region had an estimated 96% electricity service coverage while 85% of the region had clean cooking fuels. However, 26 million people still lack electricity and 87 million people lack access to modern cooking fuels. 90% of these groups are concentrated in 11 countries. Almost all countries need public policies to achieve 100% coverage. In the specific case of electricity service, we have estimated that between 2014 and 2030, it would require US$ 700 million each year to achieve this goal. But even if funding were available, there are not enough projects that meet the minimum standards necessary to receive financing. Therefore it is crucial to make plans for underserved communities to understand which energy solution is the right fit for each case, in what time frame and with which resources.
- Regarding energy efficiency issues, despite the significant progress in the region, there needs to be significant intervention to achieve the goals of SE4All. Investments in energy efficiency are the most affordable way to meet the demand for energy, but accelerating implementation will require stronger regulatory measures such as mandatory standards for the manufacturing and sales of energy-consuming equipment.
- Finally, with respect to the renewables target, the region has a higher percentage or participation of renewables in its energy mix due to the abundance of water resources and biomass. Renewables already account for 30% of the region’s energy matrix, and therefore it would be difficult to double that figure by 2030. However, in order to contribute to the overall goal, it would be enough for the region to reach a 40% share of renewables in the energy mix. In order to do that, we do need to support new opportunities to open up the private sector and further expand its participation in the generation and integration of renewable energy technologies.
The truth is that energy plays a catalytic role in the sustainable development objectives and is an important step that we should keep in mind when thinking about how to build a more sustainable world.