Rural Energy Access Conference Addresses Problems of the Energy-Poor

United Nations8 January 2014: The UN-organized 'Global Conference on Rural Energy Access: A Nexus Approach to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication' addressed problems of the “energy-poor” and discussed solutions such as stand-alone renewable electricity systems and advanced cook stoves. The conference concluded with a call for a “nexus approach” to integrating energy access in national sustainable development plans and across the post-2015 development agenda.

The UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA), UN-Energy, the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) jointly organized the conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 4-6 December 2013, as a follow-up to commitments from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20).

The conference, which aimed to promote dialogue and good practice on energy access, drew over 250 participants from 40 countries. The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and CEO of SE4All, Kandeh Yumkella, highlighted the links between energy access, poverty eradication and sustainable development, including opportunities for education and home study, food processing, business development, and the operation of public facilities such as hospitals.

Participants issued recommendations at the close of the conference, calling on public authorities to integrate energy access aims into health, gender, education, water, food security and other programs, and into national sustainable development plans. They called on governments to lift barriers to rural energy access and to provide or draw on a range of financing sources. They asked that quantifiable metrics be developed to measure progress towards the aim of “access to modern energy services” contained in the Rio+20 outcome document.

Several organizations announced initiatives, including a UN Development Programme (UNDP) knowledge hub for decentralized, "bottom-up" solutions to energy access, and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on house fuel combustion. [DESA Press Release] [Conference webpage] [Conference Summary] [Conference Draft Recommendations]