What’s new on energy poverty: June 8th

However much the Rio+20 sledgehammer crushes the 24 hours of your day, try to find time to look at Renewable Energy Jobs and Access, a report just published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The Director-General’s Foreword says it all:

While attention has been devoted to a broad range of issues surrounding rural energy access, the employment aspect has received comparatively scant attention to date. This IRENA report is among the first to address this topic in depth

And the important conclusion:

energy access through renewable energy technologies …could create almost 4 million direct jobs by 2030 in the off-grid electricity sector alone

I approached the document with the preconception that an organisation which spends most of its time representing big (renewable) energy business interests in developed countries would be out of its depth on energy poverty.

This proved completely unjustified. Whilst based only on a skim-read, the report shows real sensitivity for the workings of rural economies in poor countries – the distinction between formal and informal jobs, the key role of women, the risks associated with quality control, and the significance of the full business chain. The case studies are numerous and relevant.

The analysis provides valuable ammunition for the energy access lobby at Rio+20. It should hasten to hook up with the movement for global job creation which is making some headway in the sustainable development agenda.

It’s refreshing to see the potential for renewable energy focused on the poor, rather than muddled up with issues in richer countries – a failing of the Sustainable Energy for All programme.

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As Chair of the UN Foundation and member of the UN’s High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All, former US Senator Tim Wirth is a potential source of insider news to lighten the darkness of coming weeks. It was disappointing that his pre-Rio article published yesterday by Aol Energy consisted of paragraphs recycled from an April piece by Kandeh Yumkella, Chair of the High-Level Group.

This evident care to sing from the same hymn-sheet is not without interest. In looking forward to the opportunities presented by Rio+20, the article focuses on the meeting of minds of national governments and businesses to activate markets in energy access solutions.

There’s not a single reference to the fate of energy poverty within the formal UNCSD outcome document or as part of the proposed sustainable development goals.

I’m not sure whether we should interpret this as pragmatic lowering of expectations or negligence of the duty of the High-Level Group to seek maximum political commitment to the energy goals.

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this article was first published by OneWorld UK

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