- Measuring what matters
New ways of defining and measuring energy access are crucial if this target is to result in poverty reduction and development benefits. Communities require a range of energy services for their development. From household services, community services such as health clinics and schools, and also energy for productive activities such as farming and running small businesses.
Current binary definitions of energy access (e.g. having or not having a household electricity connection) do not tell us if communities have energy services that are good quality, reliable, affordable and safe enough to be usable.
We are calling on governments to adopt the multi-tiered framework created by the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative to track and measure energy access targets. This will mean that the equity dimension of access can be tracked, ensuring that “no-one is left behind”. In addition, any target for universal access must include a minimum level of meaningful access so that progress can be measured towards this target.
- Delivering for poor people and the planet
Energy poverty and the range of energy nexus issues within post-2015 cannot be meaningfully addressed without increased support for deployment of decentralized (off-grid) energy provision. It is not feasible, affordable nor desirable to connect many rural populations to grids that are slow to deploy, prohibitively expensive, often unreliable, provide minimal long-term employment, and are mostly dependent on fossil fuels. Collaborative financing should deploy a combination of start-up grants, risk guarantees, and capacity building to provide the necessary support to enterprises delivering on decentralised energy access.
Without tackling dangerous climate change, it will not be possible to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development. Global energy systems are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and must be transformed within the lifespan of the post-2015 framework. We should aim for an annual global rate of improvement in energy intensity (energy/unit GDP) of at least 4.5% and for at least 45% of all primary energy use and energy infrastructure to be renewable. These targets must also integrate adequate social and environmental safeguards, ensuring the poorest have energy solutions appropriate for their needs.
- Tackling gendered issues
Negotiating parties and implementing institutions must recognise and address the structural gender inequalities within energy-poor groups. Women and girls suffer the brunt of health problems and early mortality related to energy poverty. Concrete indicators to promote gender budgeting in energy planning; increased collection and analysis of disaggregated data on energy and gender; and inclusion of gender awareness in energy governance, are all required to address the disproportionate impacts of energy poverty on women and girls.
Market systems are often structured in ways which marginalise female actors. The post-2015 development agenda should incentivise investments in women’s access to energy services for enterprise development as well as strengthen women entrepreneurs’ capacities to engage in energy value chains.
- Holistic approaches
Energy is essential to all SDGs. Actionable, outcome-based targets are required for success. Progress in many development areas is intrinsically linked with access to energy. Thus a comprehensive and integrated approach to energy under the post-2015 framework would be the most effective. This could incentivise actors in different sectors to work together, leading to coherent and comprehensive action, and cross-sectoral buy-in. Failing to meet energy access needs would undermine all other efforts to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development globally.
The SE4All Global Tracking Framework’s tier 3 indicators should be the minimum acceptable standard to qualify as having “access to modern energy services.” Tier 3 tracks outcome-oriented factors such as quality of service, for example having electricity available for a minimum of eight hours a day. It also holistically addresses a range of poor people’s energy needs through a basic but respectable package of wider energy and cooking services. Further indicators are needed to ensure progress on interconnected development needs in the areas of health, education and other services – often referred to as “nexus” issues.