What We Do:

Achieving Universal Energy Access

Working Toward a Sustainable Future

Achieving Universal Energy Access

Access to clean and affordable modern energy is critical to fostering lasting social and economic development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Worldwide, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, and about 1.2 billion have no access to electricity, with 1 billion more having access only to unreliable electricity networks. 

The lack of modern energy services stifles income-generating activities and hampers the provision of basic services such as health care and education. In addition, smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts. These emissions are important drivers of climate change and local environmental degradation. They also consume time that women and girls could spend in more productive activities and pose security risks for them as they forage for fuel.

In response, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change — composed of global business leaders and heads of UN agencies — has called for a major UN initiative to achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030. UN-Energy — a collaboration of 20 UN agencies – will lead the effort.

Sustainable Energy for All

Energy is central to nearly every major challenge, and opportunity the world faces today.  Be it jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes , access to sustainable energy for all is essential for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity. 

In fact, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more only have intermittent access. Some 2.5 billion people – almost half of humanity – rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made sustainable energy one of his five priorities that will guide his second 5-year term. Specifically, he will direct the United Nations to extend energy’s reach in order to combat endemic poverty.  Universal access to energy, improved efficiency and enhanced deployment of renewable sources are ambitious goals, and the Secretary-General is leading a Sustainable Energy for All initiative to make them achievable.

This initiative will call for private sector and national commitments and attract global attention to the importance of energy for development and poverty alleviation. The goal is to meet three objectives by 2030:

•    Ensuring universal access to modern energy services.
•    Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
•    Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

In recognition of the importance of energy access for sustainable economic development and supporting achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations General Assembly has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

Also, as part of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, the United Nations Foundation has launched a new global Energy Access Practitioner Network. This group will bring together practitioners from the private sector and civil society working on the delivery of energy services and solutions related to electrification in a range of developing country contexts to develop a more integrated approach to energy access planning and execution in support of the Sustainable Energy for All Target to achieve universal energy access by 2030. The Network will focus on both household and community level electrification for productive purposes, incorporating specific market-based applications for health, agriculture, education, small business, communities and household solutions.

To learn more about the Energy Access Practitioner Network, visit the website.

Clean Cookstoves

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a new initiative, led by the UN Foundation, supporting large-scale adoption of clean and safe household cooking solutions as a way to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and reduce climate change emissions. The Alliance's founding partners have set a goal of enabling an additional 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.

The Alliance will work with public, private, and non-profit partners to overcome the market barriers that hamper the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world. It will work to develop standards for cleaner stoves, increase public and policymaker awareness of the health and environmental benefits of improved stoves, support health and climate research, and reduce trade barriers to help support market-based solutions and develop a robust clean cookstoves industry. For more information, read our factsheet.

To learn more about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, visit the website »

See our full list of partners »

Bioenergy and Sustainability

Our International Bioenergy and Sustainability Initiative advances environmentally and economically sustainable strategies for harnessing biomass energy in ways that minimize competition with food production. The initiative seeks to identify, share and promote best practices for the sustainable use of bioenergy with government leaders, UN agencies, scientific experts, and nongovernmental organizations.

Priorities include: developing sustainability guidelines and criteria for bioenergy production and use; mapping landscapes to determine bioenergy potential in developing countries; and promoting investment in bioenergy.