What We Do:

Achieving Universal Energy Access

Working Toward a Sustainable Future

Achieving Universal Energy Access

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.

Worldwide, about 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity and the development benefits it brings, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. Nearly 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass (such as wood and charcoal) for cooking and heating.

This 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 an estimated four million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other negative health impacts. These emissions are also important drivers of climate change and local environmental degradation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is a strong advocate for universal access to modern energy services. As he has said :

Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability. I know this from my own experience. When I was a boy in post-war Korea, I studied at night by a dim and smoky oil lamp. Only when I prepared for examinations was I allowed to use a candle. Candles were considered too expensive to use for ordinary homework. This memory has stayed with me. My country changed, and my prospects changed, with the advent of affordable modern energy in Korea.

But too many others have not been so lucky. Widespread energy poverty condemns billions to darkness, to ill health, to missed opportunities. Energy poverty is a threat to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It is inequitable and unsustainable.

Children cannot study in the dark. Girls and women cannot learn or be productive when they spend hours a day collecting firewood. Businesses and economies cannot grow without power.

We must find a way to end energy poverty.

Sustainable Energy for All

Sustainable Energy for All, the initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and co-led by World Bank President Jim Kim, has as one of its three goals for 2030 ensuring universal access to modern energy services. The UN General Assembly has recognized the importance of this objective on several occasions – designating 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and then declaring 2014-2024 the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. Sustainable energy has also been a widely accepted pillar of the post-2015 development agenda as the General Assembly prepares a new set of global goals.

In support of Sustainable Energy for All, the UN Foundation launched a global Energy Access Practitioner Network comprising 2,000 members in 170 countries. The Network focuses on the removal of market barriers to the effective delivery of energy services by promoting the adoption of new technologies and innovative financial and business models, as well as the identification and dissemination of best practices and advocacy for universal energy access.

Also in support of Sustainable Energy for All, the UN Foundation is collaborating with the World Health Organization and UN Women, together with other private sector and non-profit partners, to expand access to modern, sustainable energy services in health facilities, particularly clinics in rural areas that are not served by the electricity grid.

Reliable electricity is essential to powering emergency medical equipment, storing blood and vaccines, and performing basic health procedures, especially after dark. Without it, pregnant women must deliver their babies in the dark or are unable to undergo an emergency cesarean section at night. Children do not have access to life-saving vaccines or critical emergency care. Women do not have full access to vital pre- and post-natal maternal health care services. Yet many health clinics in developing countries lack any access to electricity or have it only intermittently.

Clean Cookstoves

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an initiative hosted by the UN Foundation in support of Sustainable Energy for All, is a public-private partnership that seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance has a goal of enabling an additional 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. In its first four years, the Alliance has helped spur the adoption of clean cooking solutions in more than 20 million homes, putting it on pace to reach its 2020 goal.

In November, the Alliance hosted its inaugural Cookstoves Future Summit to raise awareness of clean cooking solutions, kick off Phase II of its Strategic Roadmap, and mobilize funding to achieve its 2020 goals, The Summit raised commitments of $413 million over three years to further mobilize the clean cooking sector and advance the widespread adoption of clean cooking solutions. Government commitments totaled $286 million, and the private sector pledged to mobilize an additional $127 million. In addition, more than $250 million in commitments were announced by implementing countries. These Alliance partner nations – whose citizens currently rely on unclean and inefficient traditional cookstoves or open fires – outlined plans for programs aimed at increasing access to clean, efficient cookstoves and fuels. 

"When the Alliance launched four years ago, it had the support of 19 founding partners,” Executive Director Radha Muthiah said at the Summit, which was co-hosted by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, honorary chair of the Alliance’s Leadership Council. “Today that number has swelled to more than 1,000 partners, and the group of commitment makers around the table has similarly expanded. The global community has taken a clear stand in support of the clean cooking sector, and implementing countries have likewise made clear their steadfast determination to tackle the issue of household air pollution in a way that yields tangible results."