Government leaders, business, civil society and international organisations worldwide gathered in The Hague on 5 April 2019 to engage in a dialogue on 'Accelerating Sustainable Development Goal 7: How can the Netherlands contribute to renewable energy in developing countries?' Hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the event also focused on launching a new government financing facility (SDG 7 Results) aimed at business, NGOs and financial institutions. The purpose is to further develop markets for renewable energy in developing countries to free people from poverty.
To date, there are still just under 1 billion people that are missing out on education, health, jobs and economic opportunities because they do not have access to clean and affordable electricity. Nearly 3 billion people lack access to clean cooking facilities, resulting in an estimated 3.8 million deaths a year attributed to household air pollution (HAP). Sustainable Development Goal 7 ensures access to affordable, reliable sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Although, national priorities and policy ambitions should be strengthened to put the world on track to meet the energy targets for 2030.
“Today is about an open exchange of ideas; a debate on the role of the Netherlands in the energy transition”, said Ms Reina Buijs, Director General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She opened the event by calling on all partners and partner countries to raise their ambition and climate plans; “We feel we can work as team Netherlands, not as a government but as a country, we can do better and be smarter. How can we accelerate the global energy transition, especially in developing countries that still have to build most of their energy infrastructure?”
In the keynote address, Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director and Head of the Energy & Extractives Global Practice of the World Bank Group said that getting to the next level will require harnessing the power of the private sector.
“We have known for a long time that public and concessional funds will not be nearly enough to truly scale up renewable energy in developing countries to the level needed to reach the SDGs and the global climate goals. Over the past 5 years, the World Bank provided more than 8 billion dollars in financing for renewables progress. The vast majority of this progress is designed to either mobilise or enable a substantial further investment by the private sector".
Director, Planning and Programme Support of IRENA, Elizabeth Press called for harnessing all sources of renewables; going beyond solar and wind.
“Going beyond the national level and focusing on action at the regional level, making use of off-grid deployment for development, maximising the socio-economic benefits that renewable energy has to offer but also pre-empting and reducing adverse impacts of the transition (‘not everything is great’).”
And she looked towards the enabling environment for renewable energy investments more broadly.
“What does renewable energy do for us? Creating jobs, improving the energy demand of agri-food chains, diminishing health impacts related to air pollution, using up to 200 times less water as compared to conventional technologies.”
She noted that we have to align our climate and development objectives, have a deliberate focus on long term impacts and plans, adapt to new responses required by new challenges, and be prepared to take risks (and sometimes fail to make the impact we wanted to make). She added that, the renewable energy sector appears to be more attractive for women than the conventional energy sector. Through the deployment of renewable energy, women receive more opportunities.
After the main keynote speeches the audience was divided into several side sessions that focused on access to sustainable energy from a variety of perspectives, including sessions on:
• Financing start-ups
• Renewable energy in a humanitarian context
• Investing in large-scale renewable energy production
• The future of clean cooking
• SDG 7 Results financing facility
One side session included pitches for innovative renewable energy solutions to investors, led by the Ikea Foundation. Two side events were organised around financing, led by FMO and GET. Invest focusing on what is needed for large scale renewable energy projects to succeed and how to strengthen RE project finance. The Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation (DCHI) and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) discussed the role of the private sector in creating access to modern energy in humanitarian settings. RVO.nl offered an overview of tools and services in support of conducting their business abroad, like for example, the International Clean Energy Partnership (ICEP). Participants were encouraged to submit their project ideas for the SDG 7 Results financing facility, which is open for applications until the end of September 2019. For more information please visit the SDG 7 Results website.
How to deal with a changing energy world
After the side sessions everyone was brought together for a discussion and to reflect on the way forward to accelerate SDG 7 implementation before 2030. By using an interactive tool the audience was asked to vote yes or no to different statements on how to reach SDG 7. Consuming less, filling up the Sahara with solar panels and to stop using plastic, were in the top three climate actions the audience would support. According to the majority of the audience the SDG goals will not be achieved before 2055 and we will probably not be fossil free until 2079. Only 18% of the audience agreed that we should invest on a large scale in gas and LPG to reach SDG 7. There was less consensus on the fact that developing countries are the global energy suppliers of the future. 50% of the audience agreed and 50% disagreed. A staggering 92% disagreed on the statement that the Netherlands is providing maximum contribution to SDG 7 and 82% disagreed that only local entrepreneurs will solve the access to the energy problem. However, in the discussion that followed some were convinced of the opposite. Last but not least, 66% believed there are more than enough funds to reach the SDG 7 goals.
Mr Guido Landheer, Deputy Director General of Foreign Economic Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director of Economic Advice and Policy Department, closed the day by saying that he sensed a lot of enthusiasm in the air at the event, which is needed to deliver the SDG 7 goals and bring society to a higher level. Although progress towards achieving the agreed energy targets is slow, Landheer noticed progress is being made:
“In the last 6 years the amount of people with access to electricity has gone up from 78% to 87% especially in developing countries, which makes us feel more confident.”
Landheer stated that Dutch entrepreneurs play a leading role in this, especially when it comes to solar and wind energy solutions. He mentioned a few examples like the Dutch Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya, consisting of 365 wind turbines providing 17% of the country’s installed capacity, led by Dutch entrepreneur Willem Dolleman. But also in Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa, Dutch business stands out in biomass, solar and off-shore wind power.
“The Dutch government is active on a multilateral level to support the Paris agreement but also nationally to stimulate investment in innovation. The role of the government is to bring people together and to support entrepreneurs when going abroad.”