Area of intervention: energy and climate

10.09.2018 - Article

The climate goal (SDG 13) of the 2030 Agenda can only be reached if energy generation efforts worldwide focus systematically on renewable sources, and if energy efficiency is improved significantly.

The sectors of climate and energy are closely interrelated. The energy goal (SDG 7) of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development comprises the following targets:

  • Coal fired power plants contribute to climate change and the destruction of the planet
    Coal fired power plants contribute to climate change and the destruction of the planet© colourbox
    By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

Access to energy is the prerequisite for economic growth, employment and poverty reduction, and it is a basis for good education and health care. Private households and public institutions need reliable and affordable power supplies, for example in order to prepare food, heat homes and schools, run hospitals and provide clean drinking water. Enterprises, too, require reliable energy supplies in order to be able to provide services and produce, store and transport goods. And in the agricultural and food industries, energy is needed to grow crops and process food.

The climate goal (SDG 13) of the 2030 agenda can only be reached if energy generation efforts worldwide focus systematically on renewable sources, and if energy efficiency is improved significantly. That is why the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 (at UNFCCC COP21) highlights energy as a key element in the effort to limit global warming. In keeping with this, more than 90 percent of countries have included energy sector measures in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The energy sector accounts for about two thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions, for instance from power generation, the heating and cooling of buildings, and transport. Simultaneously, global demand for energy is growing rapidly: according to International Energy Agency (IEA) projections, primary energy demand worldwide will grow by one third by 2040.

Green people's energy for Africa

In order to meet the energy needs of households, government institutions and enterprises while at the same time limiting global warming on a long-term basis, a transformation of the energy sector is needed. To that end, the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix must be increased on a massive scale. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) therefore supports more than 40 partner countries in developing sustainable energy systems. In 2014 and 2015 alone, it provided more than four billion Euro in support of such efforts.

For example, Germany is a leading donor in the Energising Development (EnDev) programme, which has helped improve access to power and modern cooking energy in 26 partner countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Since 2005, EnDev has helped 17.3 million people, 19,400 social institutions and 38,600 small enterprises to get access to renewable energy.

On the African continent, there is a particularly great potential for renewable energy. Only ten percent of the continent's hydropower potential has been tapped so far. Solar energy, too, is a key factor for development in Africa. There is also great potential for geothermal power. Yet there are still about 620 million people in Africa who do not have access to electricity. In rural regions in particular, it will not be an option to wait until people are connected to the national grid. This is where the BMZ's new “Green people's energy for Africa” initiative comes in. It will work with cooperatives, municipalities and private investors to help set up decentralised energy systems on the basis of renewable sources.

In these development cooperation programmes, use will also be made of experience from Germany. Here, too, electrification did not start with the construction of large-scale power plants and transmission lines.

The sun and biogas are among the sustainable energy sources of the future
The sun and biogas are among the sustainable energy sources of the future© colourbox

The drivers of electrification were energy cooperatives, and such cooperatives are now the backbone of Germany's energy transition: most German wind turbines, solar installations and biomass plants are owned by cooperatives, individuals and municipalities. 180,000 people in Germany are active in 850 projects for renewable energy. This wealth of experience is to be tapped through development cooperation for the benefit of Germany's partner countries.

“Green people's energy for Africa” complements Germany's development cooperation programmes at the regional and national levels. If all people in Africa are to benefit from green energy and sustainable development, an integrated approach will be needed that links local potential and larger issues related to the energy infrastructure.

Harmonising energy needs and climate action

Developing and emerging economies that have large reserves of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) often do not only export these resources, they also use them locally to generate power and meet the growing domestic demand for energy. Here, too, it is vital to create sustainable, needs-based alternatives for households, social institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises and industrial facilities. Only a transformation of the energy sector towards renewable energy sources will be able to end countries' one-sided dependency on fossil fuels and reconcile energy and climate goals.

In order to achieve SDG 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) of the 2030 agenda, the use of fossil fuels in the establishment of new energy systems must be avoided to the greatest possible extent. And existing energy systems must be transformed: they must provide consumers with reliable, affordable energy in line with needs, and the share of renewable energy in that energy mix must be as high as possible.

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