29 March 2021
Five Working Groups Considering Energy Actions to Recommend at UN Summit
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
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Five technical working groups on sustainable energy are producing reports for consideration at a High-level Dialogue at the UN in September 2021.

The multi-stakeholder working groups aim to identify concrete steps for a roadmap to achieving SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Following their first round of meetings in February and March 2021, the leaders of each working group have created annotated outlines of their final reports.

Five technical working groups on sustainable energy are producing reports for consideration at a High-level Dialogue at the UN in September 2021. The multi-stakeholder working groups aim to identify concrete steps for a roadmap to achieving SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

The groups were established along five themes: energy transition, energy access, enabling the SDGs through just and inclusive transitions, energy finance and investment, and innovation. Following their first round of meetings in February and March 2021, the leaders of each working group have created annotated outlines on each topic.

In the annotated outline on Energy Transition, the co-leads propose that in order to make the targets of SDG 7 “more operational and aligned with SDG 13” (climate action), the group may introduce more specific targets, including:

  • 100% access to modern energy services
  • 3% annual efficiency improvement in at least xx countries across the world
  • 100% increase in modern renewables capacity globally compared to 2020
  • Reduction of yy billion tonnes of GHG emissions per year in the energy sector
  • Stimulate economic growth and create yy million decent jobs (SDG 8 contribution)

The outline also indicates that the group may propose a set of compacts to address barriers and opportunities for energy sector transition related to: power systems; renewable energy; energy efficiency; transport; hard-to-abate sectors; financing the transition; and challenges for making the transition just, including in countries with large dependency on fossil fuels.

The group is co-led by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). 

On Energy Access, the annotated outline provides the size of several gaps to be addressed:

  • Population to receive ‘affordable, reliable and modern energy services’ by 2030.
  • Population to be electrified by 2030.
  • Number of health and education facilities to be electrified by 2030.
  • Access to cooling.
  • Population to access clean cooking technologies and fuels by 2030

This report will provide targeted, operationally focused recommendations on 12 areas, including:

  • Ensure that a workable institutional and regulatory environment is in place focusing on all three markets segments (grid densification/extension, mini grids, off-grid technologies and electric cooking) to ensure deployment at scale;
  • Support human capital with a focus on capacity building and job creation;
  • Improve performance of national utilities, leveraging digital and other innovations;
  • Create environment that supports continued business model, financing and technology innovations;
  • Accelerate electrification of public institutions, while improving its sustainability;
  • Tailor solutions and approaches to the needs of the poor and vulnerable households to leave no one behind; and
  • Include access to electricity and clean cooking as part of COVID-19 stimulus/response packages and economic recovery plans.

The working group on energy access is co-led by: the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office for Least Developed, Landlocked and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), and the World Bank.

The annotated outline on Enabling the SDGs Through Inclusive, Just Energy Transitions describes a two-directional relationship between sustainable energy and the 2030 Agenda: “an inclusive, just energy transition helps promote progress along different SDGs, but its own success is also determined by progress in other SDGs themselves.” They say that SDG 7 is a key means of achieving other SDGs.

The report’s take-away message for policymakers, the outline indicates, will be a call to end silo thinking and move towards integrated policies. In this regard, SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) will be discussed as an enabler of change. An appendix to the report would provide concrete indicators to measure support for the 2030 Agenda, based on the interaction of SDG 7 and the other SDGs. Separate indicators would be provided for 2025, 2030, and 2050.

The co-leads of the Enabling the SDGs group are the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The annotated outline on Energy Finance and Investment proposes “ambitious innovative fit-for-purpose solutions” to mobilize public and private investment rapidly to finance energy access, the energy transition, and enabling of the other SDGs. Recommendations cover: direct and immediate measures to accelerate clean energy projects; targeted support to unlock the energy transition and leave no one behind; sound energy policy and regulatory frameworks to attract private investment; and a vibrant ecosystem of financial providers, entrepreneurs and companies that can support clean energy transitions.

This working group is co-led by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

On Innovation, Technology and Data, the annotated outline indicates to a focus on the technologies and innovations that will make the biggest impact on energy access, just transition, energy-efficiency targets, and the clean energy transition by 2030 and the longer-term climate goals by 2050. It will present recommendations on creating the enabling conditions for speeding up progress. Recommendations will address, among other topics: finance for R&D and innovation; inter-sectoral linkages in energy transition policy, as well as water, agriculture, and environment-related policies; and the emerging role of energy as a service. On energy as a service, the outline includes a section on getting “out of the energy box” by designing services around the productive use of energy, not just energy supply.

The working group on innovation, technology, and data is co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The five annotated outlines have been circulated to their respective group members for comment. The first draft of each report will be shared with members in early April 2021. [Website for High-level Dialogue on Energy] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of High-level Dialogue on Energy preparations


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