Jane Olga Ebinger
As Director of Policy, Jane Ebinger oversees the work of SEforALL’s global team on energy access, finance, gender and the evidence base underpinning our engagement partners and on activities that support the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goal on Energy (SDG 7). Before her assignment as Director of Policy at SEforALL, she was Chief Climate Change Specialist at the World Bank supporting the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change on climate policy and finance. She has had previous assignments at the World Bank as Manager for Climate Change Policy; Thematic Coordinator for Climate Change in the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program and operational assignments in Europe and Central Asia on energy, environment and carbon finance. Prior to joining the World Bank she worked in the oil and gas industry for BP and BHP Billiton in environmental management, safety and risk assessment, oi spill/ emergency response. She has an MA Mathematics and an MSc Mathematical in Modeling and Numerical Analysis from Oxford University.
What are the main projects Sustainable Energy for All is involved in now and what are the low-carbon technology breakthroughs that have been achieved through these projects?
Technology is critical in accelerating energy access and supporting government policies are essential to enable these technologies to succeed. At Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), we work with a number of partners, governments and businesses who use a variety of technologies that will deliver affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7).
The latest Global Tracking Framework (GTF) report shows that just over 1 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity. About 80 percent of those lacking basic electricity services live in just 20 countries, all of them in Asia and Africa. And most of these populations are in rural areas, especially Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) where electrification rates lag behind population growth. Many of these same populations also lack access to cooling technologies which are critical to everyday living, such as ensuring fresh food and safe storage of medicines.
SEforALL currently has two initiatives where we are using partnerships and technology to support greater action. This includes scaling up access to energy through integrated approaches that embrace centralized and decentralized energy technologies and developing, far more quickly, lower-cost technologies for cooling solutions, such as air conditioners and refrigeration.
Momentum towards achieving universal access to electricity by 2030 is currently not at the speed and scale needed, and there is a growing body of evidence showing that an integrated approach that allows the rollout of decentralised technologies to scale can increase this progress. The costs of off-grid solar and other decentralized technologies have fallen dramatically in recent years, making them a quicker, cleaner less expensive solution for providing basic power than fossil fuel technologies. The appeal of off-grid renewables is especially strong in remote rural areas where centralized grid-scale power projects are less likely to be built in the foreseeable future. While some countries such as Afghanistan, Kenya and Bangladesh have made inroads bringing household and mini-grid solar to millions of people in rural areas, it’s only the tip of the iceberg and far faster progress is needed.
SEforALL is keenly focused on supporting what we call ‘high-impact’ countries whose actions are critical to achieving the SDG7 goals. Countries in Africa and Asia have especially big energy access gaps. The latest research and evidence from the Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) and GTF reports show us what government policies and support can be put in place to incentivise much-needed investment in electricity access, especially decentralized technologies, that will support high impact countries the most.
With this in mind, we need to re-think ‘business as usual’ practices so that decentralized solutions get more support on energy access financing commitments. We’re seeing progress from key players like the World Bank Group and African Development Bank in supporting decentralized solutions, but shifts like this need to happen faster if we’re to close the energy access gap.
In regards to the cooling access gap, the stakes remain equally as high. Roughly one in every seven people on the planet currently lack access to electricity and basic cooling. And with global populations and global temperatures rising, the challenges are growing.
This is further challenging since low-cost technologies are not as readily available today. Catalysing such innovation – and huge economic opportunities associated with such breakthroughs - is a key centerpiece of a global “Cooling for All” initiative that SEforALL announced in July of this year.
Supported by global experts, the project will focus on identifying technological, finance and business model solutions that can accelerate affordable, sustainable cooling solutions in the world’s poorest regions. A key driver in this effort is the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment, a global pact approved last year which calls for reducing consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas used widely in air conditioners and refrigerators. The HFC phase-out is a perfect opportunity for developing and leveraging new, super-efficient technologies that can lead to leaps in cooling efficiency.
“Bolstering the EU’s energy efficiency policy targets would create another stream of new jobs, while helping reduce emissions with smarter energy use”
As clean energy technologies gain traction for meeting the SDG7 goals and mitigating climate change, what are the implications on growth and jobs within the sustainable energy ecosystem within the EU?
One of the greatest benefits the global clean energy transition offers – whether with energy efficiency technologies, renewables or clean transportation – are the jobs it is creating globally.
Jobs related to the clean energy sector are now starting to produce as many jobs as those from traditional fossil fuel sectors. We’re already seeing evidence of this in the United States, the EU and, most especially, Asia. A recent International Renewable Energy Agency (see page 24) report shows that the renewable energy sector alone employed 9.8 million people in 2016. Jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined have more than doubled in the last four years – and with both technologies becoming increasingly popular across Europe for businesses and countries as a source for their power supply – these sectors with the right investment and policy support show great promise to generate even more new jobs.
Economic and job growth driven from clean energy investment should also continue to grow as EU countries try to meet their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. A big positive in this regard is the EU’s recent Renewable Energy Directive which proposes specific targets for greening the transport sector by 2030. This effort has strong support from governments and businesses alike, including member countries and European businesses which have both committed to drop petrol and diesel vehicles in the coming years.
Improving energy productivity, another key SEforALL goal, is a further area of significant opportunity. Bolstering the EU’s energy efficiency policy targets would create another stream of new jobs, while helping reduce emissions with smarter energy use.
“From 2014 to 2020 alone, the European Commission allocated 3.7 billion Euros to sustainable energy aiming at enabling energy access for 40 million people, contributing to adding 6.5 GW of new generation capacity, and saving at least 15 million tons CO2e yearly”
How is the partnership between SEforALL and the European Commission helping to build partnerships and unlock finance to achieve universal energy access to sustainable energy?
The European Commission has been one of the strongest players worldwide in the fight to bring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to more people faster. From 2014 to 2020 alone, the European Commission allocated 3.7 billion Euros to sustainable energy aiming at enabling energy access for 40 million people, contributing to adding 6.5 GW of new generation capacity, and saving at least 15 million tons CO2 emissions yearly. Billions more are being unlocked through the European blending facilities that support energy infrastructure projects and programs furthering the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
On the political level, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Miguel Arias Cañete, and Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič are outspoken, influential and active supporters of the sustainable energy for all agenda.
The Commission has a very unique role in the SEforALL family, providing political leadership that helps deliver on-the-ground action and partnership connections that are vital to our work and success, as well as financial support towards a number of seminal efforts more specifically. SEforALL works with a wide array of public and private sector partners, including non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Many are focused on specific aspects of SEforALL’s agenda, whether at the regional or country level, a technology or solution level, or a thematic or stakeholder level. By working together, by convening the right partners, we can deliver far bigger results. The United Nations and SEforALL have a special relationship agreement that supports these collaborative activities, calling for, among other things, SEforALL to promote stakeholder participation in support of the Sustainable Energy for All movement, to work closely with the UN in coordinating activities across the UN system and to accelerate progress towards SDG7. Establishing an Advisory Committee to advise the UN and SEforALL on these areas of shared interest is integral in all this.
The Commission’s support has enabled us to work with partners right now, for example, on cutting-edge research to track and analyse finance flows for electrification and clean cooking access across high-impact countries in Asia and Africa. This research, produced in collaboration with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Climate Policy Initiative and Practical Action Consulting, highlights finance holes in delivering energy access to these countries – especially across Sub-Saharan Africa - and actions that governments and finance players need to take to incentivise more energy access investments.
Another SEforALL partnership closely linked with our finance flows work is the “Shine: Investing in Energy Access for All” campaign. This work, led by Wallace Global Fund and GreenFaith, will bring together investors from the faith-based, philanthropic and development communities. It aims to mobilize larger, more diverse investments to support energy access. The campaign is especially focused on scaling up investment in decentralized renewable energy solutions that hold great promise to close the energy gap more quickly and at less cost than ‘business as usual’ approaches.
“New “People-Centred Accelerator,” a global effort to promote gender diversity, social inclusionand women’s empowerment in the sustainable energy sector”
What does the future hold for the European Commission and SEforALL partnership?
The strong partnership between SEforALL and the European Commission cannot be overstated. This began in 2013, when the former Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, attended the inaugural meeting of the SEforALL Advisory Board. Since then Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General at DG Development and Cooperation and Commissioner, Neven Mimica, have represented the European Commission respectively on the SEforALL’s Executive Committee and the Advisory Board. SEforALL, on the request of Commissioner Neven Mimica, has also been asked to contribute and be a Member of the Advisory Board of the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Political leadership from the European Commission has featured prominently during its international events, including the 2017 Sustainable Energy for All Forum. The Commission’s support was especially helpful in hosting this year’s event, which brought together about 1,000 energy access leaders from across the world under the theme ‘Going further, faster – together’.
The Forum created a space for our partners to tell stories about the work they are doing all around the globe to drive the transformation in energy access, renewables, clean cooking and energy productivity – all core elements of SDG7. Several new SEforALL initiatives were announced at the Forum, including the latest Global Tracking Framework report and our new “People-Centered Accelerator,” a global effort to promote gender diversity, social inclusion and women’s empowerment in the sustainable energy sector.
Looking ahead, we see even broader collaboration opportunities between the Commission and SEforALL. The Commission is considering further cooperations with SEforALL, amongst them in support of the 2018 SEforALL Global Tracking Framework (GTF) analytics and release, and other monitoring tools.
European energy companies are also playing bigger roles in SEforALL’s sector-focused accelerators from Danfoss in Denmark to Philipps in the Netherlands, from ENEL in Italy to EDP in Portugal. This growing interest is driven by SEforALL’s unique ability to convene and leverage public-private collaborations that are essential for accelerating on-the-ground progress and bringing affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy access to all.
“The strong partnership between SEforALL and the European Commission cannot be overstated”