LDCs told to improve their efforts in renewable energy

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The recent Regional Meeting on Sustainable Energy of the Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries (LDCs) took place recently in Kathmandu, with stakeholders encouraging LDCs to make the important switch from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The two-day event brought together a plethora of countries facing similar energy challenges as they strive to transition to lower carbon outputs. Reliable, affordable, renewable energy for all has the ability to transform the world’s most impoverished nations and is crucial for the expansion of trade, greater development in private business and increased capacity.

At the meeting, leaders and experts in sustainable energy met together to discuss possible solutions, to showcase initiative and financing models that have succeeded in the past, and to share advice on best practices and investment prospectus drafting.

Without a solution to the energy gap plaguing LDCs, structural transformation is impossible. Energy must be both reliable and affordable in order to promote growth and guarantee better livelihoods for the people. The Istanbul Program of Action for the LDCs for 2011-2020 (IPoA) has three main goals:

·  To increase the primary energy supply per capita to the same extent as other developing countries.

·  To generate more energy via renewable sources by 2020

·  To ensure that everyone has access to energy by 2030, by producing more energy and working on trade and distribution processes.

Currently, only 34 percent of all people living in the 48 existing LDCs have direct access to electricity, indicating that important reforms need to be carried out.

Gyan Chandra Acharya, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, noted that countries should concentrate, not only on achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), but also on fulfilling the ambitions expressed in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The SDG7, entitled ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’, seeks to ensure universal access to affordable electricity. Currently, one in five people still do not enjoy this ‘privilege’. Additionally, there is still too heavy a reliance on fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse emissions. New, cost-effective standards could lower the global power consumption by industry, by 14 per cent.

The Paris agreement, meanwhile, has an even loftier aim: that of stopping global temperatures from rising by over 2º C, a phenomenon which would have devastating consequences for our planet. Global activists such as Richard Branson claim that nations should aim to stay beneath a maximum cap of 1.5º C. The goals set out in Paris were determined by almost 200 countries, all of which suggested ways that they and other countries could reduce global emissions.

With respect to LDCs in particular, Acharya and other speakers noted that Nepal had achieved great things in the electricity sector, with 80 percent of Nepali people now having access to electricity, compared to only 20 percent in 2000. However, the per capita energy consumption is still too low, amounting to only 140 kilowatt hours. There is a need to increase consumption at a faster pace.

Caitlin Wiesen-Antin, Chief of Regional Policy and Program at the United Nations Development Program, stated that Nepal’s National Energy Crisis Reduction and Electricity Development Decade showed Nepal’s sincere commitment to solving the current energy crisis. Nepal hopes to meets its target, of 10,000MW of electricity within the next decade. Wiesen-Antin added that a stronger financing basis would be required to meet this target, with investments necessary from both the public and private sectors, on a national and global scale.

Nepal’s Minister for Energy, Janardan Sharma, is currently calling for stronger investment in Nepal. He recently addressed attendees to the Investment Summit in Kathmandu, pointing out that the energy sector has created a conducive environment for investors. Sharma stated that projects with an installed capacity of 3,900MW were currently generating power, and that the government was willing to grant power generation licenses to more projects, providing a total capacity of 5,400MW. The government itself is working on generating 8,400MW more. Sharma added that Nepal would soon be an industrial hub; any surplus energy generated could be purchased by countries such as India or China. Thus far, commitments from the government and the new constitution have provided a strong impetus to investors, whose funds are crucial if the full capability of LDCs in the energy sector, is to be fully realized.

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