Providing clean, sustainable energy to the 1.1 billion people currently without modern energy services now has a new champion; a champion with a loud voice and global reach. Akon, R & B star and founder of the Akon Lighting Africa initiative teamed up with Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) this week in New York, lending his voice to the cause and participating in the second annual SE4All forum.
On the sidelines of the forum today, SE4All and Akon held a press conference to underscore the importance of universal energy access. Joining Akon on the panel were Adnan Amin, Director-General of IRENA, Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, and Sheila Oparaocha, head of Energia.
Akon stressed that energy access is key to helping people escape poverty, increasing quality of life and improving health. He also stated that he wanted to give back to the people of Africa by bringing them light through the Akon Lighting Africa initiative.
In its role as the SE4All Renewable Energy Hub, IRENA developed the Global Renewable Energy Roadmap (REmap 2030), which explores pathways to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030. The roadmap examines how renewable energy could support SE4ALL’s other objectives of achieving universal access to modern energy services, and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements.
In 2013, REmap 2030 looked at 26 countries accounting for 75% of global energy use, and examined how much they could realistically increase the share of renewable energy in their energy mix by 2030. It found that it is entirely possible to double the global share of renewables, up to 36%, and is actually cheaper than not doing so, when you take into account externalities like the cost of health care, pollution etc.
Fast forward to today and the socio-economic case for renewable energy is even stronger.
An IRENA report released earlier this year found that the cost of generating power from renewable energy sources has reached parity or dropped below the cost of fossil fuels for many technologies in many parts of the world. Onshore wind is now one of the most cost-competitive sources of electricity available with some projects now delivering electricity for as little as US 4 cents per kWh.
These lows costs for renewables are triggering increased deployment and creating jobs. Just yesterday, IRENA released the 2015 renewable energy and jobs annual review, which found that 7.7 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy sector. This is an 18% increase in the last year and a 35% increase in the last two years.
If we succeed in doubling the global share of renewable energy, which REmap showed us in entirely possible, then we will surpass 16 million jobs by 2030.
With these developing realities in play, a SE4All future of 100% electrification is indeed possible.