Expanding energy

A global need

By Aliyah Esmail

Access to energy is something many of us take for granted. We have lights so that our kids can do their homework, heaters that keep us warm in the winter and refrigerators to keep our produce fresh and tasty even five days after it was purchased.


But not everyone expects the lights to work, or refrigerators or heaters to make their lives comfortable. Globally, about 3 billion people use traditional biomass for cooking and heating (UN Foundation). The IEA (International Energy Agency) states that around 1,3 billion people have no or little access to electricity.

UN group_picture from email
Workshop attendees of Towards Universal Energy Access: An Asian Perspective, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 17-18, 2013.


In 2011, the UN (United Nations) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, made sustainable energy one of his five priorities by creating the SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy for All) initiative. By 2030, the UN has envisioned universal energy access for all countries, with the focus being on access, efficiency and sustainability especially in rural and remote areas.

The IEC a part of this conversation

The IEC is one of many organizations and agencies participating in the UN’s efforts to further its sustainable energy goals and it recognizes that IEC International Standards play a major role in meeting this challenge.

In late 2012, the IEC Affiliate Executive Secretary was approached by IEC TC 82 to liaise with the global SE4ALL initiative. This project brings together the UN and other private stakeholders to focus on addressing global poverty, energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions across all emerging markets.

The UN Foundation Energy and Climate section leads a Practitioner Network to address market barriers to achieve universal energy access and works closely with other international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the International Finance Corporation, and many other organizations from the private and public sectors that are part of the Practitioners Network.

On March 17 and 18, 2013, a workshop called Towards Universal Energy Access: An Asian Perspective took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The IEC was represented by Dennis Chew, Regional Director IEC-APRC (Asia-Pacific Regional Centre).

The workshop

The two day workshop brought together more than 100 participants to have practitioners, investors and experts share and learn about the market developments, innovations and financing opportunities relating to energy access in rural areas. It was supported by the Asian Development Bank; Blue Moon Fund; and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership. Presentations were made on technologies and innovations for energy access, which Chew presented on, as well as the role of micro/mini-grids in promoting the availability of energy, community engagement and market development, how to get “Sustainable Energy for All”, and financing market-led solutions for energy access.

The workshop was also an excellent opportunity to promote awareness of the IEC and make potential future IEC experts aware of the work and focus of the IEC.

“The focus of this initiative [SE4ALL] is to give developing countries access to energy. This does not mean that developed countries will not benefit from this work. How we bring efficient and sustainable energy could help any country that has remote areas,” said Chew. “Several of the people I met were already aware of the IEC and they use IEC International Standards. They were actually pleased to meet someone from the IEC.”

UN group_picture from email Workshop attendees of Towards Universal Energy Access: An Asian Perspective, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 17-18, 2013.
iStock_000001017387Large SE4ALL sees universal energy access for all countries by 2030.