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21st Jan 2019

EU says clean energy is key to ending poverty

  • Europe, as a region, leads the world in clean energy investments (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Renewable energy in both developing and industrialised nations is essential to combating global poverty, the European Commission told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (12 April).

"Investing in access to clean energy in the poorest countries will help achieve the double goal of sustainable and inclusive growth and mitigating climate change," said EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs, ahead of a high-level EU meeting on sustainable energy in Brussels on Monday including UN chief Ban Ki-moon

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The lack of access to modern energy sources is perpetuating global poverty, it added. Currently, some one in five people - or 1.3 billion around the world - have no access to electricity.

Another 3 billion rely on wood and coal for cooking and heating, contributing to the depletion of forests and causing widespread respiratory illnesses.

For his part, Klaus Rudischhauser, the director of the commission's EuropeAid programme, said more renewable energy initiatives are required in both developing and industrialised countries to reduce poverty.

The United Nation's goal is to ensure that by 2030 everyone has electricity. The UN also wants to double the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by the same date.

Rudischhauser explained that meeting global energy demands and helping eradicate poverty will require industrialised nations to continue to invest and promote renewable energy and energy efficiencies.

For its part, the commission spent on average €315 million every year over the past seven years to enhance the energy sector in developing countries. At the same time, the EU is aiming to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 in its fight against climate change.

"Binding renewable energy targets that the EU set in 2009 has provided the investment security needed to develop renewables. A similar model should be adopted in developing countries," Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at the Brussels-based Friends of the Earth Europe, told EUobserver.

In February, Piebalgs said around 71 percent of all new power generation installed in the EU last year was from renewable sources.

Europe leads in clean technology investments

Meanwhile, global trends in the renewable energy sector indicate that sizeable investments are being made.

Overall, global clean energy finance and investment grew to €200 billion in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report released on Tuesday by the US-based Pew Clean Energy Program. A good portion of that was in the EU.

"Clean energy investment, excluding research and development, has grown by 600 percent since 2004, on the basis of effective national policies that create market certainty," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's Clean Energy Program.

More than half of all clean energy investment among members of the G-20 last year was in solar energy. The solar sector increased globally by 44 percent and attracted €97.4 billion in private investments.

As a region, Europe maintained its regional leadership position for clean energy investment, growing by a modest 4 percent to €75.59 billion. Clean energy installations in Europe surpassed the US and China combined in 2011.

Together, German and Italian investment in clean energy technology reached €44.6 billion, more than anywhere else. And both lead the world in deployment of small- distributed solar photovoltaic power installations.

Despite a slight downward trend in clean technologies investment when compared to 2010, Germany still managed to install 7.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy last year - the equivalent output of six nuclear power stations. Italy installed 8 GW.

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