Deputy Energy Minister Barbara Thompson said on Monday that the pace would need to be stepped up if the millennium development goals (MDGs) were to be met globally by 2015.
Speaking at a seminar focusing on meeting the MDGs and financing energy access, Thompson said that the progress towards achieving the MDGs, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids and providing universal primary education, “did not paint a good picture”.
“It has taken us almost ten years to make a decision on how to move forward and today we are talking about the same issues we discussed those many years ago. It is now time to start implementing decisions,” Thompson said referring to the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, also known as Earth Summit II or Rio +10, which took place in Johannesburg, in 2002.
She added that most countries were “far away” from providing for the basic needs of its people as prescribed through the MDGs.
Finance remained a key mechanism in ensuring that MDG goals were achieved, and Thompson added that governments could not close this gap by themselves and needed support from the private sector.
This was further emphasised by deputy head in the office of the chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) Laura Cozzi, who said that modern energy was critical to social and economic development goals.
Eskom MD for resources and strategy Dr Steve Lennon concurred. He said that many have been discussing energy access for a long time, but now was the "time to act".
He said that in moving forward in creating energy access for all it was necessary to ensure that such a plan was specific to the needs of a nation, 'powered' economies through creating universal access and create opportunities for localisation and skills development in South Africa.
“Its just not about providing electricity, it is also about the way you do it,” Lennon believed.
To make affordable and reliable modern energy available for all by 2030, the adoption of a clear statement that modern energy access is a political priority, and mobilising additional public and private investment toward universal access, including climate finance, would be required, Cozzi explained.
Further, she said national governments needed to adopt strong governance and regulatory frameworks, invest in internal capacity building and provide improved cooking stoves, which cost very little but bring significant health and environment cobenefits.
In sub-Saharan Africa only 30% of the population has access to electricity, with only 14% in rural areas, according to the IEA’s ‘World Energy Outlook 2011’.
In addressing energy poverty globally, investment needed to grow by more than five times to $48-billion a year, half of which would be in sub-Saharan Africa. Average yearly investments of $3.5-billion would be required to provide access to clean cooking facilities, while $30.5-billion was needed to provide electricity access.